Human Interest

KEYS TO CHOOSING A MENTOR

By  | 

Over 1,000,000 Viewers

I recently experienced the death of one of the key figures in my life. My former pastor, mentor and friend, Rev. Julius Caesar Hope, Pastor Emeritus of New Grace Missionary Baptist Church in Highland Park, Michigan. Rev. Hope served as national director of religious affairs for the NAACP. He was indeed a powerful person with a big heart and full of wisdom. He counseled my wife and I as we contemplated marriage at the young age of 23. He officiated our wedding ceremony. This, Man of God, supported my early entrepreneurial efforts and always had good sound advice and wisdom to share with me over the past 40 years. I could go on and on about how awesome he was in my life and what he really meant to me personally, but I will restrain myself in this piece. What I would rather do is share with you what I have learned about mentors and mentoring.
It is my firm belief that having a mentor is critical to one’s success. Everyone needs help, encouragement and exemplars in their lives. The saddest thing for me to see is a person who thinks they don’t need anyone else to help guide them. No one can see everything. How is it possible to know what you don’t know? There is a familiar passage of scripture that perhaps can give us some insight into mentoring. It is found in the book of Acts. “And he rose and went. And there was an Ethiopian, a eunuch, a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure. He had come to Jerusalem to worship and was returning, seated in his chariot, and he was reading the prophet Isaiah. And the Spirit said to Philip, ‘Go over and join this chariot.’ So Philip ran to him and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and asked, ‘Do you understand what you are reading?’ And he said, ‘How can I, unless someone guides me?’ And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.” (Acts 8:27-31 ESV). I have been blessed with several other great mentors in my life: Bishop P.A. Brooks, Dennis Talbert, Rev. Sylvester Harris, Dr. Charles E. Hawthorne, Dr. Melvin Chapman (RIH), Joseph Weir, Dr, James C. Scott (RIH), Dr. Jay Burns (RIH), Dea. Glen Pitt, and Pastor Howard Parker. I chose to submit myself to these men at various points in my life and for various reasons.
One of the challenges I see in our community is people suffering in silence. Very often our pride or ego causes us to be overly concerned about what people think about us. So, silence is a common strategy used to keep people from discovering our flaws. We must resist the temptation to engage in this type of thinking. I have spent many years teaching parents not to engage in this kind of thinking when it comes to raising their children. In my book, IMPACT Parents: Raising College-Ready Students, I try to encourage parents to collaborate one with another to discover areas of expertise even amongst their peers. Even with a group of young parents there are areas of expertise or insight each one may have that others in the group may lack. So, there is always somebody who can teach you something. Even in the most extreme situations where a person has a very limited base of knowledge, they still may know something different from those who have been blessed with an abundance of knowledge. The moral of my point is no one knows everything, and everyone knows something. So, the first thing we need to have is an open mind with a willingness to learn. Once our minds are open to learning and being taught, we are ready for a mentor. Everyone is not the right mentor for you. You must be selective in choosing a mentor. There are at least four things one should consider, to avoid selecting the wrong mentor.
1. They must have a genuine interest in your success. Many people have bought into the old cliché’ “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” However, this concept is very misleading and causes people to pursue false relationships with people who have power and influence, but no interest in one pursuing the relationship. While it is good to desire a relationship with someone you admire or believe would be able to offer great
Commented [JW1]:
KEYS TO CHOOSING A MENTOR article by Jonathan M. Wynne, M.A., M.B.A., M.Ed. For Fresh Lifestyle Magazine November 2018
insight to help you with your development. Yet, it can often be very naïve to assume that just because a person would be a good connection for you that the feeling is mutual. In selecting a mentor, it is wise to discern or determine whether or not this person has a your best interest at heart. After all, it really doesn’t matter who you know. What is important is that in critical moments doors open, because of who knows you. Make certain the person you desire as a mentor will own your relationship in the company of important people. This doesn’t mean they necessarily need to interact with you as a peer. However, if a potential mentor tends to shun or disown you when it counts, they may not have your best interest in the forefront of their mind. After all, do you really want to be coached or mentored by a person like that? 2. They have the kind of character you would want to immolate. Character matters. How often do we see on the nightly news that people have gotten themselves entangled in a web of indiscretions and unscrupulous business practices, because they were connected to or groomed by a powerful person who was irresistible for them. It never happens abruptly. It always seems to happen over a long period of time. I often ask myself, “How did this person get caught up in this?” Often, people turn a blind eye to the character of powerful people, because they are so caught up in what they want to believe they can get out of being connected to such a person. If the mentor doesn’t have good character, they can take advantage of your ambition. A good mentor will not push their way into your affairs or pressure you to accept their guidance. Let that be a warning sign when that happens. You must ask yourself whether their motives and methods are pure and upright. 3. They have expertise in an area you need help in. Every person who supports you and may be of good character is not necessarily the best choice to be your mentor. At some point, you need to make sure they have a level of expertise in the areas in which you desire to grow. I once had a parent who wanted to volunteer as an assistant basketball coach. We were very excited to have him join the staff. After all he had been a pretty good football player and a military veteran. It seemed like a perfect fit. I assumed he knew enough about basketball to coach middle school kids, because most athletes my age played multiple sports. Well it didn’t take long to see that he knew almost nothing about how to play basketball. He was giving the players instructions that would ensure their lack of success. His heart was in the right place, he just didn’t have the expertise. So, I asked him if he would serve as our fitness coach. He did a great job mentoring the children about their conditioning. 4. They must be willing to tell you the truth in love. A good mentor is not someone who is required to be your cheerleader on a continuous basis. Although, a good mentor should be able and willing to celebrate your accomplishments. At the same time a mentor must have the capacity to tell you the truth, even if it hurts. While a mentor must be tactful in their telling, they must never deceive you, even if they mean well. If you find out your mentor was anything other than honest with you, it will be difficult to trust them at a level that will guarantee open communication. Whenever, you allow someone to speak into your life, they need to have accurate and complete information about you and your situations. This will help them to speak the truth fully and precisely. The challenge comes when you discover they are not willing to tell you the truth and it causes you to compartmentalize what you will share with them. Now you have a lack of communication between mentor and mentee. There’s static on the line and that is not a helpful situation for this kind of relationship.

The scenario I mentioned with Phillip and the Ethiopian Eunuch feature some of these characteristics. Phillip showed great interest in this Ethiopian, because when God told him to go near to him, he didn’t hesitate, he ran to him. He was obviously a person of great character, because he practiced the ministry of presence, before he jumped in and started fixing the man’s problems. Phillip stood next to his chariot and paid attention to him. His first engagement was to ask questions to determine if the man even needed any help. The Eunuch could tell that Phillip had expertise and subsequently invited him to come and sit with him. The next time you select a mentor, look for one with the characteristics of Phillip and you will be well on your way to getting some good advice from someone who may even open a few doors for you like many of my mentors have done for me. Choose wisely. ▪

I am a speaker, trainer and consultant. *KEYNOTE ADDRESS: Inspiring the Audience to embrace their charge. *WORKSHOP TRAINING: Effectively enhancing the skills of your staff. *CONSULTING SERVICES: Coaching and facilitating your planning and management efforts.

You must be logged in to post a comment Login

Leave a Reply