November 3, 2022

Finding the Right Mentor for You

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If you have been following the work of Verve Lead for even a day, you will know how much we value and promote healthy mentorship and professional supervision. Mentors help us work through personal and professional hardships, they allow us to confront traumas in a safe way, and they show us new perspectives of our lives that we cannot see ourselves. But finding a mentor or taking on a mentoring role is no small feat. An unhealthy or immature mentor can cause more damage than good when allowed intimate knowledge about another person’s deepest fears, thoughts and memories. So how do we know who is the right person to help us with our specific needs? How can we tell if our mentor is healthy and trustworthy? 

Look for a degree of independence

Mentors should have some understanding of your work, perspective and ethics to be most efficient. This can help you feel safe and understood in context and culture. That being said, I usually recommend looking for a mentor outside of your religious denomination. It’s important to feel trust, but a mentor can certainly be too close. A mentor who is already involved in aspects of your life; a friend, a coworker or a relative, may have difficulty providing unbiased advice, as they know just who will be affected by your conversations. Imagine your mentor is also your manager at work and you share some information you have learned that might be detrimental to your organisation if you were to share it with certain people. A mentor with a degree of separation might encourage you to bring this information to light to prevent harm to you or others, while a mentor without that separation might encourage you to keep it to yourself for the sake of the organisation. 

This excerpt from Recommendation 16.45 of the Royal Commission’s Final Report summarises this well, even though the report focused on children’s safety. It  states: “Each religious institution should ensure that all people in religious or pastoral ministry, including religious leaders, have professional supervision with a trained professional or pastoral supervisor who has a degree of independence from the institution within which the person is in ministry.”


Avoid similar gifting: 

Often, people will be drawn to mentors with similar gifts as their own. While this is helpful for developing that particular gift, it can be problematic in a mentor. Similar gifts often indicate similar blindspots. If you are a creative, unorganised, big-picture thinker and you find yourself drawn to a mentor with these same traits, you both will likely miss details or fail to find structure in your time together. Conversely, seeking out a mentor with complimentary gifts will bring much more to light in your conversations. As another example, you might be apostolic; the kind of person who is great at rallying others, but blind to the power you have, and have trouble listening to others. You may not give others the opportunity to say no. I needed a mentor who was a great listener to help me see this about myself. 

Here’s a checklist you can return to when searching for the right mentor:

Are they competent? 

  • What is their training (certificates and experience)?
  • Can they provide professional support, professional development, and promote professional standards?
  • Are they upfront about boundaries and their code of conduct?

Do they appear perceptive and empathetic?

  • Will they listen to me or merely tell me what they think I should know?
  • Will they bring discernment as they provide feedback?
  • Will they help me build ownership for change?

Are they Healthy?

  • Do they have healthy boundaries in their own life? 
  • Do they have a strong code of ethics?
  • Are they self-aware of their strengths and flaws? 

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