When I stop and think about all the learning that I’ve accomplished since grade school, most of it has occurred with the help of people mentoring me with their accompanying content. It’s probably the same with a lot of us, right? I’m not saying that we cannot learn by reading a book, participating in a webinar, or a mass training module. These are absolutely good models of discovery. My point is that most of us have learned what we know as a direct result of someone walking next to us; coaching us; mentoring.
Teachers, coaches, leaders, pastors, chaplains, counselors, supervisors, managers, and trainers- what you do is more significant than you can ever imagine. You’re not just shaping concepts into practical points of reference, you are mentoring others to “walk in/with/through” your learning goals. Consider your own internships, assistant roles, and seasons where you were an apprentice. It's true, good or bad, and in indifference, we typically learn best when we collaborate with a fellow team player and/or leader.
With this in mind, I have a few observations about mentoring:
1. The best advice I have ever received about pastoring came from a dear friend who helped me learn that ministry always flows out of relationships. It never works when I beat people up or “bully” them. The same is true for life outside of full time religious work. Our influence comes out of not just being nice but being willing to allow others to walk with us as we lead.
2. Whenever I am in a tight spot and want to learn something, I tend to look for those who are good at it and ask them to lunch or coffee. I am more apt to discover what to do by engaging others who have already turned the corner and have had some level of success. The “just in-time learning” is probably the best kind of all. Desperate; “I need to learn...” always makes the curve.
3. People will always try to shove beliefs, ideas, and goals down your throat. Passion can have its way of destroying people. Have compassion instead.
4. While learning how to be a speaker/trainer/author, I was always someone’s apprentice. I walked with them, created my own rhythm within their steps, and asked questions. Who are you following? Who is following you?
5. It's easy to live like like an expert, but don't do it. It's dangerous to our ego and could create in us a prideful position or a sense of arrogance in our character. At my engagements, I like to give others the last word; I don’t always have to be heard. I’d rather create an environment and opportunity for others to share what works best in their life after I have presented key insights and concepts. People learn well by the art of facilitated learning.
What do you think? What are your thoughts about learning, mentoring, and facilitating others?