My thoughts in Words
Framing the world through a unique lens to provoke different solutions. "The difficulty... is not to write, but to write what you mean; not to affect your reader, but to affect him precisely as you wish" - R. L. Stevenson
Mentorship is a very delicate balancing act. There are people that ask you to mentor them or through a series of events you become a mentor to somebody.
I was lucky that I met the right mentors and teachers at the right moment. – J. Levine
Some mentors are life long, while others are temporary or for a season. Whatever the duration of the mentor-mentee relationship, the mentor has to always be careful not to become a dictator. The mentor has to allow the mentee to make his or her own choices (even if it is to their own demise).
I recall one mentee a while ago that enlisted my assistance. I began providing them guidance, but it was as if they were not hearing a word I was saying. I provided them more details, sat with them, provided emails and had numerous telephone conversations, yet it still felt like they were not hearing me or following any of my instructions. I thought maybe I was missing something, so I asked them questions, tried to make sure I was being clear and not overlooking something. I even asked if the information was helpful or if I needed to change the way I was providing the information. They said they understood everything, and the information was great. Half way through the process, my mentee began to ask other people their opinions about the project. I began to see that they were now blending my ideas and the ideas of these other individuals, which was creating quite a mess. At the end of the day, there were three options, my option and two options from other individuals. My mentee chose one of the other options.
As my mentee journeyed down this alternate path following somebody else’s option, it was hard, why? Because I knew it would end in failure and there would be no recovery once they realized that they took the wrong road. But, I was their mentor, not a dictator.
Now before you think I let them off easy, I told them why they should consider my way. I basically wrote the guidance for the work they were doing. Yet, for some reason they did not listen. They were the first of my mentees that decided to enlist my help, but wanted me to mentor and coach them based on somebody else’s standards.
You are probably wondering what happened…was I wrong, did they actually succeed? No, they did not succeed, and they have not been able to get that sort of opportunity again. They asked me if I could help, if there was anything I could do, but I told them like I was told, “ …some opportunities do not come with a second chance attached to them.”
They said, I was not forceful enough and did not work hard enough to persuade them that my option was right. We continued to dialogue and after a while, they realized that on numerous occasions I provided them with facts, details, comparisons, and explanations as to why my option was the best, and they ignored me.
But I learned a few things from this experience…
1. If you seek out a mentor, be respectful enough to listen to their advice and their instructions. If you no longer want their input, then let them know.
2. Every mentor should determine how much to push back when their mentee is obviously making a bad decision, that could have a long term effect on their career.
3. You always have to remember that your mentee has the right to make their own choices.
4. You are there to coach them, not to play the game for them.
5. A mentor should not act like a dictator…bottomline.
Excellent!! This is a biggie for me these days!
Byron Washington, MPA is a Consultant, Youth Mentor, and Life Coach. He is a graduate of Winston-Salem State University and Princeton University. He currently resides in Shanghai, China with his family. - "Change Without Direction is Chaos"