One of the distinguishing characteristics of Radical Mentoring is the requirement that everyone attends every meeting and shows up on time. Like many things, this was born of one motive but then morphed with a wonderful but unintended consequence.
In the beginning, I didn’t think it was fair for me, the mentor, to go through all the trouble of opening up my home, buying books, printing homework handouts, and preparing to facilitate a three-hour conversation only to have mentees not show. I’d experienced that repeatedly in Sunday school classes and other small groups. I’d felt taken advantage of and unappreciated. At the time, Radical Mentoring was just my thing; I set the rules as I thought best for everyone involved.
So, I wrote in the covenant…
“I am covenanting to attend every meeting and retreat, to be on time, and to have my work done. No exceptions, unless providentially hindered…I will manage my other commitments around the dates…”
Amazingly, people have honored this covenant commitment. Over 18 years, I can count the missed meetings on one hand, and the tardies on two. In one of my business ventures, there were over 1,500 employees with well over 100 managers and executives and I never experienced this kind of commitment from people under my authority.
So, why is it important, and why does it work?
- If it’s important to the leader, it’ll be important to the follower – When the mentor starts out emphasizing the importance of universal compliance, the mentees buy-in. It’s hard to say the words “no exceptions,” but when I do, I see them relax. They know what the standards are and so they start focusing on how to meet them versus how to escape. Maybe more than any other practice, the expectation for 100% attendance, timeliness, and homework completion has differentiated Radical Mentoring and made it attractive to the next generation. Where else are they asked to live up to that kind of standard?
- You only get one chance to start – Leaders can relax a standard, but it’s almost impossible to tighten one. So, we press new mentors to be deliberate about this. Only with intentional emphasis will your group hear you and believe you mean it.
- Peer pressure is a positive – There’s a sense of a shared burden in the group when everyone covenants to perfect attendance, timeliness, and doing the work. The allegiance is to the other mentees in the group as much as to the mentor.
- Starting on time and ending on time – We’ve all experienced sloppy meetings. Late-comers drifting in with full coffee cups. Food deployed as a stall to protect the late-comers. Small talk that rolls five, ten, fifteen minutes into the meeting time. Whether they admit it or not, people respect a leader (and a meeting) that’s predictable and begins on time. They also respect a leader who will land the plane and end the meeting on time.
- You can’t experience community if you aren’t there – Maybe the most powerful argument for required attendance is what’s missed when someone isn’t there. The missing mentee will never hear the dialogue. And the rest of the group can’t hear their unique insights and observations. They can’t make up the conversation, the stories, and the emotions of doing life together. That community-building experience is lost and gone forever.
I hate to use these words but trust me on this one. Set a clear expectation for 100% attendance, timeliness, and preparation. You and your mentees will reap the benefits. I promise.
Scripture: Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ Anything more comes from the evil one. (Matthew 5:37)
This article originally appeared on radicalmentoring.com.
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