A Coach

A coach is someone who walks you through a process, imparting encouragement and skills to succeed in a task. His focus is to motivate, build skills and help you find the necessary applications to meet the challenges you face. He models the importance of learning basic skills. A coach trains and disciplines you to do the things you don’t want to do so that you become what you have to become. Coach says, “I know the calling of God in your life. I know where you have to go and I’m going to walk with you and develop the needed resources and internal capacities needed to achieve what God wants you to achieve”. The focus is on improving effectiveness in the life of a mentoring partner.

Good people accept accountability. Great people ask for it.

Guy Kawasaki

A young man called Jack, from a poor family, went into dental school. A mutual friend introduced us. When he was free from University commitments he would come and be a chair side assistant just to learn the intricacies of dentistry in my practice. During his third year he experienced financial difficulties and we sponsored him for the balance of his studies. Because of the exposure he had and the coaching he got, he excelled in his academic and clinical work. He had an advantage in clinical procedures over other students. As he was working with us, he had a front row view of clinical dentistry. His professors were amazed at his appreciation of clinical skills. We coached and helped him learn basic clinical skills. In his final years of school, we allowed him to assist with some clinical procedures.

For instance most dental students finish their training without doing a very expensive procedure called fabricating a bridge. The local dental school has no facility for this procedure. When he got a patient who needed this treatment we eliminated our fee so that the patient could afford and accept the treatment. The procedure was worth $25 million at the time but his patient only paid the laboratory bill of $7 million. I released resources through the discount to enable him to learn. I supervised him as he performed the treatment. I believe since the local dental school opened, he has been the first student to perform this procedure. Now Jack has started his dental career fully qualified for all the procedures.

Today he can be trusted to run a private practice since he has acquired the administrative and managerial skills. We offered him a rare opportunity since most dental students graduate without any exposure to live clinical settings apart from the university. That’s coaching.

Reasonable Expectations

The mentoring relationship is most effective if the expectations of the stakeholders are clarified and mutually understood. In formal relationships there may be need for specific expectations being documented. However in informal mentoring relationships, there are certain reasonable expectations.

Mentors can expect the emerging champion to:

ü  Accept the relationship.

ü  Meet as often as appropriate.

ü  Ask for suggestions and advice.

ü  Listen, apply advice and report the results.

ü  Keep any commitments made especially time commitments and commitment to complete any assignments given.

ü  Maintain confidentiality.

ü  Give opinions on the relationship.

ü  Work out any minor concerns.


Champions in the making can expect mentors to:

ü  Have regular meetings either face to face or interface electronically.

ü  Provide sound advice.

ü  Maintain confidentiality.

ü  Follow through on commitments made.

ü  Help resolve conflicts wherever they arise in the relationship

ü  Be honest, caring, and diplomatic in giving feedback.

ü  Evaluate the relationship near the end.

For the avoidance of doubt let me emphasize that champions in the making, should not expect mentors to:

ü  Perform their job responsibilities- e.g. assume protégé’s decision-making responsibility.

ü  Help extensively with personal problems, to the point of creating a dependent relationship.

ü  Spend more time on the relationship than the mentor is willing or able to give.

ü  Provide personal introductions unless offered.

redefinition phase

Redefinition phase

The final phase is often marked by the mentoring relationship becoming more like a peer friendship. Just like Paul and Barnabas. Do not keep looking down on your protégé when he has matured. Transform the relationship. Even our sons can be treated as peers when they have matured and proved themselves. Failure to redefine the relationship may destroy it as the nurtured champion feels suffocated. Give the young lion space! Otherwise his roar will forever be overshadowed by the master’s. The Master mentor, Jesus Christ, having raised the apostles, gave them the charge and gave them space to exercise what they learnt while he disappeared back to heaven. In his departing message he called them friends and brothers.

