This year we’re having a monthly series on mentoring. Head here to read the previous posts.
This year I’m running a mentoring series here on the blog. I believe in mentors. I think you should find one.
But today I want to take a time out for a minute to share a caveat about mentoring, and it is this: Mentors are just people, too.
Mentors are only human. They’re typically older, wiser, and more experienced humans, but they’re humans all the same.
Sometimes I forget this, and I fall into the trap of either:
1. not recognizing bad advice for what it is because it came from a mentor, or
2. having wildly unrealistic expectations that my mentor’s piercing insight or wisdom or connections will somehow enable me to steamroll through all my roadblocks, and suffering irrational disappointment when this inevitably fails to happen.
First, let’s talk about the bad advice: A few years ago, my husband asked his mentor a question about how to handle a situation at work. His mentor gave him advice, my husband followed through, and the situation got a little worse instead of better. In hindsight, it was bad advice. So why did he follow through? Because the advice came from his mentor.
True story, and it happens everyday.
Next, let’s talk about crazy-high expectations: Sheryl Sandberg’s take on mentoring in Lean In isn’t heard often enough. She says, “Searching for a mentor has become the professional equivalent of waiting for Prince Charming….Young women are told that if they can just find the right mentor, they will be pushed up the ladder and whisked away to the corner office to live happily ever after.”
I’m not a business luminary, but I see this happening all the time. This mindset–that a mentor will save you–isn’t limited to the workplace. Women fall into the same trap when it comes to thinking about work, or marriage, or faith, or parenting.
A mentor’s role should be to help you figure out your own path (and perhaps move down it with a little more speed and a little less frustration). A mentor is not The Answer, and she isn’t supposed to be.
I love mentoring; I think everyone should find a mentor. But these relationships aren’t fruitful–for either party–if we idolize the people we’re looking to for advice. If I view my mentor as The Solution instead of a valuable resource, I’m setting myself–and the relationship–up to fail.
Have you fallen into the trap of bad advice or crazy-high expectations? Share your story in comments so we can help each other do this mentoring thing a little better.