The Real Challenge
Disciples and mentors are both called to action. Disciples are called to learn or follow and mentors are called to teach or coach. Jesus called Simon and his brother Andrew into discipleship, “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.” (Mark 1:17) Whereas Bell (2002) discussed how a mentor is called as a teacher, a guide, and a sage. (p. 10 – 14). As a mentor, a leader must show humility in that he or she can also learn from the protégé. Bell (2002) continued asserting that mentoring is about surrendering to the process rather than controlling it, mentoring is about “providing the gift of advice, and helping the protégé to become a self-directed learner.” (p. xxi).
Humility was the first and very important attribute Jesus pointed out in the Beatitudes. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:3). Winston (2002) reminded us “To be poor in spirit is to recognize that you can hold more, and to recognize this means that you must be humble.” (p. 23). A mentor must first realize that he or she will also benefit from the mentoring process. Though mentoring is intended primarily to help the protégé, there are definite gains to be made by everyone engaged in the relationship. Mentors and protégés should consider the benefits that both are likely to get from taking part in the process. If they are to achieve all the benefits, it is essential that they know what they are. Kay and Hinds (2002) affirmed “When agreeing on your objectives you should also consider the likely benefits for each of you and plan to review their achievement as your relationship progresses.” (p. 96 – 102). Should a leader accept the call to discipleship before becoming a mentor?
Understanding the Process
Before undertaking the mentoring role it is essential to understand the process and the difference between mentoring and other personal development. Being an off-line relationship, mentoring shouldn’t be confused with coaching or tutoring. It’s a confidential relationship between mentor and protégé and this confidence must be respected at all times. The role of the mentor is to help the person bring about the transition from reliance on others to reliance on him or herself. “Every day we each grow older, meet new people, encounter new problems and challenges, and perhaps suffer some defeats. No matter how little we seem to change, remaining the same is impossible.” (Shea, 2001, p. 46). Helping someone to learn and grow should be the goal of a good mentor. Bell (2002) stated, “The real aim of mentoring is not mastery, because it implies closure or an ending.” (p. 10). The ultimate goal should be continuous growth.
Mentoring should not be confused with discipleship in that mentors are traditionally thought of as a teacher or coach. Bell (2002) defined mentoring as “the act of helping another learn.” (p. 3). To be a Disciple means to be scholar; a learner; especially, a follower who has learned to believe in the truth of the doctrine of his teacher, and implies that the pupil is under the discipline of, and ‘understands’, his teacher; an adherent in doctrine. Merriam-Webster defined a Disciple (from the Latin discipulus, a pupil) as “one who receives instruction from another: one who accepts the doctrines of another and assists in spreading or implementing them.” (2005).
Accepting the Call
Discipleship is about the transition to relying on something bigger than you. Mullen (1999) maintained that “. . . the intent is to develop a relationship where trust, confidentiality, and accountability are established and one’s relationship with God is deepened.” (p. 96). There are occasions that call for discipleship over mentoring; such as compassion during despair, a peacemaker during conflict, or understanding during times of discipline. “It should be clear to all employees in the workplace that this person is indeed a Christian, but the light should not be so overpowering that those around the leader turn away.” (Winston, 2002, p. 95).
“Jesus looked at him and loved him. ‘One thing you lack,’ he said. ‘Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.'” (Mark 10:21). Later, in Mark 10:29 Jesus tells his disciples that you surrender everything “. . . for my sake and the Gospel.” True surrender will go beyond natural devotion. If we will only give up ourselves, God will surrender Himself to embrace all those around us and will meet their needs, which were created by our surrender. Beware of surrender that is motivated by personal benefits that may result. All too often, leaders will mentor for all the wrong reasons: achievement, recognition, power, or control. Most leaders have been cultured to control the process of growth and learning. Bell (2002) described surrendering as “Completely relinquishing any effort to control or manipulate the outcome.” (p. 33). Surrendering is the first step in Bell’s “Model for Great Mentoring.” (p. 14). The bottom line is that before you can be a great mentor, you must first accept the call to discipleship by surrendering yourself to the process.
