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Mentorship: Why You Fail And How To Be Successful At It

You will agree with me that mentorship is an essential ingredient for sustainable growth and development in almost every facet of our lives as humans. The stages of growth and development can be especially challenging to every growing individual, either physically, socially, economically, emotionally and otherwise. But when there is someone you can look up to, the journey becomes a little easier, or at least, you have an extra reason not to give up.

Most successful people have had to be mentored by someone they look up to. Even sometimes, they may not even have met the person one-on-one, but they keep their focus on the lifestyle of their mentor from a distance since they have not been opportune to meet personally. This is to tell you that there are different types of mentorship.

By way of classification, mentorship could be classified based on the following.

  1. Distance: Close or distant
  2. Awareness of the mentor: Secret or open
  3. Communication: One-sided or two-sided

And so on, let me stick to only these three for now.

Considering the difficulties involved in navigating through any activity or growth process, be it business, emotional development and physical changes, it becomes important that every adult or someone who has succeeded in those same activities should provide a form of mentorship for the younger generations that are after them. However, this is challenging because potential mentors are still aiming for further growth too, and hence, have no time to mentor anyone.

There are people who, by virtue of some of their experiences, have devoted their lives to providing mentorship to younger people around them. Those are the people you see giving advice to their supposed mentees without the mentees asking. Mentees often count themselves lucky, if they are able to meet a true mentor at a point in their lives. This spurs their growth and also establishes a mutual relationship between them and the mentor.

Do you know that some of the world's greatest people are those who had become successful at mentorship? Mentorship is somewhat a type of paternal behaviour where the mentor acts and does things for the mentee, the one being mentored, to enhance his/her productivity and to enable the mentee to avoid some of the major challenges and problems that impeded or almost halted his/her growth.

Mentorship is a unique profession where a person, usually of a higher position of authority, influence, fame or financial status, assumes a position where they can influence the actions of younger people, otherwise known as mentees, in order to help them attain their maximum growth potentials while helping them minimize the effects of failures they may come across.

Many successful people have considered mentorship an important duty they owe the younger generations, maybe because they owe their success to someone who took interest in them too. 
We often see mentorship as a one-sided affair. Yes, in most cases, it appears that only the mentee benefits, or that they benefit more. This is not out of place, however, there are also some benefits of mentorship to the mentor too. Let's see a few here.

Benefits/Advantages of Mentorship

There are inherent benefits of mentorship to both parties involved - the mentor and the mentee. By way of clarity, let me state these benefits separately.

  1. Benefits to the mentor
  2. Benefits to the mentee

Benefits To The Mentor

1. Self-satisfaction that you are contributing to mentees progress

For those true mentors, who I described as those who feel indebted to provide mentorship to younger ones, they derive some self-satisfaction from the very fact that they are doing so. It's a passion that makes them happy whenever they satisfy it.

Of course, mentorship may be a burden to someone who is not interested in it or someone who feels so overwhelmed that they consider mentorship an unnecessary burden they should not be getting themselves into.

2. The mentees find ways they can render help too

When your mentees see that you are genuinely interested in their growth and progress, they would also look for ways they can help you too. It comes naturally, whether you wanted it so or not. 

3. He produces great mentees that could help him in the future

After successful mentorship, say a matter of a few years time, your mentee(s) may have become established in whatever it is they have been involved in. No matter how long, your mentees will not forget your impact on their lives so quickly. For some special cases, you may not even know that you were an inspiration to them. Whether you are ignorant of the fact that you were mentoring them or not, they will always come back to appreciate in some ways.

Benefits To The Mentee

1. Finds a role model

When mentees look up to a mentor for mentorship, it often shows that they admire that person and look up to become like them. Role modelling refers to the impact an individual, in this case, a mentor makes on the behaviour, lifestyle and attitudes of the mentee. For example, a mentee takes after most things from the mentor including the way they behave or speak.

2. Receives guidance, counselling and advice

For close mentorship relationships, small pieces of advice can go a long way for the mentee. When the mentee feels lost or confused on what next step or action to take, the mentor can be a source of advice to them.

