StoHear 09-07-100

The Heart of Mentoring

Ten Proven Principles for Developing People to Their Fullest Potential


David A. Stoddard with Robert J. Tamasy

NavPress, 2009, 212 pp., ISBN 978-1-60006-831-7



Stoddard is founder and president of Leaders Legacy, Inc., a non-profit organization developing leaders through coaching and mentoring.  "Getting the most out of life isn't about how much you keep for yourself, but how much you pour into others."  (back cover)  This book deals with principles rather than methods of mentoring.   


Mentoring deals with the whole person, from the inside out.  Coaching is typically short-term and skills driven, focused on behavior, whereas mentoring is relationship oriented, holistic, and long-term.  (11)


"The heart of mentoring is helping people to reach their fullest potential in life….  And we can't separate our professional lives from our private lives…." (23)


Mentoree sounds condescending, and since it involves equals in a mutual process, the term mentoring partner is preferred.  (25)


"Effective mentoring begins with the heart, motivated from the inside…."  "It's an opportunity to give of ourselves….  The secret to living is giving." (29)  "What are you giving your life to?"  (40) 


"Mentoring is a process that requires great perseverance."  "…it's an opportunity to take a journey with another person in traveling the uncharted path of life." (45)  At the outset, there is no binding commitment either way.  If either wants to quit it's OK.  (47)  "The initiative for continuing the relationship is his." (54)


It's not a static, one-size-fits-all program but a dynamic process.  "People learn what they need to learn, not what someone else thinks they need to learn." (48)  "Giving advice may be easy, but it's not always helpful. … Hence the need for patience--being willing to wait for growth to occur without getting frustrated." (51)  "Persistence is constantly encouraging and even constructively reproving your mentoring partner on issues that take a long time to change." (52)


"Like-mindedness or like-heartedness between mentor and mentoring partner is essential." (57)


"Our only expectation should be for their personal growth, but even then we can't control how they grow." (58)


They want help but they also want reassurance they are not alone.  Get into their lives by letting them into your world.  "…meet them where they are, not where we think they're supposed to be." (63)  Relating what you are going through, your difficulties and struggles, creates an environment that is safe, open, and honest.  Don't preach from above: walk alongside. "Embrace the role of serving and exalting [your] mentoring partners."  Value their interests more than your own.  (66) 


Desks create barriers.  Meet in informal and neutral settings.  "Listen with your heart, not just your head." (74)  Ask good questions and avoid quick fixes. Avoid theoretical answers and focus on relevant principles that have worked in your life.  Help them with their passion, their pain, and their priorities. (74-77) 


"Effective mentors help mentoring partners find their passion." (79)  Many are in unsatisfying careers and need a deep sense of meaning and fulfillment on the job.  "If you don't take the initiative in doing the things that are most important to you, years can pass without your knowing the satisfaction of being who you really are." (83, quoting psychologist Roger Birkman, in True Colors.)  Someone may be very good in a job without it fulfilling their passion. 


"You don't establish a legacy with 'stuff'…." (86) 


A life-changing transition takes tremendous courage.  It is important to walk with your mentoring partner through the process.  (90) 


Recommended assessment tool: a comprehensive personal profile developed by Roger Birkman (


Foster self-discovery by asking questions.  Sample:  "If you lived in a perfect world and money was not an issue, what would you really love to give your life to?"  (91) 


Before quitting your day job, tinker with your new possibility on the side.  Three steps to changing career:  Discovery (of your passion), Tinkering (trying it out on the side), Reality (jumping in completely). 


"Acknowledging pain and attempting to address it in a meaningful way is a key component of the mentoring process." (101)  Serve as confident and comforter. Share the load.  Extend compassion, listen, serve, be available.  Share your sources of comfort and hope and what you learned in adversity.  Help people try to find meaning in their pain.   


"…help mentoring partners establish and maintain priorities.  Frankly, many people have never taken the time to think through what is most important to them.  They simply react…."  What would qualify as priceless in their minds?


Values act as a filter that determines priorities.  They also provide balance and a sense of order and control that make us happier and more productive.  (23)  "The challenge is to articulate and affirm what our values are, then take steps to honor these values in a practical sense…." (123)


Clearly communicating personal values helps establish credibility.  "People expect their leaders to stand for something and to have the courage of their convictions."  (124, quoting Kouzes and Posner)  "Once we clearly understand what we genuinely value in life--not what someone else says we should value--we can start prioritizing our actions and activities to align with those values." (124)  "Personal values, however, serve as an unchanging anchor that provides stability even when all around us seems in flux." (125)  Values come from the heart and reflect who we are, not just what we do.  In a crisis your true values surface.  "Values are not truly values unless we firmly hold to them when it's inconvenient…." (129) 


"Effective mentors model character." (139)  Our focus is not carefree living but character.  A crisis of character is a huge issue in business today.  "Character is what is left after the fire."  It is the proof of who you really are revealed by testing.  It's what spills out when you encounter the bumps of life. (141)


Humility is the substance of character.  And character is the substance of mentoring.  Humility is the resolve to put others first.  Perseverance through the hardships of life can build humility.  At its core humility is strength, not weakness.  (142-9)   "Adversity shapes character.  Success does not develop character but reveals it." (151)  Humility keeps our egos in neutral. 


"…in mentoring, image is nothing.  We are looking to the heart, trying to mine the gold that lies deep within the person we are privileged to mentor." (152)  Humility is an indicator for how long to continue mentoring someone - as long as the person is teachable.


You present humility by sharing your failures as well as successes.  (154)  "Humility, unlike pride and arrogance, has a wonderfully appealing--and healing--quality to it…." (155) 


"Effective mentors affirm the value of spirituality."  "You cannot succeed at mentoring the whole person without taking into account the spiritual dimension of the individual's life." (159)


"What the Bible introduced to me was not religion, but spirituality--the way I could develop an intimate, personal relationship with God."  (165)  Many people have no interest in religion but want to discuss spirituality.   "The evidence of God is all around us.  All we have to do is listen."  I believe that the majority of people today are on a search in their hearts to 'listen.'" (170) 


"I have benefited as much as (sometimes even more than) the mentoring partner from taking part in an honest, open-ended, no-agenda spiritual discussion.  It's definitely a win-win for both mentor and partner. …It's all about engaging in a dialogue where we learn, search, and investigate together." (170)  Sharing each other's spiritual story paves the way for significant dialogue.  I am honest about my own life.  I encourage them to first reflect on their own spiritual roots.  Then I encourage them to investigate and examine the actual source of their spiritual roots.  The original source will speak for itself or defend itself, to the degree it can. 


If I'm asked where to start, I usually recommend they read stories from the Bible, like Genesis and John.  "I never give homework assignments, but I do let my mentoring partner know that if they ever want to discuss what they read I would love to do that, because I know I am going to learn just as much if not more than they will." (173)


Mentoring + Reproduction = Legacy

"What will be the impact of your life one hundred years from now?"  (175)  "…the real bottom line of what we do in business, our homes, and our communities is whether we have made a positive difference in the lives of people around us." (177)  "…a vision worth having is one that should outlive us." (177) 


"What are you giving your life to today?  And what will be the net result?" (187)  "Mentors will be among those who have truly made the greatest difference in the lives of people."  "The most effective leaders labor in relative obscurity." (188) 


The way to get started is to just do it.  People are unique and no two mentoring relationships are alike.  There is no mold.  Proceed, do it, and learn along the way.  Begin with one person.  Don't set high expectations.  Model humility.  Hang on to the principles and adjust the procedures to fit your personality and the relationship. 


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