You know that awkward feeling when you want more from a leader but don’t really know how to go about asking? Here’s some tips from the mentor’s side that should help both sides with ‘the ask’.
- Predetermine your expectations. Be clear in how often you would like to meet, so the mentor knows whether they can meet your expectation. This helps you be grateful for what they are giving. It’s rough on a mentor when they are giving their time and somehow they feel you were hoping for more.
- Define the duration. Are you asking for Monday lunch forever, or for this semester, or … It’s hard for anyone to make a “till death do us part” promise. The yes will come much easier if there is a clear end. This is a good move for both of you. You may find that you aren’t getting as much out of the relationship as you had thought and then there is an easy exit, or they may be willing to pour into you for a season but then want the option to move on to others. You can always re-up if things are going well on both sides, or you can thank them for their time and the take-aways and move on.
- Respect their time. Be early. Be attentive.
- Clarify the focus. Decide on a general area are you hoping for them to help you with. If you come just feeling like you need someone to care for you, or you have issues, or you want a different life; it can feel like you expect the mentor to wave a wand over you and make it all better. Growth is going to be a process so get ready to focus for the long haul.
- Own your life. Come willing to listen and work on growing. Get rid of your excuses or ask them to help you work on seeing them.
- Come with questions. Personally I want to scratch where a person is itching and engage in their real life and walk with them. I am not a fan of going through predetermined topic pathways, to me that is more of a one-on-one teaching or a class than mentoring.
- Honor them by giving them something every now and then. Here’s a few ideas: Use your words and tell them what their time with you is producing in your life. Buy them a little something – a Starbucks card, lunch, a book they are interested in… Help them with tech stuff, technology is changing so quickly and most young people “get it” more than their mentors do; so you can give them something back by helping them sort through things that are tricky for them. Ask them if there is anything you can do for them. Write on their wall. Tweet something affirming about them. Mentors are people too and they need encouragement just like the rest of us.
- Keep trying – but ask someone else. Don’t take it personally if the first person you ask can’t commit. A wise mentor knows how many people they can commit to at one time. Many mentors are seasonal in someone’s life. Don’t sweat it if they can’t be there forever. God has someone new for you and He will guide you. Ask Him where to try next and keep knocking until someone opens a door.
P.S. The pic is of a mentoring relationship I had a number of years ago that turned out be a real win for both of us when Laura became my daughter-in-law!