International church planter, Henry Madava, born and raised in Zimbabwe and now based in Kiev, Ukraine was raised and nurtured in Tom Deuschle’s church. Despite Pastor Tom not having known and recognised the young champion, the nurturing influence was there none the less. But the modest pastor accepts the fiery church planter back into his home church not as a son and junior but raises a platform for him as a peer. That is an example of redefining the mentoring relationship. A lot of pastors and organisational leaders fail at this point.

Like I stated before if the separation phase is handled properly the relationship will be transformed and redefined. If however the separation phase is handled poorly, the relationship will be destroyed. It is easy to destroy your legacy and life’s work by failing on the release well. Remember that your protégés  are the missiles that you are sending into the next generation, they are an extension of your influence. Give them space to exercise their gifting along side you or separate from you without destroying the relationship.

Some mentors fail to realise that the redefinition phase may entail a separation from the organisation without disrupting the relationship.


Separation phase

The phase is characterized by a change in the paternalistic relationship between mentor and mentoring partner. The nurtured champion has become more independent and empowered. The nature of the relationship has to change. Sometimes, negative feelings and hostility can mark this phase. However, if the mentor and the emerging champion work together, they can move to the redefinition phase where the relationship is reshaped to meet new and more collegial needs.

I remember dealing recently with a challenge within a mentoring relationship. I wondered what was causing the strife between the two until it dawned on me that the mentor was failing to give the protégé space to become his own man. It was time for cutting the dependence on the mentor and the protégé was ready but the mentor was not. With some help and counsel the mentor realised that he had to let go and release the protégé. Now they are working on redefining the relationship. It was almost like a teenager who wanted to asset his independence while the Father was continuing to treat him as a child. This causes immense stress to both parties.

You rarely have perpetual mentoring relationships. This is one thing people struggle with. Mentoring relationships are not until “death do us part, so help me God”.  Sometimes you outgrow the relationship and need to wisely transition without breaking the friendship. Once you achieve the objective of the mentoring relationship, there is need to either release each other or redefine the relationship. A mentor should be able to close the chapter when somebody grows from being a net receiver of knowledge to being a peer.

Barnabas was the lead person in his relationship with Paul. But there was switch as you study their lives when Paul became the leader. Barnabas did not walk away accusing Paul of taking too much upon himself. Others would have sulked and complained that Paul is too full of himself. “He forgets that I took him under my wings when everybody had forgotten him. I rescued him from anonymity”. Barnabas had the maturity to release him to become who God wanted him to be. Do you as a leader have the maturity to release somebody who is under you? Mentors should not manipulate their protégés by reminding them what they did for them and so try to keep them in the relationship. Many mentors destroy good relationships by over exaggerating their contribution to the protégés and forgetting that they also derived value form the mentoring relationship.

One of my mentors struggled with release and would act as an overbearing parent who fails to release his adolescent child. Mentors can destroy the relationship by holding too tightly to the leaders they develop. A word of caution to mentors: Do not tie your identity and ego to the emerging champion. Hold him loosely and be ready to release him into his destiny … with celebration if possible.

One participant in a mentoring seminar I ran told a harrowing story of abuse from the mentor when she felt that she needed to separate and move on. The mentor threatened that she would never succeed because her success was linked to her grace and the relationship with her. The mentored champion felt some welcome relief when I told her that she was responsible for the relationship and so was free to establish the time of separation. It is not the mentor who determines that. If the relationship no longer adds value, because it has run its course, the protégé has a responsibility to initiate a transition. The mentor should not protest. This is the natural progression of the relationship.

Are you intimidated as a leader when someone you raised up grows up until he is exalted above you? Someone you shepherded could rise above you. You should have the stamina and stability to handle that. Even in organizations a time may come when the person you mentored is promoted above you. We do not promote people to their level of incompetence simply because they have been there longer. When people beneath you rise above your level, have the grace to celebrate their success. This is why mentors need a healthy dose of self-esteem, self-efficacy and sense of worth.

