Mentoring promotes growth. A mentor is committed to helping you realize your life purpose. It is someone perceived to be significant influencing your development and providing both motivation and accountability. Dr Myles Munroe in The Burden of Freedom contends that freedom depends on the ability and willingness to assume responsibility and accountability. He holds you accountable for the things that you have set yourself to do. A mentor ensures that you do not shirk away from responsibility. A mentor does not seek to use and exploit you as cheap labour but seeks to build you.
A mentor provides a model for you to follow. Noted American psychologist, Albert Bandura after extensive research concluded that modelling is the greatest form of unconscious learning, and most human behaviour is learnt observationally through modelling. He validates the Apostle Paul who declares imitate me as I imitate Christ. So a mentor models the way of life. He does not just preach but walks the talk. He allows you to peep into his life to see his strengths and weaknesses – to see him struggle to fulfil his purpose and destiny. We learn more by observing behaviour and become more of what we see. It is one thing to read about a principle but another to see that principle lived out. God could have said I want people to be born again and become holy. But he said I want Jesus to go down to earth and model the way of life I want people to live. Jesus did not only die on the cross but he also modelled a godly life. That is why the Bible teaches us to imitate him. Mentors model what they teach. As a mentor you cannot say do as I say not as I do. Your protégé should be able to see in your life the principles you teach. What qualifies a mentor is the ability to assimilate what they are teaching into their walk and lives. As one preacher pontificated, “I do not practice what I preach but I preach what I practice”.
Mentoring helps you reach your goals more efficiently and effectively. It accelerates your progress through a network of relationships and resources. Mentoring has a force of leverage in it. If you don’t have the needed resources and wisdom for the achievement of your goals, you seek out a wise mentor who compensate for your shortcomings in these areas. As the Bible says, “He who walks with the wise is wise”. A mentor can link you with the needed networks or resources as he sees fit. It accelerates your progress through releasing to you a network of resources and relationships. However it is not prudent for an emerging champion to manipulate mentoring relationships in order to access the mentor’s networks. The mentor has a right not to release his network resources to his charge until he is comfortable with him.
One time I was discussing a business transaction with my pastor and he graciously opened a door for me to be assisted by a Christian banking CEO who is not even a member of his church. I had immediate access to that banker’s office and help. Here is somebody who heard my story and risked credibility for me. That is releasing a network of his relationships for the benefit of the people being mentored.
In starting your business sometimes you need someone else’s credibility for the bank, suppliers and customers to trust you. Let me illustrate: Banking does not depend on your collateral for you to access loans. It depends on relationships. If you think about it, one of the problems that the current central bank governor has had with the curators in recovering the monies that were lent out is because they forgot that basic principle. The bank owner may have given three billion dollars to someone basing his decision on a relationship. He can pick up the phone and call back that money and the borrower will return it because he respects that relationship. Remove the banker and put a curator who has no relationship and the collection of funds becomes difficult. Then you have an increase in non-performing loans. Cunning borrowers might say to the curator, “Take me to court because when you do I can agree to pay back over five years at the prescribed interest rate”. Relationships are critical.
Mentors reduce the risk of leadership failure by holding you accountable – by checking on you and asking you the hard questions. In the case study in the previous chapter both Paul and John Mark failed before they even started. Paul could not be accepted by the apostles. John Mark had been written off. But it was the mentor who helped them face their weaknesses and walk their way into destiny. Many business ideas also fail to materialise because the entrepreneur has no mentor to help him navigate the murky waters of entrepreneurship.
Mentors tolerate the brashness and mistakes of others in order to see potential develop. They are not intimidated by the brashness of upstarts. They see the gold behind the brashness and are patient, knowing that time and experience are needed for maturity. We see that with Barnabas when he works with John Mark. John Mark had failed. He had run away from ministry but that brashness and those mistakes did not discourage Barnabas.
My late mentor and first pastor, Stanford Chirema – the gentle giant, demonstrated this trait. When we were young we were very zealous. We would do crazy things. What we lacked in knowledge and wisdom we compensated for with zeal. I have learnt since that zeal without knowledge may have disastrous consequences. We would pray for the sick and have sessions of exorcism in the streets. We would tell him these stories and he would just smile. When we had grown a little he came and showed us the right way of doing it. Had he corrected us prematurely, because of the zealousness we exhibited, he would have destroyed our spirits. Maturity and wisdom come with time and experience. So a mentor is patient and tolerant.
Based on a larger picture perspective a mentor gives strategic counsel. He has the vision and ability to see down the road and suggest the next step that a mentoring partner needs to take. Two years ago I told Prof Simba Sibanda how I had turned down an offer to lecture for Nottingham Trent MBA programme. Prof Sibanda is an unassuming intellectual powerhouse that is making waves in developmental consultancy in Africa. He chided me and counselled that I should rescind my decision. Now I see his wisdom because it helped prepare me for my work with Celebration College. I was short-sighted and had not considered that I would be involved with management development. He gave perspective to my decision making process. Thank God for sound mentors.
When Barnabas recruited Paul for the work at Antioch it’s because he had a broader perspective. He realized that Antioch would stretch and expand Paul’s gifting. Paul did not know about Antioch but Barnabas linked the two because of his ability to see the larger picture. When left to ourselves we develop scotomas (blind spots). Scotomas imply that we fail to see the periphery or recognize the importance of certain things. Have you ever worked at an accounting problem for days failing to balance the books? You unsuccessfully try different angles. Finally you ask someone else to look at your work and they immediately pick up the error. Suddenly it’s so obvious. What held you back was a blind spot or scotoma. In your business, scotomas blind you to issues which every one else notices but are reluctant to tell you for fear of victimization. A mentor can assist you past your blind spots.
A mentor must have what you need. Someone cannot impart to you what he does not have. You cannot have somebody who does not have character or who is at least not working at building his own character, teach you on character.
Because of the importance of relationships a mentor should have an ability to cultivate and treasure relationships. Somebody who easily walks out of relationships is not a good mentor. In the mentoring process you will step on each other’s toes so you need somebody who is committed to cultivating and nurturing relationships. Nurturers prize and nurture relationships.
He is willing to take a chance on you. A mentor makes certain investments of time, energy, time, trust, emotion and other resources in the person they are mentoring. They risk their credibility by trusting you.
 In thisarticle I use the pronoun “he” in a gender neutral sense such that it includes both male and female. I find the use of both he/she difficult to manage in reading a script.