The Ideal Mentor

by Bobb Biehl

Are you looking for a mentor? The following checklist is a rather detailed, point-by-point, academic exercise in trying to help you find the ideal mentor for you.

What you're really looking for is a person whom you know cares for you, believes in you, and naturally encourages you. A good mentor is a person who you enjoy being with, who has more experience than you have, and who would be happy to help you win in life. If you already have that person in mind, this checklist will only confirm your intuitive guess that this person would make a great mentor.

Your ideal mentor is . . .

1. Honest with you

It's a little like being a loving uncle or aunt, someone who will take you aside on occasion and tell you things you need to hear but frankly don't necessarily want to hear.

2. A model for you

Thomas Carlyle's words are worth repeating: "Be what you would have your pupils to be." When I take my associate team along for client consultations I ask them, "What did you learn by watching me as well as by listening to me?" Part of your mentor's role is teaching you by letting you watch her/him, in addition to telling you things.

3. Deeply committed to you

It may be a little difficult to see a mentor or a protégé as family. But the Apostle Paul, when writing to his young protégé, Timothy, captured this thought when he said, "Do not rebuke an older man, but exhort him as a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, with all purity" (1 Timothy 5:1 NKJV). Even though they are probably not blood relatives, see both your mentor and your protégé with a family level of commitment.

4. Open and transparent

Cheryl, my wife, often encourages me, "Your associate team only hears about your successes. Let them also hear about your failures." I have to watch very carefully that I tell my associate team not only when I have won, but also when I have lost and feel like a failure.

Every mentor has struggles that the protégé never sees. The protégé might say with some hesitation, "My mentor can do this, but I don't know if I'll ever make it because I have problems with discipline (or doubt, or self-worth, or fatigue)."

Ask your mentor to share personal struggles, along with success stories.

5. A teacher

Many people do things well, but don't know how to explain to another person how they did it. At one time they learned how to do a given exercise (an accounting practice, a writing style, a trick of the trade) but have long since forgotten how they do it. Look for a mentor that can tell you how and why she/he did, or didn't, do something.

6. One who believes in your potential

Your ideal mentor needs to be the kinds of person who looks at you and says, "Yes, I think this person has tremendous potential. I think if I invest some of my life in this person, she/he has what it takes to make a real difference."

7. One who can help you define and achieve your dream

Ideally, you are looking for a mentor who can help you clarify things which are in your head and in your heart. The mentor helps you answer the dream question. "How can I make the most significant difference for God in my lifetime?"

8. Successful in your eyes

You must feel that you mentor is the kind of person you would like to be like some day, in some ways.

9. Be open to learning from you, as well as teaching you

This might sound off as a prerequisite for being a good mentor because it seems like the mentor's job to teach and the Protégé's job to learn. But I have found that if I remain teachable, then I am modeling the teachability that I want my protégé to have. You can learn from everyone. What's more, I have found that as a mentor pours himself into a person and gives and gives and gives, sooner or later that person in whom he has invested so much will want to give something back.

10. Willing to stay primarily on your agenda

A mentor is a person who stays on your agenda, believes in you, and wants to see you win. If you can stay with these items and make certain that this is what your mentor will bring to the relationship, you will find that the relationship will get off on the right foot. If you don't have any of these, there is a high likelihood that the relationship may be less satisfying to both of you.

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