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MENTORING 101What Every Leader Needs to Know
By John C. Maxwell
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2008 John C. Maxwell
All right reserved.
Chapter OneWhat Do I Need to Know Before I Start?
If you want to succeed as a mentor, first seek to understand yourself and others.
Most people who desire success focus almost entirely on themselves, not others, when they start to make the journey. They usually think in terms of what they can get-in position, power, prestige, money, and perks. But that's not the way to become truly successful. To do that, you have to give to others. As Douglas M. Lawson said, "We exist temporarily through what we take, but we live forever through what we give."
That's why it's so essential to focus on raising others to a higher level. And we can do that with people from every area of our lives-at work and home, in church and the clubhouse. That's evidently what Texas representative Wright Patman did, according to a story told by Senator Paul Simon. He said that Patman died at age eighty-two while serving in the U.S. House of Representatives. At his funeral, an older woman who lived in his district was heard to have said, "He rose up mighty high, but he brung us all up with him."
Why Many People Don't Mentor Others
If mentoring others is such a rewarding calling, why doesn't everyone do it? One reason is that it takes work. But there are also many others. Here are a few of the most common ones.
Virginia Arcastle commented, "When people are made to feel secure and important and appreciated, it will no longer be necessary for them to whittle down others in order to seem bigger in comparison." That's what insecure people tend to do-make themselves look better at others' expense.
Truly successful people, on the other hand, raise others up. And they don't feel threatened by the thought of having others become more successful and move to a higher level. They are growing and striving for their potential; they aren't worried about having someone replace them. They're nothing like the executive who wrote a memo to the personnel director saying, "Search the organization for an alert, aggressive young man who could step into my shoes-and when you find him, fire him." Raising up others is a successful person's joy.
Some people's egos are so huge that they have to be either the bride at the wedding or the corpse at the funeral. They think other people exist only to serve them in some way or another. Adolf Hitler was like that. According to Robert Waite, when Hitler was searching for a chauffeur, he interviewed thirty candidates for the job. He selected the shortest man in the group and kept him as his personal driver for the rest of his life-even though the man required special blocks under the driver's seat so that he could see over the steering wheel. Hitler used others to make himself appear bigger and better than he really was. A person consumed with himself never considers spending time raising others up.
Inability to Discern People's "Success Seeds"
I believe every person has the seed of success inside. Too many people can't find it in themselves, let alone in others, and as a result, they don't reach their potential. But many do find that seed, and chances are, you are one of those people. The good news is that once you are able to find it in yourself, you're better able to do the same with others. When you do, it benefits both of you because you and the person you help will be able to fulfill the purposes for which each was born.
The ability to find another's seed of success takes commitment, diligence, and a genuine desire to focus on others. You have to look at the person's gifts, temperament, passions, successes, joys, and opportunities. And once you find that seed, you need to fertilize it with encouragement and water it with opportunity. If you do, the person will blossom before your eyes.
Wrong Concept of Success
True success is knowing your purpose, growing to reach your maximum potential, and sowing seeds to benefit others. The average person doesn't know that. He or she is scrambling to arrive at a destination or acquire more possessions than the next-door neighbors.
Fred Smith said: "Some of us tend to think, I could have been a success, but I never had the opportunity. I wasn't born into the right family, or I didn't have the money to go to the best school. But when we measure success by the extent we're using what we've received, it eliminates that frustration." And one of the most vital aspects of how we're using what we received comes in the area of helping others. As Cullen Hightower remarked, "A true measure of your worth includes all the benefits others have gained from your success."
Lack of Training
The final reason many people don't raise up the people around them is that they don't know how to do it. Mentoring others isn't something most people learn in school. Even if you went to college to become a teacher, you were probably trained to disseminate information to a group, not to come alongside a single person, pour into her life, and raise her to a higher level.
