Mentoring reminds me of the first trip to the zoo with my grandson. The goal was to allow him to discover a new world while standing beside him. Perhaps to read some of the signs on the animal environs to help him recognize what he sees, to help him experience some of the world he has yet to see. He was a willing, interested, and active protégé. Eager to see and learn about all there was to see and learn. He didn’t understand why some children were acting up, crying, and begging to leave. Perhaps they were not ready to be protégés in the small world of the zoo. Perhaps they were not with a good mentor, one matched to their needs.
A mentor has a specific role in the mentoring relationship. Mentors must be content with the role of standing beside their protégé and not being the center of attention. The mentor is to support, guide, question, and raise up the protégé. Likewise, the protégé has a specific role in the relationship. The protégé must be open, attentive, and willing to assume some risk.
Ideally, a protégé can recognize an opportunity before it has passed and has the courage to act on it. A dedicated mentor standing at his protégés side will help him find the courage to act within himself. So many capable people have excellent ideas that I never put into play. The mentor should provide the support and insight to move his protégé to act.
The mentoring relationship is analogous to the craft guilds of long ago. The mentor will first show the protégé how he would handle the subject at hand. Next, he would step back and allow the protégé to make decisions with his guidance. After that, the mentor would push him out of the nest and the mentor then observes how the protégé deals with situations on his own. At this point, the mentor’s job is simply to motivate his protégé and encouraged him to pass on the skills learned.
A great mentor delights in seeing his protégé surpass his own skills. A great protégé realizes that the mentor allowed him to reach new heights and that he has an obligation to pay it forward.