Mentoring always begins with setting short-term and long-term goals for a mentee’s future and centres around achieving these goals over time. While the goals for each mentee will look very different for individuals, one thing is always true; the journey towards success can be long and difficult. There are always hard conversations, stumbling blocks to overcome and disappointments along the way. So when a mentee achieves a goal, even a small one, it is vitally important to celebrate those moments. Everyone needs a win now and then, and charting successes throughout your time together will provide clear milestones to track their progress and help your mentee remain hopeful under challenging moments.
I have always found “The Parable of the Growing Seed” in Mark 4:26-34 (NIV) to be a good analogy for celebrating milestones:
26 He also said, “This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. 27 Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. 28 All by itself the soil produces grain—first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head. 29 As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come.”
The farmer is tracking the grain; the stalk, the head, the kernel… each is a milestone in his eyes and a sign that his harvest is on track. As a mentor, we can be like a farmer, helping our mentees plant their seeds and then recognising the hope of each new step forward.
While working with my mentor years ago, one of my goals was to become more accustomed to expressing what I needed and felt. I used to find this very difficult and would often stay silent or agree to things I didn’t want to do out of fear that others might not like me if I disagreed. My focus was always on caring for others and never on how I might need care. My mentor talked with me about growing assertiveness. We explored what was happening in me and what would happen if I spoke about what I need and feel. He suggested I find something small to practise on.
I chose coffee as a first step. I love a shot of espresso, but sometimes it is not made well; it is tamped incorrectly, the amount of coffee is off, or the water pressure is wrong. The result is bitter and burnt. My small goal was to share my concern with the barista if the shot wasn’t up to my standards.
I tried it the next time I received a bad espresso. It was nerve-raking, but I advocated for myself anyway. I told the barista, politely and with a smile that the espresso tasted burnt and bitter. To my surprise, the barista was happy to have honest feedback, as bad espresso would impact coffee sales and reviews, and he quickly made me another, much tastier espresso. I gained confidence and the barista was able to hone their craft. When I reported my success to my mentor, he congratulated me. His praise and acknowledgement greatly encouraged me to keep practising assertiveness.
Reflection Questions (for you and your mentee):
- What are the milestones you have accomplished in 2023?
- What are you proud of last year?
- What are you thankful for last year?
- Where are you heading in 2024?
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