One of my very favorite parts of my job is meeting with mentors. It’s an absolute joy to chat about mentoring over lunch or coffee. As I think through ways to better support mentors, I try to aggregate common concerns and issues in mentoring. A few things come up commonly: trying to navigate mentoring with a busy schedule, deciding what to do during hangouts, and having intentional conversations.
Something that seems to be (unsaid) below many conversations is a feeling that mentoring needs to be nearly perfect to happen at all.
For example, busy seasons come in life. When there is a deal pending at your job or a wedding to plan, life just gets busier. And that might mean that mentoring has to look different. But busyness shouldn’t mean it can’t happen at all.
Because of the nature of mentoring, if we approach it with an all-or-nothing, perfectionist mentality, we won’t last very long. There are so many ways this type of thinking creeps into mentoring:
–Sometimes, mentors think that if they don’t have several hours to set aside and do something “kidsy,” then they don’t have time for a hangout. Sometimes we forget that time spent together doesn’t have to be magical (and it certainly doesn’t have to be expensive!). We forget that running an errand with our protege, swinging by her house, or just going to lunch at his school are great ways to get time together.
–Other times, mentors get so frustrated at themselves for missing a hangout during a busy month or forgetting to contact their protege that their mistakes keep them from moving forward. Rather than remembering that past mistakes don’t have to define future performance, these mentors get so frustrated with themselves that they are paralyzed from moving forward.
–Finally, other mentors have these perfect, sometimes unrealistic dreams for themselves and their proteges. They plan to read the entire Bible together or study until their protege gets straight A’s or get their protege into the University of Texas. While setting goals is helpful, trying to attain perfection can be detrimental to a relationship.
Instead of trying to have mentoring be perfect, I would encourage you to just shoot for consistency. Keep showing up. Sometimes, that may mean a really fun hangout, and other times you’ll just go to the grocery store. If you have a busy month and don’t see your protege as often as you typically would, don’t freak out. Just show back up. If you had lofty ideals as to what you would accomplish in your meetings with your protege but they aren’t panning out, then reroute and show back up.
Mentoring is a exercise in consistency, not in perfection. Please remember that we only hold you to a standard of faithfulness and not one of perfection. Just keep showing back up!