Mentor Series: Mentoring
What is “mentoring” and how can you get a mentoring relationship started?
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BOUNDLESS: You’ve written a book. You’ve spent a lot of your time speaking about mentoring and actually involved in mentoring relationships. What makes you passionate about mentoring?
PAUL STANLEY: I was first acquainted with mentoring in the Scriptures when I was in college. I saw it. Jesus has disciples. Paul has Timothy. And all these other types of relationships. And I thought, boy, I’d love to have somebody like that myself. And so there in college as a freshman I met a senior who had been discipled by one of the professors who had some background of being discipled, and he, then, started discipling me. It was so effective for me.
BOUNDLESS: He volunteered that?
PAUL STANLEY: This guy just happened to put a little note up on the board advertising a Bible study discussion group. Well, I showed up, and after a couple of times I was quite interested. He pulled me aside one time, and he asked, “Would you like to meet another time and I could maybe share some things with you about what I’ve learned in walking in the Christian life.” I said, “Boy, that’d be great.” So he started and we began to meet. He just got me going in various experiences in the Scriptures, quiet time … and we soon were memorizing Scripture together and started doing other Bible studies. He also taught me how to share the gospel and a number of things like that. So that started me — being mentored at age 18.
And then there were some people along the way who were mentors but never knew it in a sense. I spent a few years in the military, as a young officer, and one older officer — when I was in Vietnam he obviously took a very keen interest in me and what I was doing. And he took me with him on some special meetings that he had, and just kept taking me and talking to me about leadership and ideas. And in the most informal sense he was actually mentoring me. I don’t think he was declaring that at that time. He was just interested in trying to help me, and he found I was very receptive and eager to learn.
I then left the military and went into the ministry, and I arrived in Vienna, Austria to lead a team that was going to be developing and growing over the next couple of years. But I had to learn German. I had four children, and here I was 31 years old and was just learning the language, and I knew nothing about the culture. Also our two youngest kids were thrust into German schools right away and didn’t know how speak the language. So we were very apprehensive.
And I said, “Lord, I wonder if there’s anybody around here who could help us get into this culture.” I was sitting in church one day, in this little church, half understanding because it was all in German, and the pastor was a Canadian. But he came over a number of years ago and he alluded to the fact that he had brought his kids over, and he said the adjustment the first year wasn’t easy. And so I thought, “Lord, that’s the one.”
So I went up to him, and asked if I could meet with him. I said, “There’re some things I’d love to talk to you about, tapping into your experience of adjustment to the culture.” And he said, “Oh, sure. Of course.” So we met, and he began to help me figure out what to do and think and assured us with our kids, that this is not going to hurt them.
So that’s where it began, and then I kept going with him on some other issues where I could benefit from input from someone who was 20 years older than I was.
BOUNDLESS: When was the first time that you started mentoring someone else?
PAUL STANLEY: That was in college as well, a person I led to Christ. I tried to bring him to my mentor or my discipler, if you will, and he said, “Well, I can’t do it. I’m too busy. But why don’t you do it?” And so he threw me into it, and that was my first experience — about six, seven months, basically, teaching this fellow and getting him going just the way this senior did with me.
BOUNDLESS: The relationships you’re describing are what a lot of our readers would say they’d love to have. Why don’t you think we’re seeing more productive mentoring connections taking place?
PAUL STANLEY: I’ve thought a lot about that, because there are so many who want to be mentored. I meet them all the time. And I think one of the reasons is that the potential mentors are disqualifying themselves. They think, “I don’t have enough time”; “‘I’m not that good at it”; “I’m not really an expert in that area”; “I’m not a teacher”; “I don’t have life altogether”; “I can’t model that strongly.” So they disqualify themselves, and they’re afraid to step up to do it. I think these are myths that potential mentors wind up believing or quoting to let them off the hook. It is a responsibility. But it certainly isn’t someone saying, “Look at me; I’m your perfect model.”
PAUL STANLEY: I think a person has to really have a desire to want to help and share what they’ve received. If you know how to do a quiet time, you can pass it on to others. If you understand how to read through the Bible over a year, then you could pass that on and do it with that person and get together every five or six days and talk about what you just read. There are just so many simple things you can do, but a lot of potential mentors have disqualified themselves.
BOUNDLESS: So for the person who would love to be mentored, if they see someone who they think would be potentially good to be mentored by, what can they do to nurture or encourage that potential for that person who is apprehensive?
PAUL STANLEY: Well, I’ve actually taught a course that covers how to turn a potential mentor into a mentor without letting him know it. If you’re in a business place or in your first job, look around for someone who is four, five or six years ahead of you. And then you don’t go up and use the “m” word — that’ll scare them. You just say, “I’ve been watching you and you seem to have been here for a while. I wonder if you could have a cup of coffee with me, or can I just take you to the cafeteria for lunch? I’ve got some questions that I’d like to ask you.” And so you meet together and you ask those questions.
You say something like, “I’m new here. You’ve been here five or six years, if you could run the video tape back to when you first came, knowing now what you know, what would you do differently? What would you make sure and suggest to a person like me just starting out that you could do?” And you’ll always get some answers.
So just talk with them. And then if you enjoyed that and it’s gone back and forth, and you’ve talked about a few things, then say, “Listen, this has been helpful. Can we do this again?”
As you meet more you can talk about things like what it is that’s helped him (or her) the most, or what the important things are to know about your new environment, and other related questions. And then you just ask, “Could we meet regularly on this? I’ll have questions and maybe there are some things that you’ve read and found helpful you’d suggest for me that we could discuss.”
My own children did that when they got into college. They got involved in Bible studies and parachurch ministries and ended being mentored by some of the senior students and even some of the staff. When they got to their companies or into their first responsibilities in their professions I encouraged them to find people ahead of them doing things pretty well. And it’s amazing how they all found someone. They all got good information. Some went three or four meetings and stopped, and others picked right up. The person picked it up as well, and enjoyed passing on what he knew. So you have to get people to teach people — you have to encourage them how to get into it. And once they get in, it then seems to pick up some inertia and get going.
Copyright 2007 Paul Stanley. All rights reserved.
About the Author
Paul Stanley oversees large portions of The Navigators‘ global movement, and spends much of his time coaching, mentoring and developing leaders throughout the world. Paul is a speaker, writer and serves as a consultant and coach to many organizations in developing strategy and leadership, and bringing about change. He co-authored the book Connecting, which focuses on mentoring relationships. Paul and his wife, Phyllis, have four married children and 10 grandchildren, and make their home in Colorado.