Wednesday, April 20, 2016

You Need Four Kinds of Mentors

Mentoring is a very popular term today with a number of definitions and formats.  Mentoring allows us to benefit from the skills and experiences of others as we identify our own strengths and areas of potential growth.  The practice is important not only in corporations but for churches and not for profit organizations as well.  Several of types of mentoring are suggested in a blog from the Harvard Business Review, and I have added one more.

1.  Buddy or peer mentoring is much like an “apprenticeship” that helps a person “learn the ropes” in a new setting.  Formal peer mentoring helps a new person to mesh into an organization, but much of this type of orientation and assimilation takes place informally.  In a ministerial setting, we often find this type of mentoring with fellow students in seminary, other staff members, or in lunch or coffee groups with ministers in the community.  Although this may be done informally, the process is very important to becoming oriented to a new ministry setting.

2. Career mentoring is very intentional in large organizations but ministers often must seek it out for themselves.  The career mentor, who is usually not the person’s supervisor, serves as career advisor and internal advocate in an organization.  For those in ministry, the career mentor is often a former pastor, a seminary professor, or an older friend in ministry. Although this type of relationship develops naturally among male ministers, women in ministry often have to seek out such advocates.

3.  Life mentoring is very important as one’s responsibilities grow.  Everyone needs someone in whom he or she can confide without fear of bias.  Such trusted mentors are sounding boards for career challenges such as changing jobs or pursuing a new place of ministry.  Several years ago, I was asked by a realtor friend to join with two other people—both businessmen—to be his personal “board.”  As trusted friends, we walked alongside him as he launched a new phase of his career.  We were serving as life mentors.  

4.  Reverse mentoring provides the opportunity for a seasoned leader to learn something from a younger person and for the younger person to contribute to the organization in a special relationship with a leader.  The concept is discussed by Earl Creps in his book Reverse Mentoring.  For example, you might match a young leader to a senior executive to teach him or her how to use social media.  The executive will learn about social media, and the young adult will experience how the organization works.  This happened in a church setting when the minister to students was given an iPad and given the task of helping the church office become “paperless.”

We all can and must take advantage of the opportunities to both learn from others and share our own knowledge and skills with them.

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