Howard Hendricks mentored many students at Dallas Theological Seminary who went on to do great things for the church. One of his students, Chuck Swindoll, returned to his alma mater to become the president of the College while Howard Hendricks, his mentor, was still lecturing there. The mentor became a subordinate to his former protégé. Many wondered how the situation would evolve and even Swindoll himself was worried about the turn of events. But Hendricks graciously subordinated himself and made life easy for his student. What a mentor! What a man! In my book Howard Hendricks is both a champion and champion–nurturer extraordinaire!

Mentor, there is nothing wrong with releasing your protégés. Many times if you insist on the relationship past its due date you eventually destroy it and ruin your legacy. Nurtured champions are like arrows in the hand of a mighty warrior which achieve their greatest impact when released from the quiver and shot out to touch and influence the world.

Mentor, do not keep your arrows in the quiver. Release them by due date. Your legacy is tied to how powerfully you shoot them out of the bow into their future. Launch them out. Your arrows are useless if they remain in your quiver. Develop a habit of emptying your quiver regularly. The target is the future. Do not keep them in the now.

Cultivation Phase

Cultivation phase

This phase can last several years as the mentoring partner develops competences as a result of career and psychosocial support from the mentor. The mentor feels proud of the help he has been able to give to the emerging leader’s personal and professional development.

The mentoring functions peak as learning accrues to both mentor and protégé. The champion gains valuable knowledge from the mentor while the mentor gains loyalty and support, as well as a sense of well-being from being able to pass on knowledge to the next generation. It is important at this stage for mentors to realise that a mentoring relationship is a platform for learning and therefore the mentor should not view himself as the sole repository of knowledge and wisdom. Mentors need to be open to learn from their charges. Information and learning flows in both directions in a mentoring relationship. Jack Welch introduced the concept of reverse mentoring when he requested senior GE executives to be mentored by young technological savvy managers and learn the ropes of technology.

In the following section I describe four ways of developing self-efficacy –(a belief that I can cause my dreams to come to pass) These are all influenced by the mentor. A wise mentor knows how to use these different ways to create mentoring interventions depending on the need and situation at hand. These are all useful within the cultivation phase of mentorship.

a) Mastery Experiences

I know that I have what it takes to win because I have been through some experiences in the past where I put in sustained effort and won, despite significant challenges. My successes build a strong belief in my efficacy while failures undermine it. The challenges you conquer and master build your self-esteem and confidence to do greater things. David on facing Goliath, relied on his past mastery experiences and said, “I have mastered the lion. I have mastered the bear. The God who helped me master these will help me master you Goliath”. The things you have conquered in life give you confidence to take on more challenges. Those mastery experiences give tenacity and confidence to go for more. But if you have been defeated, you are afraid to take on more challenges.  Once beaten, twice shy – they say.

This is where the mentor comes in. A mentor says, “I want this person to win. I want to build his self-efficacy. I will give him small challenges. As he wins those small challenges his ego rises, his self esteem improves.” The mentor then ups the stakes – expanding them a little bit further step by step. In other words I don’t allow them to go and attack Goliath without having a few wins under their belt. I am strategically helping them to win one battle at a time and it builds their confidence and self-efficacy.

Cynthia is a dental therapist in our practice. Her first job was as dental hygienist in an Orthodontic Practice. She moved away from clinical procedures she is supposed to perform and for ten years worked as a hygienist. But dental hygienists do not have much work in Zimbabwe. She was no longer employable as a dental therapist because she had lost her clinical skills. At a personal level she had also lost her confidence to handle clinical procedures. So when I offered her a job as a therapist she was scared due to low self-efficacy. She had not practiced as a therapist since graduation – she had forgotten how to do it. Then I offered her work as a hygienist, which she accepted. Gradually I gave her some clinical work thus stretching her. Initially I set her up to win by giving her simple cases which she handled easily. Each small win increased her mastery experiences until she was confident. Now I can leave the practice under her care. We increased her mastery experiences and now she has the confidence to do more challenging things. As a mentor you increase the success rate of your mentoring partner on minor things. It builds her self-esteem and self-efficacy through mastery experiences and she goes for more. You can also assist her handle challenging complex tasks, one bite at a time to increase the likelihood of success and hence increase self-efficacy.

