It's Hard to Improve When You Have No One but Yourself to Follow
"The most important personal-growth phrase you will ever hear a good leader say to you is 'follow me'."
Personal growth without the benefit of personal mentors can only take you so far. If you haven't already, you need to find models who are ahead of you to learn from.
Most people who decide to grow personally find their first mentors in books, podcasts, and videos. Some of my personal book/podcast/video mentors are John Maxwell, Simon Sinek, Valorie Burton, Patrick Lencioni, John Delony, Scot McKnight, Tim Mackie, and many others.
In today's world, there are many resources available for you to discover mentors within, but at some point, you must also find personal models. If you only follow yourself, you will find yourself going in circles.
However, as we've learned, you must be careful about who you allow to influence your life. As we allow John Maxwell to continue to mentor us through his book, he has developed six key characteristics of what a good personal mentor should look like.
1 - A Good Mentor is a Worthy Example
You become like the people you admire and the models you follow, so if you want tour models to help you along your personal growth journey, you need to make sure they will lead you where you want to go. A good mentor must not only display professional excellence and possess skill sets from which you can learn, but they must also demonstrate character worthy of emulating. Your values will be influenced by theirs, so you must be intentional with who you choose to follow.
2 - A Good Mentor is Available
For you to be able to observe your models and see what they do, you must have some contact with them or they are no different than reading a book or listening to a podcast. To be actively mentored, you must have time with them to ask questions and learn from their answers.
3 - A Good Mentor has Proven Experience
I love the Chinese proverb, "To know the road ahead, ask those coming back." and that is part of the benefit of having an experienced mentor. Hearing about their bad experiences can make you aware of the potential problems you might encounter. Hearing about their good experiences can give you excitement and encouragement for the possible opportunities for you.
“Great things happen whenever we stop seeing ourselves as God's gift to others and begin seeing others as God's gift to us.” — James S. Vuocolo
4 - A Good Mentor Possesses Wisdom
Mentors with wisdom -- understanding, experience, and knowledge -- help you solve problems that you would have a harder time handling on your own. They can also open your eyes to worlds you might not have otherwise seen and help you see opportunities you could otherwise miss without their help. Learning from wise mentors makes you wiser than your years and experience as a result.
5 - A Good Mentor Provides Friendship and Support
If the person who offers to mentor you doesn't support and offer you friendship, you will never be able to build a healthy relationship with them. Knowledge without support is sterile. Advice without friendship feels cold. Candor without care is harsh. Growth comes from the head and the heart and only supportive people are willing to share both with you.
6 - A Good Mentor is a Coach Who Makes a Difference in Your Life
"Coach" is a word derived from the horse-drawn vehicle of days gone by to transport people and their valuables from point A to point B. Today, a "coach" continues to be someone who carries a valued person from where they are to where they want to be. Coaches help you grow, improve your potential, increases your productivity, and help effect lasting, positive change. You can be good on your own, but without coaching, you will never be as good as you could be because we all do better when someone is watching, evaluating, and seeing our life from a different perspective.
As a professional coach, I think it's important to say that a Coach is not a Mentor, but a Mentor can coach. Professional coaching aims to help you discover the answers you need to move forward in a way specific to you and your strengths. Mentoring aims to guide you by showing you how others have done it before you.
No matter who you are, what you have accomplished, or how low or high life has taken you, you can benefit from a mentor. If you've never had one, find a worthy one and watch your life improve. If you have had mentors, you should start creating positive ripples by becoming a mentor to others because you know the benefits of having someone else to follow.
This week, think about the people who can help you sharpen specific strengths or navigate certain problem areas. Who do you talk to when you have questions related to marriage, parenting, spiritual growth, personal disciplines, hobbies, and so on? No one person can answer all of your questions, so you need to find several individuals to mentor you.
Create two lists; one with the specific strengths and skills you want to develop to reach your potential and the other with the specific problem areas where you feel the need for ongoing guidance.
Begin looking for good mentors with expertise in these particular areas and ask them if they would be willing to answer questions when you have them.