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Copy and Paste These 5 Mentoring Lessons John C. Maxwell Uses to Build Every Mentor Relationship

The most rewarding part of leadership development is mentoring others.

Unfortunately, there is a severe shortage of mentors today. Olivet Nazarene University surveyed 3,000 professionals and found that 76% believed mentorship was important, but only 37% were involved in a mentor-mentee relationship.

John C. Maxwell traces the mentor deficit to a few sources:

  • Insecurity
  • Ego
  • Inability to discern people’s “success seeds”
  • Wrong concept of success
  • Lack of training

Whatever is keeping you from realizing the gift of mentorship is no match for the mentoring guidance Maxwell shares in Leadership Gold, one of the books included in our new John C, Maxwell Mentorship Bundle.

“This book is my attempt to take the leadership gold I’ve mined through painful trial and error and put it on the ‘lowest shelf’ so that inexperienced as well as experienced leaders can have access to it,” Maxwell writes in the book’s introduction.

Meant to be used by current and aspiring mentors, Leadership Gold is full of mentoring lessons to help you start a mentoring relationship or dramatically improve one through a series of 26 focused “mentoring moments.”

Explore our readers’ top five favorite mentoring lessons by Maxwell with guidance for leaders who are transitioning to mentors and specific assignments for mentors to work through with their students:

Mentoring Lesson #1: The Toughest Person to Lead is Always Yourself

“If we are honest with ourselves, we’ll admit that the toughest person to lead is ourselves.” ~ John C. Maxwell

According to Maxwell, we are our own worst enemies for two reasons:

  1. We don’t see ourselves as we see others
  2. We are harder on others than we are on ourselves

As a mentor, you should remind your students to always conduct an assessment on themselves first before making decisions on how to confront others. Also, teach them the keys to leading themselves including learning followership, developing self-discipline, practicing patience, and seeking accountability.

Work with your mentee

Have a very frank conversation with each of the people you mentor explaining how they’re doing when it comes to leading themselves. Provide specific examples to illustrate your point of view. Then assist those who need to grow in this by giving them assignments that will help them show

initiative and become more responsible. Meet with them periodically to provide accountability in this area.

Mentoring Lesson #2: Don’t Manage Your Time, Manage Your Life

“People squander their time when they do things that bring them little or no positive return.” ~ John C. Maxwell

Most of us manage ourselves poorly, so this is a vital lesson for both mentor and mentee to learn. You or your mentee might be managing yourselves poorly if you do one or all of the following things:

  • Undervalue your uniqueness doing what others want you to do
  • Ruin your effectiveness by doing unimportant things
  • Reduce your potential by doing things without coaching or training

By understanding where you’re currently falling short, you can begin to grow together, especially when using the guidance and time management techniques John shares in Leadership Gold.

Work with your mentee

How much targeted training or coaching are you providing to your people? Identify one specific skill-related area for each person you are mentoring where you will provide in depth training or coaching. Create a plan for this area, and schedule regular sessions where you will pass on what you have learned. Your goal should be to make this person capable of replacing you in this area.

Mentoring Lesson #3: The Choices You Make, Make You

“Successful people make right decisions early and manage those decisions daily.” ~ John C. Maxwell

Leaders have an especially difficult job because they not only make decisions for themselves, but they also make decisions for others. Mentors will enjoy teaching this lesson to mentees because it sheds a light on the very importance of the relationship they are nurturing.

Since the choices we make are so closely tied to the values we hold, spend some time learning about your mentee: what does he/she care about and how will they react when two of their values come in direct competition with each other?  

Work with your mentee

When it comes to choices, there are two ways in which you can help the people you are mentoring.

First, assess how much ownership they take for the decisions they make. If someone has a tendency to blame others or possesses a victim’s mind-set, you need to point it out. People cannot reach their potential as leaders if they don’t take complete responsibility for themselves and their actions.

Second, help them process through what choices they should make to become better leaders. Don’t try to tell them what to choose. Instead, ask questions to get them to think it through so that they can discover the right choices and personally own them.

Mentoring Lesson #4: Few Leaders Are Successful Unless a Lot of People Want Them to Be

“As a leader, you will never get ahead until your people are behind you.” ~ John C. Maxwell

According to John, there are two categories of people who contribute to any leader: mentors and supporters.

It won’t be difficult for your mentee to recognize the mentors in their lives (i.e. you), but it could be harder for them to identify their supporters. John gives a few examples:

  • Time relievers
  • Gift complementors
  • Team players
  • Creative thinkers
  • Door closers
  • People developers
  • Servant leaders
  • Mind stretchers
  • Relational networkers
  • Spiritual mentors
  • Unconditional lovers

The following “assignment” is more a task for you than it is for your mentee, but don’t forget to encourage them to go through the same exercise.

Work with your mentee

Now is a good time to thank the people you are mentoring for the things they do to help you in your leadership. Spend some time reflecting about each person’s contribution. Identify specifically what they do for you and how it helps. Then communicate that to them, both verbally and in writing. And reward them in some way too.

Mentoring Lesson #5: You Only Get Answers to the Questions You Ask

“Confidence can be defined as that uplifting, energizing, positive feeling that you possess—before you truly understand your situation.” ~ John C. Maxwell

This mentoring lesson is a little bit deceiving. One might think John wants us to ask better questions of our leaders and our followers, and he does! But another crucial aspect of questioning involves the questions we should ask ourselves including:

  • “Am I investing in myself?” - You have to learn more to lead better.
  • “Am I genuinely interested in others?” - If yes, your relationships will be strong.
  • “Am I doing what I love and loving what I do?” - The answer to this determines if your leadership journey will be long and fruitful.

John’s assignment for your mentee is focused on helping them overcome their ego and be willing to ask questions to others and to themselves.

Work with your mentee

Take this opportunity to address the issue of teachability with the people you’re mentoring. How often are they asking questions? How open are they to taking advice—not only from you, but from their peers and the people who work for them? Discuss with them any issues you perceive in this area.

Start putting these mentorship lessons into action!

As a leadership mentor, it is your job to assess how the people you are mentoring are handling relationships. Some people are limited by their inability to interact well with others. If they are disconnected with people above, beside, or below them in the organization’s hierarchy, make it your goal to coach them in this area and to help them connect.

Nobody has everything figured out, but there is no doubt that you know at least one person who you could benefit from your knowledge, experience, or encouragement. You owe it to yourself and to others to pursue a mentorship relationship.  

Want to read more? Get the book bundle!

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Plus: Use this resource with your mentee for just $5.99!

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John C. Maxwell

John C. Maxwell is a #1 New York Times bestselling author, coach, and speaker who has sold more than 33 million books in fifty languages. He has been identified as the #1 leader in business and the most influential leadership expert in the world.

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