b) Observational Learning

I have seen others who are like me persist in their efforts and win, therefore I say to myself, “If they could do it, so can I”. Basically it means that competent mentors transmit knowledge, skills and strategies for managing the demands that are placed on the protégé by life’s challenges. Observational learning simply means, “I am observing somebody who is competent as they role model what they want me to do”. As I observe them I notice they are human like me. I learn from them and say to myself if someone who is as human as I am can do it then I can do it also.  The Bible says “for Elijah was a man of like passions as we are”. What the Bible means is that if this man who is as human as yourself could do it, so can you.  When you hear a testimony you say he is just human like me and he achieved it and so can I.  That’s observational learning.

Seeing people like yourself succeed by sustained effort raises your belief in your own ability to succeed – that’s why you need to associate with go-getters. Observational learning implies that the mentor allows the protégé to learn from the mentor’s experiences. Deliberately include your protégé in some of your challenging tasks and let them see you win. They will learn from your successes, which builds their sense of self-efficacy. Mentors should also expose their charges to biographies of successful people who serve as sources for vicarious learning.

My banker friend and hero, Jeff Mzwimbi stood against a massive challenge when the government illegally took over his bank, Royal Bank and amalgamated it into ZABG[1]. Many other bankers faced with similar threats quit the country for fear of a selectively partial legal system. But Jeff challenged the government in court and persevered after so much persecution. I believe that his ability to withstand the bullying tactics of the ruling authorities was rooted in a sense of self-efficacy which he developed when he worked with Strive Masiyiwa, founding Group CEO of Econet -the giant Zimbabwean based telecommunications network company. Masiiwa fought a four year legal battle against government for the licensing of his telecommunications company. Through vicarious learning Mzwimbi said if Masiyiwa, a man of like passions like me, can withstand these bullying tactics, so can I. It is my firm belief that Jeff’s resolve to fight for his dream came from his association with Strive. That is the power of observational learning to build self-efficacy. It can therefore be said that Strive nurtured Jeff into a persevering champion that would fight for his dream. Because of that determination now five years later Jeff and his team have been assured the return of their assets and they are ready to relaunch Royal Bank.

c) Social Persuasion.

When someone who has credibility in my eyes tells me that he believes that I can make it. This raises my belief that I have what it takes to succeed. This is the power of the affirming words of role models, coaches and parents. A mentor can affirm his protégé so as to build his self-image and self-efficacy. When a credible mentor says to you “I know you can do it”, it gives you confidence.

The reason you are reading this book is that when Dr John Stanko[2] heard me present a seminar on this topic, he challenged me to publish it as a book. He persuaded me that it was world class. You can imagine the impact the affirmation of a respected author like him had on my self-efficacy. I was thinking, “If Dr. John believes that it’s publishable then I can do it.” That affirmation encouraged me to persevere as I worked through the writing and publishing process. That is the power of social persuasion. And the affirmation did not have to be completely true. After all it is a matter of perception. The confidence and affirmation of a credible mentor builds your self-efficacy.

I had an employee who constantly made silly mistakes.  One day she performed well on a complicated treatment. I sat down and wrote her a note that said, “I appreciate and like you because you do an excellent job – like you did on this patient”. She was chuffed. She went around showing everybody and telling them, “I did not think he recognizes my effort. I thought I was useless”. From that day her attitude to work and her performance improved dramatically because I affirmed her on what she did well.

Many times as bosses we spend our time giving negative feed back, criticizing, and talking about the bad things they do until people come to a point where they think “I never do any thing right”. Then they quit trying. But you must deliberately look at the good things that a person does and affirm them on that. When you do that you build their sense of self worth and enhance their willingness to extend themselves on your behalf.

