3 things to look for in a mentor

Everyone should have a mentor (read here – 3 reasons you need a mentor) but sometimes it’s hard to know exactly who you are looking for. Here are three characteristics I believe are worth considering.

Find someone who is successfully doing something you want to do successfully. 

Be it in business, parenting, leading, discipline, advocacy, finances, study, fitness or relationships – whatever you are hoping to grow in, develop or attain – your mentor should be demonstrating elements of that competency. They should be further down the path than you. They should have the wisdom to be able to assess and articulate how they came to be successful – a person who can’t describe what they did to bring them to their current stage of life, work, serving or character will not be able to teach or lead you to a similar destination.

Find someone who allows you close. 

A good mentor will let you understand something of their life – of the path they’ve walked and the context in which they’ve developed their character, beliefs and skills. Beyond what they might teach you from their learning and wisdom, a great mentor will allow the story of their life to bring application and a shared sense of journeying.

There should also be a degree to which the vulnerability you express to a mentor is honoured with their own vulnerability. The safety of such an environment will allow the relationship (and you) to flourish.

Realise you might need more than one someone. 
Because your life is diverse and you are likely to be engaged across a number of roles or circumstances it may be most beneficial to have more than one mentor rather than expect one person to meet all your needs. Across the journey I have had a variety of mentors – each leading and investing in me in particular areas. I have had mentors around communication and preaching, generations ministry, being a female in leadership and ministry, writing and publishing, leading at the next level, and those who are more invested in pastoral care of me.

Finding one person who can be all things to you might be unrealistic.

What would you add to this list? What have you found about your own efforts to have a mentor or as a mentor others?

in series 

// 3 reasons you need a mentor
// 3 reasons you should be a mentor

why we MUST embrace conflict

I really don’t like conflict. In fact, I don’t think anyone does. 

Those who say they like conflict are either bullies who love a good fight OR are actually referring to the outcomes of conflict rather than the conflict itself. 

I love what healthy conflict accomplishes. 

Conflict achieves better results. 

Conflict ensures that all aspects of a decision, event or direction have been fully considered. When ideas are up for debate and discussion we refine and clarify them for best outcomes. Conflict means that we haven’t just settled for the easiest way or the idea that was presented first or loudest. 

Conflict refines our character. 

No one wants to be told that they’ve behaved inappropriately or that they’re being received in an unpleasant manner – but surely we’d rather the chance to change that through awareness and assistance rather than persist in ignorance? Conflict is necessary to acknowledge our sharp edges and give us the chance to smooth them down. 

Conflict strengthens relationships. 

Conflict builds trust. In relationships where hard conversations are lovingly navigated, misalignments recalibrated and, ways forward together are negotiated intimacy and trust are grown. Willingness to identify and endure conflict communicates a depth of commitment. Pressing in through the tough times is what forges strong relational connection. Ignoring issues over fear of conflict creates emotional distance, mistrust and, ultimately, separation. 

So how do we conflict well? 

HEALTHY CONFLICT – 

  • Debates issues not people.

Finding the best outcome means separating an idea from the person who presents it – otherwise we have to go with the decision that belongs to the person we like most or are more afraid of upsetting. We also have to be okay with our idea being trumped by a better one or refined by other thoughts without taking it personally. 

  • Is best when invited. 

Creating an environment where conflict is welcomed – through invitation and self-control in our responses – can diffuse some of the tension and apprehension. Giving others permission to speak frankly, critique honestly and call us to bigger and better in our behaviour and ideas won’t make conflict fun but will make it more healthy and edifying. 

3 ways to listen better


Did you know you can improve the quality of a speaker by improving the quality of your listening? You have the power to improve the communication capacity of others by engaging more intentionally when you listen. 

1. Look like you’re listening. 

When someone knows you are listening their language, tone and demeanour can be more relaxed. A person fighting for your attention will feel led to be more exaggerated, intense or dramatic in order to capture your interest and garner a response. 

Giving the speaker your full attention – looking at them, stopping what you are doing and facing your body towards them communicates value and engagement. They will be freed to more clearly communicate what they were wanting to say. 

2. Let your face know what you’re thinking. 

I have a very loud face. There has barely been an emotion I’ve felt that hasn’t demonstrated itself on my face – for better or worse!! 

For better, someone speaking to me rarely has to guess what I’m feeling. For the most part my face mirrors the feelings being communicated or the facial expressions they are displaying. In a psychological sense, this mirroring communicates empathy for the speaker – “I am feeling what you’re feeling.” 

Some people are naturally more blank. Their thinking face is expressionless. While you may well be following closely what the speaker is saying, they are not to know this from looking at you. You need to think about what your face conveys to the speaker. 

3. Affirm the speaker. 

Nodding your head, hmmm’ing, and saying “I see”, “oh really?” or, “uh-huh” let the speaker know you are listening even if there’s nothing much else for you to say in response. 

Note – you can’t use these when you’re not listening! It’s unfair to the speaker and ultimately damages their trust in your true attention. These sounds are verbal affirmations to keep going, I’m with you, tell me what happened next. In their absence, in your silence, the speaker is forced to concede they’ve lost their audience or elevate the tone, volume and intensity to try and win you back. 

‘Half-listening’ could very well double the speaking time. That’s bad maths. A speaker can lose focus on their main idea while trying to capture your undivided attention or elicit a response. 

Ultimately, your listening can make the speaker more concise and more interesting. 

What other traits have you noticed of good listeners? How have you found a good listener can improve your communication?