Choosing a Mentor – Part Three

We are looking at how to be wise when looking for and choosing a mentor. So far we have examined…

1> A good mentor is a worthy example                                                                                                                                         2> A good mentor is available                                                                                                                                                    3> A good mentor has proven experience

4> A good mentor possesses wisdom

There’s a well-known story of an expert who was called by a company to look at their manufacturing system. It had broken and everything was at a standstill. When the expert arrived, he carried nothing but a little black bag.

Silently he walked around the equipment for a few minutes and then stopped. As he focused on one specific area of the equipment, he pulled a small hammer out of his bag and he tapped it gently. Suddenly everything began running again, and he quietly left.

The next day he send a bill that made the manager go ballistic. It was for $1000! Quickly the manager e-mailed the expert and wrote, “I will not pay this outrageous bill without it being itemized and explained.” Soon he received an invoice with the following words:

For the tapping on equipment with hammer – $1                                                                                                                  For knowing where to tap – $999

That is the value of wisdom. Mentors with wisdom often show us where to tap. Their understanding, experience, and knowledge help us to solve problems that we would have a hard time handling on our own.

One of my mentors (I read everything he ever wrote) when asked why highly successful people often sabotaged their lives and hurt their careers said, “Never confuse the giftedness of a person with the person. Their gifts allow them to do amazing things but the person may be flawed, which will eventually cause harm.” That bit of wisdom about a person’s character has helped me immeasurably. First, it helped me to better understand how to work with talented people and to help them develop. Second, it has been a caution to me personally. I know that having talent in a given area never exempts me from neglecting discipline or character issues. We’re all just one step away from stupid.

Wise people often use just a few words to help us learn and develop. They open our eyes to worlds we might not have otherwise seen without their help. They help us navigate difficult situations. They help us to see opportunities we would otherwise miss. They make us wiser than our years and experience. 

5> A good mentor provides friendship and support

The first question most followers ask of a mentor is, “Do you care for me?” The reason for this question is obvious. Who wants to be guided by a person who isn’t interested in them? Selfish people will assist you only insofar as it advances their own agenda. Good mentors provide friendship and support, unselfishly working to help you reach your potential. Their mind-set is well expressed by business coach and author James Vuocolo, who says, “Great things happen whenever we stop seeing ourselves as God’s gift to others, and begin seeing others as God’s gift to us.”

If the person who offers to mentor you doesn’t really support you and offer you friendship, then the relationship will always fall short of your expectations. Knowledge without support is sterile. Advice without friendship feels cold. Candour without care is harsh. However, when you are being helped by someone who cares for you it is emotionally satisfying. Growth comes from both the head and the heart. Only supportive people are willing to share both with you. 

More next time…