One of the most powerful demonstrations of social persuasion in a mentoring relationship happened to my friend Matt Wazara recently. As Matt was completing his specialization course in surgery, his pastor’s wife was diagnosed with a condition that required complex surgery in RSA[3]. He accompanied them down to Cape Town. His pastor and his wife then made a special request to the RSA specialists to allow Matt to assist in the surgical procedure. His mentor trusted him with his wife’s life. This was a powerful vote of confidence in their protégé and a powerful booster of self-efficacy for Matt. Ordinarily he would not have been allowed to assist in cases outside Zimbabwe without a special license. Chances are he would never have had an opportunity to assist these highly qualified surgeons in a highly complex treatment. After a successful surgical operation, the RSA surgeons were so impressed by Dr Wazara that they asked him to assist in the next surgical procedure which was an open heart surgery. Matt was elated. This is a once in a lifetime operation for any surgery student. In this one act his mentor had affirmed him as well as strategically positioned him for a stretch in his career. No doubt Matt went into that theatre thinking, if my mentor thinks I can do it – then I sure can. This big hearted gesture of affirmation and social persuasion by his mentor re-defined Matt as a surgeon. His career is unlikely to ever be the same again. In fact the experiences he had will be a reference point in his pursuit of reforming healthcare delivery systems in Zimbabwe and beyond.

d) My physical or emotional state influences my perceived self-efficacy. Therefore by reducing stress and improving my physical state, I increase my self-efficacy. Mentors through offering a shoulder to cry on and assisting their protégés during crisis, release the stress and emotional baggage they carry thereby increasing their self-efficacy. Well-known author and motivational lecturer, Milton Kamwendo recently lost Esther, his lovely wife, unexpectedly. It was indeed a difficult time for him. At the graveside his mentor Doug Mamvura gave a moving speech in honour of Esther’s home-going. Doug not only stood with Milton during those dark hours but also covered the gap in Milton’s weekly Sunday Mail column to give a powerful eulogy for Esther as well as positively affirm Milton. No doubt those words and actions of affirmation from Milton’s mentor reduced the stress while increasing his self-efficacy. I have no doubt that Milton is a stronger man for it. What a mentor!

[1] ZABG- Zimbabwe Allied Banking Group – was formed on the basis of the Troubled Banking Act allegedly to salvage so-called “troubled banks”

[2] Dr Stanko is the founder of PurposeQuest International

[3] RSA- Republic of South Africa


In this week we will focus on discussing the different phases within a mentoring relationship. The phases that we will consider are initiation phase, the cultivation phase, separation phase and finally the redefinition phase.

1. Initiation Phase

In this phase the emerging champion admires, respects and trusts the mentor. The mentor believes that he has something to offer. The mentoring partners select one another. Initial interactions involve learning the other’s style and working habits. The initiative to engage can come from either of the potential partners. This should not be surprising since both derive benefit from the relationship. Normally the onus is on the emerging leaders to seek mentors. Sometimes a wiser mentor may see potential in someone and feel like he can contribute to his growth. The case of Barnabas seeing potential in Paul and coming to his rescue is a case in point. Astute mentors are always on the look out for potential champions to nurture and develop. This increases their influence and legacy.

Many times people hurry to formalize the mentoring relationship before ensuring a fit between the two. I am cautious and do not want to describe the relationship as mentoring when a potential protégé approaches me. I will commit to helping the person, meet a number of times just for a chat to establish where he is coming from and to find out if there is compatibility. This allows me to establish whether I am the best person to serve him or whether I could redirect him to someone else.  A few weeks ago, a young man asked to be mentored but due to time constraints and distance issues, I referred him to one of my close protégés for mentorship under my cover. I met him later and he indicated that he had felt offended because he felt he had been rejected. After establishing that he had had no relationship with his father, I explained the issues of distance and how they would impact the relationship. After explaining that he was still being mentored by me he then accepted the working arrangement we had put in place.  Some people may not like being referred – they seek not the effectiveness of the process but just being in a relationship with someone they idolise.

