2 Types Of Mentor Relationships

Many years ago, I truly had no idea what it meant to be mentored in any form or fashion. I often would mistake occasional coaching for mentoring and could not tell you the first thing about how to find a mentor. Over time and after making many, many mistakes, I have come to realize that mentoring is right in front of me if I choose to embrace it. Expanding our thoughts on common subjects such as mentors can lead to the biggest of breakthroughs. Here I hope to address one of the most common myths I once believed, mentoring only occurs in the traditional sense of one-on-one and face-to-face.

Direct Mentoring Relationships

In a traditional mentoring relationship, an individual often called the protégé or mentee, meets with another individual commonly called the mentor. They do so in pursuit of an agreed-upon goal. While I highly value these types of mentoring relationships, I refuse to buy into the myth that these are the only mentoring relationships of any real value. I often refer to direct mentoring relationships as traditional mentoring relationships.

These are one-on-one and have some sort of dialogue to them. Because of the time commitment involved, the mentor is somewhat limited in the number of these types of relationships he/she can take on in a given period of time. The selection process is often rigorous because of the investment needed. The impact of this type of mentoring is exponential, and these relationships are truly more valuable than gold. There is typically an agreed-upon schedule for meetings whether those be in person, over the phone, or via FaceTime. The majority of people seem to agree that these relationships go on for a long period of time. This is typically what most people picture when they think of mentoring.

Indirect Mentoring Relationships

The other major category of mentoring relationships is what I like to call indirect mentoring. These are perhaps the most overlooked resource that any young leader can carry around with them. This type of mentoring takes a much different approach in all respects. This still happens between two individuals, but not in the same sense mentioned under direct mentoring. There will still be a protégé and a mentor, but the style of dialogue looks much different.

How Do They Work?

The mentor shares his or her knowledge or experience through a book, podcast, or video teaching. The protégé still sticks to a schedule, but the meetings are self-lead and the progress is completely dependent on what the protégé is willing to put into it. The length of the relationship might be limited to one book or a video series, but could be extended when the mentor releases new content which appeals to the protégé. Because the content is prerecorded or prewritten, the mentor is able to take on an exponential amount of these relationships with no increase in commitment.

What Is Required

The initial effort to produce the material is the major inhibitor to taking on additional indirect mentoring relationships. These types of relationships are easy to find and allow the mentor to impact a greater number of people utilizing fewer resources than a more traditional mentoring relationship. I would venture to say this is the number one way people are mentored today. The barrier is so low for this type that the majority of protégés do not know their relationship with the author is one of mentoring. The impact from one person to the next varies, but the overall impact is hard to quantify.

The Purists

There are many mentoring purists who might insist that there are no other true types of mentoring outside of direct mentoring relationships. I would say they are partially correct. I would amend the phrase to say that there is nothing quite like a direct mentoring relationship. The level of impact of any other form of mentoring is largely incomparable to a direct mentoring relationship.

The purists are correct, but I would add that there are many mentoring goals that can be achieved sooner via an indirect relationship simply because of accessibility. And certainly, if one has access to a direct mentoring relationship who meets your criteria, who is available and willing, then I would say go for it. Largely what I find is that the time required to identify, located, and establish this type of relationship is often beyond what many can commit to.

An Urgent Need

Many protégés find themselves in a situation, in need of a mentor, and they have neither the time nor the resources to dedicate to finding the right mentor. Doing a search or networking to identify potential mentors is beyond what they can handle. They need help and they need it now.

Addressing An Urgent Need

For those who are in this situation, there is hope. I believe most individuals in this situation feel lost, alone, or hopeless. I would say your pool of potential mentor candidates is a lot smaller, but they do exist. You may not like the options, but they could be just what you need to get through this difficult season.

Please Note

You are not stuck with this mentor. Keep in mind that this mentor might be for just a short season of your life. The duration of your relationship with this mentor is up to you. You never know what blessings could come out of this mentor relationship. Below are a few places to start looking.

Potential Sources For Mentors

  • Your local Church
  • Your place you work
  • A relative or family friend

My Recommendation – Start Now

For those who are not in a desperate situation, I offer these words of wisdom. Start your search for a mentor NOW! Now is the best time to look for a mentor or multiple mentors. This can be done at your leisure, where there is no pressure. The only deadline you might have is self-imposed. So start looking!

Where To Go From Here

Ultimately, there is a season for each type of mentor. There are many who insist on always having a direct mentor relationship while others may vary based on the season. This decision is up to you! I would encourage you to always have an indirect mentoring relationship. These can easily be found through a good book, a podcast, an online course, etc. I would encourage you to make mentoring a priority for whatever season of life you find yourself!


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