What You Need to Know as You Start
Raising people to a higher level and helping them be successful involve more than giving them information or skills. If that were not the case, every new employee would go from trainee to success as soon as he understood how to do his job; every child would be successful whenever she learned something new at school. But success doesn't automatically follow knowledge. The process is complicated because you're working with people. However, understanding some basic concepts about people opens the door to your ability to develop others. For example, remind yourself that
Everyone wants to feel worthwhile
Donald Laird said, "Always help people increase their own self-esteem. Develop your skill in making other people feel important. There is hardly a higher compliment you can pay an individual than helping him be useful and to find satisfaction from his usefulness." When a person doesn't feel good about himself, he will never believe he is successful, no matter what he accomplishes. But a person who feels worthwhile is ripe for success.
Everyone needs and responds to encouragement
One of my favorite quotes comes from industrialist Charles Schwab, who said, "I have yet to find the man, however exalted his station, who did not do better work and put forth greater effort under a spirit of approval than under a spirit of criticism." If you desire to raise another person up, then you need to become one of her staunchest supporters. People can tell when you don't believe in them.
People are naturally motivated
I've found that people are naturally motivated. If you doubt that, just watch toddlers soon after they learn to walk. They're into everything. They have natural curiosity, and you can't get them to stay still. I believe that innate sense of motivation continues to exist in adults, but for too many people it has been beaten down by lack of support, busyness, stress, bad attitudes, lack of appreciation, scarce resources, poor training, or faulty communication. To get people excited about growing to their potential, you need to remotivate them. Once you help them overcome the old things that knocked them down, they often motivate themselves.
People buy into the person before buying into their leadership
Many unsuccessful people who try to lead others have the mistaken belief that people will follow them because their cause is good. But that's not the way leadership works. People will follow you only when they believe in you. That principle applies even when you're offering to develop other people and raise them to a higher level.
The more you understand people, the greater your chance of success in mentoring. And if you have highly developed people skills and genuinely care about others, the process will probably come to you naturally.
Chapter TwoHow Do I Adopt a Mentor's Mind-set?
Mentoring is who you are as much as what you do.
Whether you have a natural gift for interacting positively with people or you have to really work at it, you are capable of mentoring others and lifting them to a higher level. You can help them develop a road map for success and go on the journey with you as long as you keep growing as a person and a leader.
Think Like a Mentor
Here are the steps you will need to take in order to become the kind of mentor you are capable of being:
1. Make People Development Your Top Priority
If you want to succeed in developing people, you have to make it a top priority. It's always easier to dismiss people than to develop them. If you don't believe it, just ask any employer or divorce attorney. But many people don't realize that while dismissing others is easy, it also has a high price. In business, the costs come from lost productivity, administrative costs of firing and hiring, and low morale. In marriage, the cost is often broken lives.
I learned this lesson when I was in my first pastorate. My desire was to build a large church. I thought I would be a success if I did. And I accomplished that goal. I took that small congregation from 3 people to more than 250, and I did it in a tiny rural community. But I did most things myself-with my wife, Margaret's, help. I didn't develop anyone else. As a result, we had success only in the places I touched; we had complaints in all the places I didn't touch; and many things fell apart after I left.
I learned a lot from that experience, and in my second position, I made it a priority to develop others. Over an eight-year period, I developed thirty-five people, and they built up that church and made it successful. And after I left, the church was just as successful as when I was there because those other leaders were able to carry on without me. If you want to make a difference in the lives of others, do the same. Commit yourself to developing people.
2. Limit Who You Take Along
As you begin to develop people, think of it as being similar to a trip in a small private plane. If you try to take too many people along, you'll never get off the ground. Besides, your time is limited.
When I teach leadership seminars, I always teach what's known as the Pareto (80/20) Principle: In a nutshell, it says that if you focus your attention on the top 20 percent in anything you do, you will get an 80 percent return. In the case of developing people, you should spend 80 percent of your time developing only the top 20 percent of the people around you. That would include the most important people in your life, such as your family, and the people who have the most potential. If you try to mentor and develop more people than that, you're going to be spreading yourself too thin.