Mentors should encourage informal learning at every opportunity. Bell (2002) maintained that great mentors should always search for creative ways to cultivate organizational values and encourage learning such as company magazines, newsletters, bulletin boards, media and technology, as well as cross-unit training. (p. 135-136). Simply stated, Cross-unit mentoring is cross-team or small group mentoring which is a form of informal learning. Bell (2002) also states why many organizations provide mentoring opportunities within a small group environment. (p. 136):
- Provide Differing Perspectives;
- Decrease inter-unit conflict;
- Increase employee scope of knowledge;
- Increased protégé support base.
Bell (2002) also suggested that “…mentors should set up an expansive, boundary-free learning environment.” (p. 11). Corporate mentoring programs utilize the individual skill of those other than the mentor to facilitate learning. In Mentoring Advantage, Stone discussed how they often start as “informal relationships in which management finds value. It then formalizes them into programs. Sometimes, the mentoring effort extends past the boundaries of the organization.” (2004, p. 3). The main thing is that the organizational structure and social systems within organizations should not be restricted to the traditional mentoring program but rather be defined by the needs of the individual and the organization. “The application of mentoring is limited only by the needs and desires of today’s organization to leverage the talent within the organization and maximize relationships both within and outside their organizations.” (Stone, 2004, p. 102).
Mentoring Individuals as Part of the Team
When mentoring individuals, it’s easy to specify desired performance. Traditional mentors often take on the roles of a teacher or guide of others. Mentoring a team, on the other hand, is more like coaching or facilitating. In moving from a traditional role to that of team mentor, you should shift the focus toward facilitating rather than directing. When Jesus traveled from village to village teaching and “. . . he calleth unto him the Twelve, and began to send them forth by two and two and gave them power over evil spirits.” (Mark 6:7). The purpose of going in pairs was not only to boost credibility by having the testimony of multiple witnesses but also to provide mutual support during their training period. You should learn to rely on the expertise of others by incorporating individual skills into the entire organization and empower others to solve problems rather than being the sole problem solver.
Your job as a mentor is not to manage results but to focus on the aspects of performance that cause those results. That’s where your team emphasis becomes difficult. Integrating your protégé’s strengths so that the team reaches optimum performance requires similar yet different skills. Team members have different ways of listening, learning, and expression. There’ll be times when what’s good for the team may not be the best for an individual. For example, a protégé who brings you a plan for reorganizing files. His idea might be innovative but implementing it could be depressing for two other team members who have been researching different approaches for the same result. Recognizing your protégé for the great idea while not accepting the action requires creative mentoring. Micki Holliday (2001) suggested “balancing individual needs and team needs is as tough as looking at the short-term and long-term goals you are constantly reassessing.” (p. 200).
Moving Towards Discipleship Attitudes
Imagine an organization where the attitude of the leadership with regards to learning is that their cup is always half-full. Our attitude may not be the asset that makes us great leaders, but without good ones we will never reach our full potential. “It is improbable that a person with a bad attitude can continuously be a success.” (Maxwell, 1993, p. 101) Followers will recognize a leader’s attitude long before his or her actions.
A leader’s attitude also helps to determine the attitude of the protégé. Maxwell (1993) wrote “…the actions of a leader multiplies in reaction because there are several followers. For a smile given, many smiles return. Anger unleashed towards others results in much anger returned from many.” (p. 106). Therefore it is imperative that a leader maintain a positive attitude not only for his or her success but also for the success of those they lead.
