By Patrick Mukiibi
John C. Maxwell in his book ‘The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth’ states that he smiles every time he thinks of the two derelicts sunning themselves on a park bench. The first guy says “The reason I am here is because I refused to listen to anyone.” The second guy responds “The reason I am here is because I listened to everyone.”
Neither course is helpful! What then is the right thing to do?
The answer is in finding a Mentor. A Chinese proverb goes ‘to know the road ahead, ask those coming back’. We all have varying levels of experience in the different spheres of life. A good Mentor is one who has evaluated their experience in a given area by learning and growing from it over time and is able to guide others along.
The Bible teaches us in 1 Kings 20:11 that a man who puts on his armour to go to battle should not boast like the man who takes it off after battle. As a Mentee it is this experience that you seek to either follow or use to help you break new ground.
A good Mentor has the knowledge in a given subject matter and is therefore able to help you learn and develop in this area. They also demonstrate the wisdom required to help you navigate difficult situations and at the same time see opportunities you would have otherwise missed.
It is said that people do not mind how much you know unless they know how much you care. 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 expectation.
Growth comes from the head and the heart; a good Mentor knows this and will share both with you.
When we think of mentors, we usually aim for the top because that is where we wish to be. However this may frustrate you especially if you are just starting out and the person you have identified as a Mentor is quite busy because they are the CEO or the like and therefore not as available for you as you may have desired.
The advice here is for you to look at mentorship as a systematic and incremental process and be able to see yourself progress through it with time.
Start by identifying a mentor you are able to interact with in some way but most importantly one you are able to observe.
We learn more from what people do than what they say. With time you will be able to identify other mentors as you climb the ladder. As your access to them improves, so will their availability and contact with you.
Remember, we become like the people we admire and follow. For effective personal growth, you should take great care when determining which people you ask to mentor us. Whereas their display of professional excellence and an admirable skill set is good, their character must also be irreproachable.
In my career I have been privileged to interact with many gifted people. People who are masters of their craft and easily command authority in their areas of gifting. I have learnt first-hand that we are all gifted differently and it is our different strengths and talents that interlink to form a strong chain. Nobody, no matter how spectacularly gifted, is a whole chain on their own. It is never too late to find someone to speak into your life as a mentor.
You might find your first mentor in the pages of books like I did or even outside of your organisation, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that you are intentional, consistent and committed to your personal growth.
The writer is a certified John Maxwell Coach, Trainer and Speaker