As someone who supervises both volunteers and staff, one of the areas I need to develop most is my ability to mentor people. I truly believe that if I can mentor someone to do a specific task at 80% of the level that I can do it, it’s time to hand that task over to them. However, the struggle lies in helping people get to the 80% level of competence. It takes intentional mentorship and learning to make that happen.
Here’s been my ineffective way of mentoring:
- Give the volunteer or staff member an orientation.
- Leave them alone and expect them to excel.
Needless to say, my success has been, well, non-existent. Yet my passion and desire to have them succeed is off the charts! The mentorship process can be simple, but it takes time. The simplest strategy I’ve learned over the years is the following:
- I do it.
- I do it, you watch.
- We do it together.
- You do it, I assist
- You do it
For many tasks, this process can take months to get to the point where a mentee can do it on their own without me being present.
Larry Osborne, who wrote Sticky Teams, states that there are three stages of learning that we must take into account while mentoring:
- Exposure: This stage takes into account the “I do it, you watch” phase. For learning to happen, a mentee must be exposed to the experience of whatever it is we are trying to help them learn. For instance, when I am a mass coordinator (sacristan), it’s important that I invite a mentee who I want to learn these skills to experience all aspects of the mass.
- Familiarity: This stage is all about the “We do it together” phase. The next time I coordinate mass, I want to walk through all the steps with the mentee so she can see exactly what I am doing to prepare before the mass, during the mass, and after the mass. I’m going to have her to do many of the tasks with me and not just watch.
- Understanding: This embraces the “You do it, I assist” and “You do it” phases. At the next mass, the mentee begins to understand why we do certain things at mass. For instance, why do we say certain prayers from the Sacramentary on certain days. This allows her to understand why it is important to bookmark the Sacramentary to the correct sections.
As she is assigned as mass coordinator more often, she will begin to understand the dynamics of mass and begin to feel more confident as time passes.
And remember: mentorship is a two way process. For a mentor to be successful, the mentee has to be enthusiastic and motivated! It’s important to choose wisely who you mentor, because we can’t mentor everyone.
What strategies do you use when you mentor volunteers or staff?