You do not want to commit until you know the heart of a person. I therefore allow the relationship to build naturally while I am learning the potential partner’s motivations.  If you commit to somebody who has ulterior motives you will be taken for a ride. Do not over-commit on things you cannot deliver. You are doing yourself and the person you are mentoring a disservice.

At this stage you also establish the potential protégé’s value of time. Does he keep appointments? Time is more expensive than money because it is the currency of life. Money in our economy derives its value from time. That’s why most knowledge workers are paid for their time and not the amount of work done. Successful people have a premium on their time. You do not want to lock yourself in with a chronic time waster. I had to terminate a mentoring relationship once because the couple my wife and I were mentoring would either not show up or would be late most of the time. They did not respect my time. The fact that the mentor may not charge for his time does not mean that his time is cheap.

Often times I ask potential mentees to do a write up on themselves describing their goals, their expectations and giving a brief biographical sketch of their lives. It is normal a 3-4 page word processed document that will also serve as a bench mark on the progress made in the relationship. This paper helps me understand the person better. It also serves as the first assignment that would allow me to assess the seriousness of the person in terms of desiring a mentoring relationship. In the last few years I can safely say that about 90% of the people who get excited about mentorship after a seminar, and ask to be mentored fail at this stage. They normally fail to submit this paper. To me it is both a smart way of eliminating time wasters or non serious people and a means of establishing that mentorship is hard work. If someone would not care to reflect on his life, and document his dreams and goals and expectations of the mentorship relationship, it tells me they may not be prepared to give what it takes to reach his goals.

Once both parties are comfortable with each other they can formalize the relationship and proceed to the next stage. However sometimes it is not necessary to describe the relationship as a mentoring one. It is not the definitions that matter but the essence of nurturing the other person into the fullness of his destiny.

“Vision is the stuff of which friendships are made. Friends stand side-by-side looking at the mountain, contemplating the task, measuring what matters. It is that common vision that drives true friendships.” Stu Weber

Roberto Guiliani, the prominent New York mayor who fathered the US during the tragic events of September 11, 2001 was greatly influenced in his leadership philosophy by Judge McMahon whom he served as a judicial clerk immediately after graduating from law school. However it does not appear as if during the process either of them formally recognized the relationship. By the time Guiliani left he succinctly states that the judge had become a “second father” to him. Years later the judge created an opportunity for Guiliani to expand his leadership skill by appointing him a receiver (or curator for non- US readers) of a coal mining company which had filed for bankruptcy. That experience further refined his leadership skills and widened his experience profile.

Mentorship Roles 3

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[1] 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.

[1] 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.

Mentorship Roles 2

There are crises you encounter in life, where you need a non-flattering mentor to speak the hard things. You receive his words because that mentor has established enough credibility and vested interest to confront you without breaking the relationship. You know he has your best interest at heart. Many times we allow unqualified people to flippantly speak into our lives. Relationship qualifies a mentor to speak into your life in critical times.

Not everybody has a right to confront you. Not everybody has a right to speak into your future. During crisis, you need a mentor as an anchor. If you don’t have a mentor – someone you can trust, someone who can stand as a road rail between you and cliff edge – you are in trouble.  As a leader you will face mind-numbing crises.  It maybe moral failure. It may be challenges about life. Challenges about where to go from here. It may be complex decisions between “good” and “good” but with vastly different consequences. It may be difficult strategic decisions about your business or career. Crises are normal to life. It’s only those people who are committed to you over a period of time whom you can trust with your very life at these critical times.

Mentorship is relational. If there is no relationship you cannot really claim to be a mentor to somebody. It maybe only a minimal contact relationship. But in reality and in its full manifestation there must be a solid relationship. The relationship ensures that you listen to the person. A relationship allows vulnerability on the part of the person being nurtured as well as opening his mind to counsel.

