Becoming an Agile Coach – Get a Mentor! + 6 Tips for Mentors

Skype Mentoring!

Over half of all the Nobel Prize winners were once apprenticed by other Nobel laureates.

As a volunteer counselor and passionate about growing other great talent in our Agile community, I often take on opportunities to mentor others. I believe in the power of mentoring others. I believe in the power of helping people grow and begin to taste their potential. It is so very exciting for me to help others. Isn’t this what servant leadership is all about?

Let’s talk about mentoring for a bit…

What exactly is mentoring?

  • To help mature someone in a practice or discipline
  • To show them how you walked the path and to lead them through their own path
  • To teach them to mentor someone else, what you are doing to them.
  • Make a distinction between mentoring and teaching. If you’re teaching, you’re telling. If you’re mentoring, your walking with them through it (high-touch).

What mentoring is NOT primarily concerned with:

  • A methodologies and exact praxis of how to do something. Not prescriptive. Who you are mentoring… is NOT your disciple.
  • Mentoring isn’t a two way street like friendship. Mentoring isn’t accountability, but it is focused, unlike friendships.
  • Personal agendas.
  • You. The focus is on them, not you. We are to pour our life into someone else.

6 Tips for Mentors

1 - A mentor takes time to know people and reveal to them new possibilities and realities

  • Mentors are good listeners and they have the ability and willingness to step over familiar ground to get to know people and bring them into the circle.
  • If you’re mentoring someone for a particular role, help an individual by inviting them into communities of that practice. Always try to bring people not in the inner circle into the circle.

 2 - A mentor gets excited when good things happen to others.

  • One of the wonderful, nourishing characteristics of a mentor is their ability to get excited about the good things that happen to other people.
  • A mentor is one who constantly celebrates the wins, while also giving firm guidance as necessary to areas of potential trouble. Mentors need to be situationally aware and experienced as they can point to examples in which trouble can (potentially) happen… but provide enough freedom for the individual to experiment and even fail.

3 - A mentor takes initiative to help others.

  • Take the first step. Have margin in your life to reach out to those that you believe could use your help. It’s not ego here, it’s a willingness to help.
  • I’ve never been turned down when I’ve spoken to someone and let them know that I’d “Love to spend more intentional time with you to help you grow your craft.” Offer your services. You’ll be even more rewarded than who you mentor!

4 - A mentor raises up leaders.

  • You raise up others so they can pass you in leadership. Of all the things we will talk about on mentoring, this may be the best part. You see, there is the (reality) that the one you mentor can (and will) be more successful than you are now. This is a GREAT thing. You’ve created a legacy.
  • We need more leaders. Do your part by helping leaders grow. This is how you ‘scale yourself.’ Great mentors develop leaders better than themselves. Wouldn’t that be your definition of success as a mentor: to pour your life into someone until they pass you?
  • A mentor’s goal. We’ve all heard the statement, “There’s no success without successors.” But how about this? “Real success is having a successor who does a great job than we do.” This is the highlight. That’s what mentors live for. They live to be bypassed by somebody they’ve taught.

5 - A mentor is willing to take a risk with a potential leader.

  • Take risks with the one you mentor. Put them in positions where they can grow and even put them in positions where your reputation may be at risk if they fail. This imbued trust that you give the one you mentor is a huge step. But it’ll be the biggest wins for all when he does well!
  • You want to be able to say: “You know what (mentoree)? I’ve mentored you – you’re bigger than I am and it’s time for me to find someone else to mentor. I’m going to take a risk for (a new person) as I did for you… and I’d like your help. Want to help me grow another person?”

6 - A mentor is not position conscious.

  • Another Agile coach once said to me that “Servant leadership is influencing upwards and influencing outwards since no one is below you.” – He’s right. You will always (in a sense) be a peer to others… and there will always be people who position themselves higher than you. That’s ok. You’re growing others to be higher than you, with the hopes they won’t have an egotistical attitude about it. That’s a risk indeed!
  • Your fanfare and rewards will be seen in others. You’ll have to be ok with that. Period.

 6 Areas of a Mentor Relationship

Some Practical Guidelines for those interested in mentoring others. I always want to go over principles first, and then to practical guidelines, as it allows us to know why what we’re doing what we’re doing.

  • Authority / Desire
  • Intensity
  • Duration
  • Format / Structure
  • Intentionality
  • Goals

My experience

  1. Authority / Desire – Focus areas – What are you focusing on?
  2. Intensity  -  Low Key – How often are we going to engage?
  3. Duration –  1 year – Length of mentorship program
  4. Format / Structure -Book / Talk – Workshops or problem solving?
  5. Intentionality – Observe them – Yes. Watch them in action if possible.
  6. Goals - They can mentor others

What Will You Live For: Titles or Testimonies?

In Tony Campolo’s book, Who Switched the Price Tags?, he talks about a Baptist preacher who was speaking to a group of collegians in his congregation. The following are a couple of paragraphs I want to read to you:

“Children you’re going to die. One of these days they’re going to take you out to the cemetery, drop you into a hole, throw some dirt on your face, and go back to church and eat potato salad (it’ll be kimchi and duk in our case). When you were born you alone were crying and everyone else was happy. The important question I want to ask is this: when you die are you alone going to be happy, leaving everyone else crying? The answer depends on whether you live to get titles or whether you live to get testimonies.

When they lay you in the grave are people going to stand around reciting the fancy titles you earned, or are they going to stand around giving testimonies of the goods things you did for them? Will you leave behind just a newspaper column telling people how important you were, or will you leave crying people who give testimony of how they’ve lost the best friend they ever had? There’s nothing wrong with titles. Titles are a good thing to have. But if it ever comes down to a choice between a title or a testimony, go for the testimony.”

He’s talking about leaving a legacy. Start leaving yours now.

[This is part of a series on Becoming an Agile Coach. See 7 Tips for Client Engagement for New Agile Coaches]

9 Responses to “Becoming an Agile Coach – Get a Mentor! + 6 Tips for Mentors”

  1. hala
    July 11, 2012 at 10:43 am #

    Peter! You are awesome. You embody the true spirit of a mentor, and I’m honored and privileged to be one of your mentees :) Thanks again for your time, and I look forward to continuing to learn (and as you say, spread the legacy and eventually mentor others as well!)

    • peter
      July 11, 2012 at 2:24 pm #

      For sure! Life is too short to think inwardly and only about oneself. That’s where dreams die…

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