3. Develop Relationships Before Starting Out
The best leaders understand the important role of relationships when it comes to success. For example, Lee Iacocca once asked legendary Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi what it took to make a winning team. Here's how Lombardi answered:
There are a lot of coaches with good ball clubs who know the fundamentals and have plenty of discipline but still don't win the game. Then you come to the third ingredient: if you're going to play together as a team, you've got to care for one another. You've got to love each other. Each player has to be thinking about the next guy and saying to himself: "If I don't block that man, Paul is going to get his legs broken. I have to do my job well in order that he can do his." The difference between mediocrity and greatness is the feeling these guys have for each other.
That concept doesn't apply only to football. It also applies to individuals traveling together for a season as mentor and mentee. If the personal relationships aren't there first, people won't travel far together.
As you prepare to develop other people, take time to get to know each other. Ask them to share their story with you-their journey so far. Find out what makes them tick, their strengths and weaknesses, their temperaments. And spend some time with them outside the environment where you typically see them. If you work together, then play sports together. If you know each other from church, meet with them at their workplace. If you go to school together, then spend some time together at home. You can even use this principle with your family. For example, if you spend time with your children outside your everyday environment, you'll learn a lot more about them. It will develop your relationship in ways it hasn't before, and it will help you grow.
Another advantage to building relationships with people before starting on the journey together is that you find out what kind of "traveling companions" you're going to have. As you bring others alongside you for the success journey, pick people you expect to like. Then get to know them to verify your choice. It's the best way to be effective-and enjoy the trip.
4. Give Help Unconditionally
When you start developing people, you should never go into it with the idea of getting something out of it. That attitude will almost certainly backfire on you. If you expect to get something in return and you don't, you will become bitter. And if you get back less than you expect, you'll resent the time you spent. No, you have to go into the process expecting nothing but personal satisfaction. Give for the sake of giving-just for the joy of seeing another person learn to fly. When you approach it that way, your attitude will always remain positive. And the times you do get something in return, it's a wonderful win-win situation.
5. Let Them Fly with You for a While
I want to share a secret with you. It guarantees success in mentoring. Are you ready? Here it is: Never work alone. I know that sounds too simple, but it is truly the secret to developing others. Whenever you do anything that you want to pass along to others, take someone with you.
This isn't necessarily a natural practice for many of us. The learning model that's used in America by most people for teaching others was passed down to us from the Greeks. It's a cognitive "classroom" approach, like the one used by Socrates to teach Plato, and Plato to teach Aristotle. The leader stands and speaks, asking questions or lecturing. The follower sits at his feet, listening. His goal is to comprehend the instructor's ideas.
But that's not the only model available for developing others. We also have one used by another ancient culture: the Hebrews. Their method was more like on-the-job training. It was built on relationships and common experience. It's what craftspeople have done for centuries. They take apprentices who work alongside them until they master their craft and are able to pass it along to others. Their model looks something like this:
I do it. First I learn to do the job. I have to understand the why as well as the how, and I try to perfect my craft.
I do it -and you watch. I demonstrate it while you observe, and during the process, I explain what I'm doing and why.
You do it-and I watch. As soon as possible, we exchange roles. I give you permission and authority to take over the job, but I stay with you to offer advice, correction, and encouragement.
You do it. Once you're proficient, I step back and let you work alone. The learner is drawn up to a higher level. And as soon as he is on that higher level, the teacher is free to move on to higher things.
In all the years I've been equipping and developing others, I've never found a better way to do it than this. And for a long time, whenever I got ready to perform one of my duties, I made it a practice to take along the person I wanted to equip for the task. Before we did it, we talked about what was going to happen. And afterward, we'd discuss what we did.
Excerpted from MENTORING 101 by John C. Maxwell Copyright © 2008 by John C. Maxwell. Excerpted by permission.
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