Viewed from another perspective, mentorship provides a brain to pick on and a shoulder to cry on. It’s a push in the right direction. It is like having another set of eyes to see the world with. We see the world not as the world is, but as we are. Who I am shapes the way I see things. That’s why you notice that until you have made a choice to buy a BMW you do not notice the BMWs. The moment you buy that pink dress then you notice that almost everybody else has that pink dress. Mentorship allows you to see the world from at least two viewpoints. This widens your perspective and brings objectivity to the way you view the world. A discerning mentor benefits from the viewpoint of the person being nurtured. Wise mentors view the process as a mutual learning experience.

The objective eye of a mentor tempers the decisions you make allowing you to manage your blind spots. A mentor notices the discrepancies between your espoused values and the values you live out. These are your real life values. And he shows you the gap between who you say you are and what you are in real life. As a mentor reflects back to you who he sees you to be, you work at closing that gap. That helps in values assimilation. Integrity means an alignment between your espoused values and the ones you live out. Leaders are the embodiment of their espoused values.

Mentors provide honest feedback. A mentor looks you in the eye and says that although people are singing your praises there is this weakness in you. “Because I seek your greatest good I hold you accountable and will not let you to get away with it. I love you so much that I will not leave you the way you are. I will not pretend”. The Bible says “as iron sharpens iron, so does a man sharpen the countenance of his friend”. When everyone is faultfinding and criticizing, he shows you your strengths and successes. A mentor is so sensitive that when you are down and everybody is criticizing, he holds up and reflects to you your successes. He affirms you and thus brings balance.

Mentorship Roles 1

Mentors teach emerging leaders to value knowledge. When a mentor acquires knowledge he is keen to pass it on to others. These are people who read a book and say, “I read this book and think it would be useful to you”. They are releasing information and resources to you. A mentor is a source of information who gives books, CDs, DVDs to his charge.

Mentors provide wisdom. Wisdom is the application of knowledge. A mentor applies the truth of the gospel or principles to life in a way that works and makes sense. Tolias was a zealous church pastor who almost destroyed his marriage through neglect as he focused on church work. His wife became bitter and resented the church. She was contemplating divorce. Due to these difficult marital challenges Tolias almost compromised his marital vows. After much prayer and discussion I counselled him to close down the church and focus on his family. When the church closed down I had an appointment with Tolias’ wife who narrated a harrowing tale of neglect and a sense of frustration. I met the former pastor and assisted him in handling the crisis. A year later I relocated but kept contact by e-mail. After about three years of languishing in the wilderness and working at his family issues, he made an international call to inform me that his marriage had been fully restored. In fact he was calling to let me know that his wife had proposed that they move their family some 800 km and be involved again in ministry. The application of wisdom saved his marriage and restored his ministry. Zeal puts career and ministry ahead of family. And yet the biblical record states that faithfulness in marriage and family qualifies a man for church leadership. How we often commit the error of transposition!

A mentor is not only a mirror but also a commentator. He provides a mirror for you to see who you are and then commends on it. Mentors provide an informed point of view. I see people seeking counsel from people who are ignorant about the context within which they are operating. Often people like that are looking for someone to endorse and justify what they have already set out to do. They do not want to go to people who know the context – who can give informed counsel. A mentor has to be someone who understands your business, or the context in which you are operating and can speak from an informed position. A corollary is that informed counsel will only be available if the mentor has been provided with true and accurate facts. Sometimes a mentor may need to seek confirming evidence to the story of the emerging champion before providing counsel.

