By Kent Evans
I love the topic of mentorship. I especially love the topic of protégé ship (man, that really ought to be a word).
I find that most of us – especially my fellow guys – are not highly skilled at tapping into wiser minds. I believe this is primarily due to pride and ego, and as a result, we make the wrong assumptions about mentorship that keep us from diving in.
Here are four ways we often misunderstand mentorship.
We expect the mentor to be perfect in every sense.
We know this fantastic strategy guy at work. He can think outside the box, synthesize gobs of information into simple paths forward, and present to management like a champ.
However, he’s not usually on time for meetings. So, instead of diving in and learning his approach to strategy, we just write him off as a slacker and keep our distance.
This “throw the baby out with the bathwater” approach is usually a defense mechanism employed by pride. So we justify only being able to learn from those who are unblemished. And, who does this leave as a potential mentor? Exactly. No one.
Having a mentor does offer one very important lesson: we learn that the “mentor-messiah” is a myth. Let’s approach capable leaders to learn instead of only being willing to learn from those who appear flawless.
We assume the relationship must last forever.
When approaching a mentor, you aren’t creating a lifelong pact. You don’t have to be attached to this person until death do you part.
Your engagement may be for three years or only three lunches. When you sense the relationship has run its course, it’s perfectly fine to back off. Do not continue to meet just for meeting’s sake.
We fear we must follow every recommendation.
Sometimes we believe that we are signing over our entire life to the mentor. Whatever she says, we must do, and without objection. Otherwise, we become a mindless pawn the Grandmaster moves around at will.
This one is delicate because there is some level of truth to it. It is unproductive and prevents development if we try to find a mentor just to validate what we are already thinking.
We are not signing over our marriage, career, or house to someone just because they are good at what they do. We must submit to their counsel with prayerful consideration, especially when it impacts major life decisions.
Strike the right balance. Gain solid input but do not check your brain at the door.
We wait around until the mentor selects us.
I strongly believe we have the responsibility to chase the mentor, not the other way around. This is not playground team selection. Do not sit on the sidelines and cry, “He didn’t pick me!”
Chase the gifted leaders. Get on their calendars. Submit yourself to their input and schedule.
Great mentors usually materialize when the protégé approaches.
Let’s rid ourselves of these flawed assumptions regarding mentorship. We have wise guys and gals all around us who we can approach to learn and grow, if only we will ask.
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