Weekly Thought – November 7, 2023
Fred mentored formally or informally throughout his life. When Breakfast with Fred came out, the publisher chose “Mentor to a Generation of Leaders” as the tagline. He lived long enough to see generations grow into men and women who chose contribution as a life goal.
Find the Fit
Fit is foremost, whether in organizational structure or in mentoring relationships. There are several ways to measure this element. One of the key elements is that the mentor should be knowledgeable and able to critique objectively. The mentor who simply says what the other wants to hear is irresponsible. He should not counsel in matters in which he/she is not expert. Judgment should not be passed in subjects beyond the mentor’s limitations. One of the keys to a successful mentoring relationship is choosing a mentor with a broad network of knowledgeable friends who may be helpful on occasion. I call this the Mayo Clinic model. My personal doctor can call on an expansive team of experts who practice beyond his particular expertise.
A young, brash president of a growing corporation was being dangerously extravagant. Though I was on his board, he wasn’t accepting my authority on the subject. I got him an appointment with the CEO of a major corporation who successfully warned him and possibly saved the company. I saw what he needed, but he wasn’t listening to me. My network gave me the right source for him and brought him back on course.
The mentor must genuinely believe in the potential of the mentoree. A mentor cannot do serious thinking about the needs of the learner or spend the necessary time together without believing in their potential. A mentor isn’t doing what this work to just be a nice guy. Then there may be times when the learner loses confidence in himself, particularly after a failure, and he will need a mentor to help restore confidence and strength. The mentor must authentically believe to function well.
I had breakfast with a young executive in Dallas. I asked him to tell me his story. He said, “Until early in my twenties I amounted to very little. I think that was due to the fact I was raised in a hyper fundamental family who believed it was wrong to say anything positive about anyone. Their fear was that recognizing talent and encouraging it would lead the child down the path to pridefulness. I truly believed there was nothing special about me until a day that changed my life. A Sunday school teacher put his arm around my shoulder and said, “I believe in you.” Gradually, I began to believe in myself. From that point on I started to identify my talents and climb the executive ladder.
I am convinced the words “I believe in you” are some of the most powerful in human relations. But it must be sincere. Puffery and fake compliments tear down and create doubt in the mentoree.
(Note: part of the Breakfast With Fred Leadership Institute program asks the college and university students the simple question: “Who first said ‘I believe in you?” The responses always include “no one ever has.” These are student leaders who are accomplished, but yet never experienced this affirmation.)
This week carefully consider: 1) Who first said to me, “I believe in you?” 2) Who have I spoken those words to? 3) How can I prepare myself to mentor and be mentored?
Words of Wisdom: “One of the keys to a successful mentoring relationship is choosing a mentor with a broad network of knowledgeable friends who may be helpful on occasion.”
Wisdom from the Word: “And what you heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful people who will be competent to teach others as well.” (2 Timothy 2:2 NET Bible)