Characteristics of Effective Discipleship
Discipleship, though often caricatured as “soft” and “docile,” calls for generous portions of humility, coolness under fire, and results-oriented thinking. It requires you to be comfortable creating the conditions that enable subordinates to excel. Beyond a solid sense of self-worth and self-confidence, this calls for a cluster of essential characteristics. These are by no means innate, quasi-mystical traits that you either have or you don’t–they are all concrete capabilities that you can acquire and develop. In order to build stronger organizations in the future, we must move toward discipleship attitudes. Winston (2002) derives a list of attitudes from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mountain (p. 22 – 86):
- Controlled Discipline
- Focused Purpose
Disciples for the future
Discipleship prepares organizations to accommodate future generations by caring for them. Too often organizations request commitment from people without showing them proper care. People are the principle asset of any organization. Nothing moves until people make it move. Maxwell (1993) maintained that “leaders must care for people before they can develop them.” (p. 134). The greatest potential for organizational growth is the growth of its people. It will be future generations, the new members to the team, that young protégé that will be the asset of future organizations.
The vision of the disciple prepares leaders to work with future generations. A vision should be greater than the person who has it. Within every great movement or organization there is always one man who knows his God and where he’s going. “What a terrible waste of life to be climbing the ladder of success only to find when you reach the top that you were leaning against the wrong building.” (Maxwell, 1993, p. 148). Leaders must continuously remind themselves that they are never on the ladder alone and that there is someone beneath them awaiting guidance and direction.
The Way Ahead
Though mentoring is intended primarily to help the protégé, there are definite gains to be made by everyone engaged in the relationship. The organization as well as its people benefit when mentors accept the call to discipleship. The mentor and protégé should consider the benefits that discipleship contributes to the learning process. According to Mullen (1999), “This learning process might require consistent spiritual meetings; specific growth goal setting; and work compatibility alongside each other with encouragement toward insight.” (p. 128). To accept the call of discipleship means to be honest and reflective, discussing areas that need work, adjustment, or correction. When mentors accept the call to discipleship by surrendering to the process, the protégé “…will be able to go forth and disciple two additional people.” (Mullen, 1999, p. 128).
Bell, Christopher R. (2002). Managers as Mentors. Building Partnerships for Learning. San Francisco, CA. Berrett-Koehler, Inc.
King James Version. Holy Bible. Grand Rapids, Michigan. Zondervan
Holliday, Micki. (2001). Coaching, Mentoring and Managing: A Coach Guidebook. The Career Press, Inc. Franklin Lakes, NJ.
Kay, David and Hinds, Roger. (2002) A Practical Guide to Mentoring: Play an Active and Worthwhile Part in the Development of Others, and Improve Your Own Skills in the Process. Oxford How To Books, Ltd.
Maxwell, John C. (1993). Developing the Leader Within You. Nashville, TN. Thomas Nelson, Inc.
Merriam-Webster (2002). Webster’s Third New International Dictionary, Unabridged. Retrieved October 03, 2005 from Merriam-Webster. http://unabridged.merriam-webster.com.
Mullen, Carol A. (1999). New Directions in Mentoring. London, UK: Routledge Falmer.
Pell, Arthur R. (1999). Complete Idiot’s Guide to Team Building. Indianapolis, IN. Alpha Books
Shea, Gordon F. (2001). Mentoring: How to Develop Successful Mentor Behaviors. Menlo Park, CA, USA: Course Technology Crisp.
Stone, Florence. (2004). Mentoring Advantage: Creating the Next Generation of Leaders. Chicago, IL, USA: Dearborn Trade, A Kaplan Professional Company.
Winston, Bruce. (2002) Be A Leader for God’s Sake. School of Leadership Studies. Regent University. Virginia Beach, VA.
Lieutenant Kenneth Rice is an Active Duty Naval Officer stationed in Norfolk VA. Lieutenant Rice is a graduate of Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia where he received a Masters of Science in Educational Leadership and an Education & Training Management Subspecialty. He is currently enrolled in the Naval War College completing the Joint Professional Military Education Phase I and at Regent University working towards a Doctorate in Strategic Leadership.
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