The Ten Commandments of Mentoring

Is mentoring something that interests you? I have been doing a lot of research into different styles and approaches and guidelines to mentoring in recent weeks in an effort to expand my own skills and knowledge base in that area. In particular I have been looking for material which is easy to pass on.

Some guides I have found helpful. Some not so. Some seemed so directionless; focussed more on preventing slips than moving forwards towards personal transformation. To be honest some of the secular approaches seemed more useful than the Christian ones. But one Christian approach I found succinct yet reasonably comprehensive was that outlined in “Connecting: The Mentoring Relationships You Need To Succeed In Life,” by Paul Stanley and Robert Clinton. In particular I liked their chapter on the Ten Commandments of Mentoring which I summarise and paraphrase here:

Commandment 1: Relationship. All mentoring begins with relationship and the stronger the relationship you establish, the greater the empowerment, so focus on that.

Commandment 2: Purpose. Disappointments in mentoring can frequently be traced back to differing or unfulfilled expectations in the purpose of the relationship. So the purpose should be jointly agreed on at the beginning of the relationship. The rest of these commandments all deal with important areas of expectation.

Commandment 3: Regularity. Disappointments can arise from differing expectations as to the regularity of meetings between mentor and mentoree, so it is best to set some ground rules up front both for regular meeting times and impromptu interactions.

Commandment 4: Accountability. Mutual responsibility is an important mentoring dynamic and usually it does not just happen, you need to plan for it. Agree together on how you will establish and monitor mentoring tasks.

Commandment 5 : Communication mechanisms. Frequently mentors see something in a mentoree that needs correction. How and when to communicate this is important to clarify early in the relationship and this is particularly important in peer to peer relationships.

Commandment 6: Confidentiality. The last commandment was concerned with communication within the relationship. This commandment is concerned with communication beyond it. Several factors influence the level of confidentiality – some people are more vulnerable, some are more open. A mentoring relationship must honour the participants’ personalities and feelings. You should explore and clarify this up front, but in more counselling style relationships you should consider all things confidential and not to be shared without permission.

Commandment 7: Life cycles of mentoring. Periods of mentoring may vary in length of time for empowerment to happen, but avoid open ended mentoring relationships. If you assume that the given purpose and accountability measures will take six months, set up a smaller goal of three months with evaluation. Then you can both back out without loosing face if it doesn’t meet expectations. On the other hand, if it goes well you can continue the relationship and set up a new evaluation point.

Commandment 8: Evaluation. No mentoring relationship is ideal. Expectations are seldom totally realised. Evaluation allows for mid course correction.

Commandment 9: Expectations. While the last commandment is mainly the responsibility of the mentor, this commandment is mainly the responsibility of the mentoree. Use evaluation and feedback to modify your expectations so that they fit your real life mentoring situation. There is empowerment in reaching realistic expectations.

Commandment 10: Closure. Begin with the end in mind. A happy ending for a mentoring experience involves closure, in which both parties evaluate, recognise how and where empowerment has occurred, and mutually end the mentoring relationship. This is probably the most violated of all the commandments.

So what about you? What have you found helpful? Unhelpful? Is there anything you would add? What have you learned from your own mentoring experiences?

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