Sam was a young man I had helped deal with past moral failures. Some four years after his rehabilitation, he called to inform me that he was facing charges of sodomy. He claimed that these charges were malicious and false. I was concerned because of the precedence of previous moral failure. I did not know whether to believe his assurances or not. I suspended judgement and told him that I would call him later. Since he was in another town, I called his pastor and discussed the issue with him. After some investigations I concluded that indeed this was a frivolous allegation. I called Sam a day later and informed him that I had done some background check on the facts and believed him. Initially he was incensed that I did not believe him and had to investigate issues. However I believe that to be able to give informed counsel to an emerging leader I need to be correctly informed and convinced of his situation. I supported him through a five month court case and gave counsel on how to handle the situation at work during that time. Eventually it was proven in court that the accuser was an extortionist whom he had refused to give in to. I have learned from previous mistakes that it is important to give informed counsel. Investigate the issues if possible. Do not be quick to provide comfort, support and counsel. You can easily become a partaker in another man’s sin. Get the facts. It is right and good for you and your mentoring partner. Get the facts right before you offer counsel.

Mentors can be viewed as coaches preparing their protégé to win the battles of life.  They act as sounding boards providing the emerging leader with an opportunity to test ideas and intuitions before they become agendas and attitude. One of my fundamental principles is that once it appears to me that someone asking for counsel is already committed to a certain course, then I withhold counsel. Counsel should be sought before an emotional commitment to a certain course of action. Otherwise the protégé is no longer open to counsel.

Mentors nurture curiosity. They are door openers not door closers. There are some people who always close the door in your face. You say I want to do this, they say it won’t work. You say I am thinking of this, they say it won’t work. But mentors are possibility and option thinkers. They challenge you to explore the unexplored. They expand your imagination, rather than stifle it. Mentors learn to ask great questions.

Succession Planning and Mentorship

In Africa one of the major challenges is that of succession planning. There is so much controversy around it. Despite the fact that the well known dictum clearly states – there is no success without a successor, many churches, business and political organisations still leave the issue of succession to chance. However leaders who are concerned about leaving a legacy will not allow the important matter of who carries on the baton and takes over their mantle to chance or political infighting. These leaders deliberately create a leadership pipeline that has intentionally mentored and groomed people who can easily fill in the shoes of the leader if he departs the scene.

Many on the African continent prefer to have the decision of who succeeds them to be settled after their death. Unfortunately it means you cannot help shape the person who should be perpetuating your legacy. In businesses if the leader recruits from outside it means he is admitting to leadership failure. He is conceding to the fact that as a leader he failed in one of the primary functions of a leader which is developing other leaders.  A new comer from the outside is likely to change things and nullify a lot of what this predecessor has done. He has no commitment to continuing the legacy of his predecessor. Whereas a protégé will build upon the foundation laid by his mentor. This is how legacy is perpetuated. Leaders do not leave your ;legacy to chance. You can mentor and raise up your successors so that they continue to build on what you have done. This allows for trans-generational impact.

A purposeful leader will deliberately take some young generation candidates and mentor them so that they can easily fill in the top post once the leader is gone. The other issue is that ideally succession should happen while the primary leader is still alive so that he can act as elder statesmen and counselor to the next generation. In both business and politics this assures that the elder statesmen will be able to provide a steadying hand to the new leader as he learns how to run the show. It is therefore negligent of a leader to allow chance to produce his successor.  Mentorship therefore allows for a smoother transition of power.

Mentorship allows a leader to pass on his values, philosophy and worldview to the person that he is mentoring. By passing on these the leader ensures that his values and philosophy will live on in the organization.

The Bible records numerous successions which went on well due to mentorship. Examples are Elijah and Elisha, Moses and Joshua, Abraham mentored Isaac, Samuel mentored David, Paul mentored Timothy etc. A classic modern day business example is Jack Welch who mentored about three potential successors.  Although only one was chosen to lead GE, the other two both went on to become powerful CEO in other organizations.

It is clear that we need to intentionally mentor and raise the next generation of leaders to allow for smoother transitions as well as longer lasting impact. A mentored successor will have assimilated the organizational culture and therefore is unlikely to change it radically. I would encourage introducing new leaders from the outside if the organization is failing and new ideas are needed. If the organization is well run and doing well i.e. if the leader was successful, then he should allow the transition to happen from inside.

If yor succession is well planned and potential succesors are mentored to prolongs your leadership influence.

Creating, nurturing and celebrating champions