Mentoring: Why is Setting Expectations so Difficult?

I am having interesting online discussions about mentoring which made me reflect on the commitments and expectations of both mentors and mentees. Today, we will discuss the importance of the expectations and commitment that a mentor has for their mentees. Perhaps nothing frustrates a mentor more than investing in the life of another, only to see them continue down the wrong path or make poor life choices. Sometimes, a mentor may feel as if the mentees’ responses are a reflection of their mentor’s failures. However, there are other factors to consider in the mentor-mentee relationship. For example:

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  • A mentor is not a parent, so the authority factor is different (when mentoring teenagers for example).
  • God does not place a mentor in a person’s life to control them. None of us are clones or robots.
  • The mentor-mentee time together may be limited, and there are other messages and influencers in the mentees life.
  • The breadth and depth of the mentor and mentees individual experiences play a huge role in the relational connection and communication between them.
  • Age and maturity levels also play a major favor in the effectiveness of the mentoring relationship.

As a result, I am becoming more aware of the need to not only outline expectations and define commitments with mentees, but also the important need to lay a foundational understanding of what the mentoring relationship looks like and the benefits that can be gleaned from it.

Every mentee needs to understand the importance of having a teachable spirit if they desire an effective mentoring relationship. In other words, the mentees must understand their need for guidance and be open or willing to receive instruction from another. They are not commanded to obey. However, they should commit to listening attentively and carefully consider their mentor’s counsel before making decisions. Take note that the disciples identified Jesus as their Rabbi or teacher and it was their choice to assume the position of student. Jesus did not demand that of them.

Why setting mentoring expectations is difficult

I am currently reading through Moody’s Midday Connection radio host and author, Anita Lustrea’s book, What Women Tell Me: Finding Freedom from the Secrets We Keep. In the chapter on addiction, she references the healing story at the pool in John 5:1-15 and makes the important point that we should never assume that sick people want to be made well. That’s my number problem as a mentor. I assume that sick people want to be made well, lost people what to be found, and poor people (both spiritually, emotionally, and physically) want to live in abundance. I want that for them because I believe it’s the life that God wants for them. But is it the life that they truly want? That’s the fundamental question, we as mentors should ask.

The unfortunate reality is that so many people would rather remain in the broken situation in which they are comfortable than take the risk and chart into the unknown territory (even if the unknown place is better than their current situation). That’s our charge as mentors, to challenge mentees to enter uncharted waters and ask them, “Do you want to get well (John 5:6)?”

What other challenges do you face when mentoring? How do you respond when those you mentor decide either through their words or actions that they do not want to follow the path where you are leading?

© Natasha Sistrunk Robinson 2013

5 thoughts on “Mentoring: Why is Setting Expectations so Difficult?

  1. Natasha, thanks for the insights, especially that nugget you found about how sometimes sick people are not in the market for a healer. We can’t mentor someone who aren’t looking for help. that’s not to say we can’t help them, but it probably won’t be through mentoring.

    In my field, we actually have a process for new judges to be paired with more experienced judges in a mentoring relationship. I’ve taken to avoiding calling the people assigned to me my mentee, though, since that sounds like something you pop in your mouth after eating a garlic and anchovy pizza. I told the last judge assigned to me that I was the mentor and she was the manatee. After all, who doesn’t love manatees? Hmm … they haven’t assigned me a new judge in quite a while. I wonder why?

    Cheers,
    Tim

    1. That’s funny, Tim. I’ve only seen the reference to “mentorees” or “mentees.” I think I go with mentees simply because it’s shorter. Now that you mention it, it does sound a little weird. Don’t know what else to call them.

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