There is a lot mentioned today about leadership development, mentoring, and finding your successor. My observation is that all of these things are not taking place on a large scale. There have been numerous explanations offered: “I could not find a mentor. I could not locate a mentee. Conferences on leadership development are cost prohibitive.” Some have said that they could not find a system that resonated with them. There are times when governing boards or constitutions and by-laws take the finding a successor out of the leaders hands. All of these have some validity, but must are just excuses.
One reason I have never heard mentioned is that many leaders have had a bad experience. They found the perfect candidate to mentor and poured into their life. After great amounts of time and energy were expended on this person, the person either left and went somewhere else, or betrayed the leader, or just quit. If you are going to be involved in the development of people, be prepared for a broken heart! This is not just a 21st century predicament, even Moses from the Bible had this experience. Moses before we went to Mount Sinai to hear from the Lord and to receive some instruction, left his brother Aaron in charge of the people. How could things go wrong? He was family, he had been with Moses at critical leadership junctures, and personally had eye-witness experience observing Moses handle difficult situations. What could go wrong? Yet while Moses is getting an important Word from God, his brother Aaron is leading a “frat” party gone wild! After a few days of reflection I wonder what went through Moses’ mind? Do you think he thought, ‘I will never trust another person to take my place?’ Would you have given up on trying to mentor and guide future leaders after experiencing such an abysmal failure? Thank God Moses did not. Moses’s story reminds us that for every Aaron there is a Joshua. Throughout life we have to wrestle with the feeling of quitting something because of a bad experience. Mentoring involves working with people. People will be your source of greatest joy in life as well as your biggest disappointments. You must carefully guard against allowing one or two bad experiences to color your thinking to the point that you give up on helping or coaching others. Doing the right thing is always best regardless of setbacks and certain discouragements along the way. Moses did not give up when he witnessed Aaron failing so miserably and because of that decision there was a Joshua who led the people into the Promised Land.
Things to remember when investing in others:
- Start where you are today. Look around, who is near you that you could invest in and mentor? You may feel you are not ready, but today is always the best day to start.
- Listen more than you speak. Seek to discover the heart of the person you are going to mentor. What are their dreams and aspirations? What life experiences do they possess? Spend time getting to know them, and their views, thoughts, and worldview.
- Don’t be in a hurry. Mentoring is more crock pot than microwave. You cannot rush having influence and sharing life. This is about quality and quantity that is needed for growth and understanding.
- Follow the ‘watch me’ and then I ‘watch you’ and then we both evaluate methodology. Observation by itself is only a part of what is needed in mentoring. Doing and doing with observation and feedback is crucial.
- Do not forget that oftentimes the mentor learns as much as the mentee.
- We were created for community and relationships. Life is better lived together and we do better in teams.
- If the mentee breaks the relationship, remember you can not force mentoring relationships on anyone. Even though it may not be apparent, something was still accomplished.
- Trust God and love people.
Those of us who have passed the half way mark need to be prayerfully looking for others to invest in and to be in a mutual learning relationship. If you are not in such a relationship, be open today and ready to take the step. You can do it! You are needed.