- It’s time for another dose of #fivefactsfriday. Real talk awaits us.
Life can be hard. It really can especially for young adults who are hatching into this space that pulses with independence, sole responsibility for decision making and unforeseen realities. Being in my twenties and experiencing this transition with my peers, I would often find myself wondering why I was in a rush to grow up and how elders and academic programs taught us everything but the stuff that would actually matter when I received my grand prize of adulthood.
I was one of the privileged children who were introduced to the concept of “mentoring” as a proactive measure in building capacity. I was involved in numerous programs that allowed successful individuals to impart knowledge to my peers and I in view of career, relationships and really, life in general. These exposures really did accelerate my world view and success at different stages of my development. I felt like I was getting value for my expectations. So imagine my shock when as a young adult, I struggled with navigating the very pathways I figured I’d been prepped to conquer.
Mentoring works! It is plain wisdom to learn from experiences of those who’ve walked the path you seek, to leverage already existing frameworks in innovating new ones, to seek guidance where you are uncertain about next steps. However, for mentoring to be effective and reflective in the overall success of an individual, it must be multidimensional, consistent, immersive, relevant to the internal and external environments of the mentee, and built upon accountability. In retrospect, I can see the absence of these elements in one area or another may have contributed to the realities that youth face in navigating career, finances, relationships and other areas of adult life.
Having recognized this, many young people, organizations and governance systems have increased the attention given to learning programs that allow for access to mentors who serve as guides in the pursuit of personal and societal development. While a variety of models and strategies have been deployed effectively in integrating mentoring into education and human capital development, young people must be adequately informed on how to maximize these relationships lest they become counter-productive or a medium for abuse.
There’s a lot of content out there that define what to look out for in a mentor and how to get a role model to take you on as a mentee. This is a different party. Here are five (5) roles that a mentor should ideally not play in anyone’s life.
- The Role of a Crutch
It is well known that people have the tendency to develop a dependency complex when they believe that assistance will be available to them in a certain endeavor whether or not they put in adequate effort into it. While a mentor should provide a measure of support (usually through counsel), you must bear in mind that he/she is not a crutch. They should not become a ticket to loss of initiative and the inability to take progressive steps towards one’s objectives without support. Ultimately, you are solely responsible for your actions and inactions and will be held completely accountable where necessary. Own up to your decisions and show up for yourself even when no one else can.
- The Role of a Tell-all Diary
This aspect is a tad dicey. An ideal mentoring relationship should allow for transparency and accountability whereby both parties have adequate information required to develop and implement courses of action that will enable the duo meet whatever objectives have been set for the mentee to achieve. However, vulnerability should be protected as much as it is indulged. You must be sensitive to the kind of person your mentor is, what his area of influence is in your life, the dynamics of your relationship and what your real needs really are. A crucial understanding of these would help you apply discretion in how much information about youself should be volunteered especially regarding your personal life or other areas of your life that your mentoring relationship does not necessarily intersect with.
You must also realize that your mentor is a human being who has his/her own biases, customs, experiences and interests that may inform how they process and utilize information that you present to them. This helps you manage your expectations of them as well serve as a compass in navigating how you communicate with them.
- The Role of a god
A mentor deserves honor and respect especially when the influence they have over you is positive and is evidenced by your advancement in the areas in which they work with you. There are intangible but powerful principles that guide life’s reward systems and the laws of honor, respect for the individual and reciprocity are some of those.
Your mentor is not supposed to be your god. Your relationship ought to be one driven by mutual respect and interests. You owe no one deification or worship as the case may be. You are not meant to feel intimidated, inferior or mentally/spiritually suppressed. Any mentoring relationship in which your sense of worth is adversely affected is inappropriate. More so, one that puts you in a position where you are expected to idolize the mentor to the point where demeaning and unreasonable demands are made of you is toxic and should be discontinued.
Ideally, any interaction that robs you of attaining a higher, truer and freer version of yourself is the very kind you should not tolerate no matter what you have been programmed to believe is the benefit thereof. This should be a constructive, mutually beneficial relationship and not a shrine where your knees are stuck to the ground.
- The Role of a Slave Driver
Some mentors are simply slave drivers! Not all humans are noble in their intentions towards you and more people than you imagine will be pleased to have a young, enterprising, success-thirsty individual at their beck and call. The truth is that apart from personal and professional fulfillment, stronger relationships, influence and perhaps, favors, there’s not much a mentor gains from their commitment to you – especially when it’s not a work-instituted form where their career advancement is tied to their work with you. Hence, if this individual is not genuinely vested in your success, you might find yourself being more or less an errand person who tags along because you hope it buys you favor and whatever else you may think you’re gaining.
While you should be considerate in dealing with mentors, available to assist them with their needs when you can and also vested in their success, you are not primarily there to help them do their work. They can employ folks for that…except that they already have you.
- The Role of a Drag
One of the great benefits of a productive mentoring relationship – whether it’s personal or program-based – is speed. This is one of the reasons ‘accelerator programs’ are called that. Amongst other things, participating entrepreneurs are provided with business mentors who guide them through more efficient paths to implementing strategic objectives so that they can quicken their results in relation to those of their counterparts and maximize the economies of the acceleration.
If this is the case, why then are you regressing in speed despite the presence of a mentor in your life? Consider this an indicator with which you can examine the impact for your mentorship relationship or program.
This lack of speed could be because of the aforementioned situations or even more peculiar events. Whatever the case may be, if you realize that you’re been unusually slow or unproductive in an area that you are supposed to be or have been receiving input from your mentor in, you may want to reexamine what is going on. More importantly, be sure to address the issue when it has been identified and if the best resort is to discontinue the relationship, I suggest you do so as gently as possible.
I have found myself in some of the above situations and I can tell you that navigating them isn’t quite a walk in the park. However, it is all part of the learning process required to maximize our life experiences in creating successes. While we are relational beings and often thrive by optimizing different aspects of our interaction with others, you must be aware that you are in charge of the energy you curate within yourself and for stopping anything that hinders it and in extension, yourself from flourishing. Our culture in Africa, for the most part, frowns upon questioning authority even when we intuitively know that something is off about a situation. We must evolve and grow out of systems that stifle out ability to grow and change freely and for the better especially when such systems are disguised by constructs that we imbibe as values.
P.S – If you’ve ever found yourself in any of the aforementioned situations, please share how you navigated it and how you resolved the issue. I’m positive that some of my learning points reside in your own experiences.
P.S.S – Reshare this post! There’s someone out there who needs guidance on the things you may consider no-brainers. Be the help they need to rise.