3. Source of motivation and encouragement

The difference between those who gave up and those who succeeded often depends on how much encouragement they get. Those words of affirmation, support and motivation go a very long way to keep a mentee viable for success irrespective of the challenges they may be facing.

4. Source of financial support

I once contested for an electoral position in my school, and I needed some financial support. So, I cried out to one of my mentors who has always motivated me. In his kindness, he gave me a huge sum of money to be able to put things in order. Since then, I felt how much he believed in me and I will continually love him for that. 

That's me as a mentee, I also have those I mentor too. Life is sweet, isn't it?

What are some reasons why people fail at mentorship?

Reasons Why People Fail At Mentorship & How To Be Successful

I was at a conference a few years back, it was a gathering of great minds indeed. Then, there was a segment for entrepreneurship discussions, which was to be championed by a young medical doctor who doubles as a passionate entrepreneur. After a few hours, he ended the lecture by asking "So, are there any questions?" Many questions were raised and he dealt with them appropriately. This made many of us love him even more, we wanted to get his contact and hopefully get some mentorship from him in the course of our business adventures. But amazingly, when asked for his contact, he wasn't sounding so enthusiastic about sharing it. Of course, he did give us the contact, but the manner with which he did so deterred everyone from ever trying to reach out to him. It was pretty obvious that was what he wanted, but was that the best he could do?

There are several reasons why people fail at mentorship. I will just highlight a few here:

  1. Poor attitude towards mentorship
  2. Past negative experiences of mentorship - For example, if you have been previously burdened by a mentee who was dubiously exploiting your magnanimity.
  3. Loss of empathy - inability to see things from the mentee's perspective and making them know that you understand what they are experiencing.
  4. Placing excuses on busy schedules
  5. Lack of awareness of potential benefits of mentorship

What Makes You a Good/Successful Mentor

Failures of mentorship arise from one of two sides or both;

  • The mentee can lose interest in the relationship
  • The mentor can get frustrated and give up

Either of these two can arise due to some of the reasons given above. In this section, we are going to explore some things that can make you a great mentor and be successful at mentorship.

  1. Know your mentees
  2. Discuss deep past lessons with them
  3. Be willing to advise them when necessary
  4. Make them see that you desire their growth and progress
  5. Give to them when they genuinely ask of you
  6. Have some fun, don't let mentorship drain you
  7. Be committed to your communication with them

Know your mentees

The common scenario is having your mentee walk up to meet you probably after delivering a speech or something of such. They usually start by introducing themselves and adding "I loved your lecture, sir. It's a pleasure meeting you." For you to have a successful mentorship with this mentee, so that he joins the league of those who look up to you loyally, you should do your best to know them better. Asking for their names and where they are from would go a long way to make them feel welcome and wanted as a mentee.

Discuss deep past lessons with them

I learnt this from the senior friend and mentor I told you about earlier in this post. Whenever I am close to him, he has a way of telling me the stories of the past failures and successes he has encountered in a bid to stimulate me to do more. Professor Osahon Enabulele, who is also the President of Commonwealth Medical Association (2019 - ), has never stopped being an inspiration despite the professional and political gap between us. This has further strengthened our bond to the present day.

Be willing to advise them when necessary

It is important you make your mentee see that you are approachable and willing to help. One way you can do this is by being willing to offer them direction when they need some. Giving them gifts and money may be okay but you don't to what extent these seemingly little pieces of advice can get. It will help build up your mentee and make them develop trust that you are willing to help them grow.

Make them see that you desire their growth and progress

How can you make someone see that you desire their growth? When you express passion in seeing that they get better, it shows. When a mentor wants the mentee to get even better than them, it also shows. Many mentors today are afraid you might achieve better than they did, and thus, try not to allow you to attain that.

You will obviously see that they are trying not to push you beyond their limits. In most cases, the mentorship relationship begins to break down at some point. What is worth noting here is that strife does not make you more successful than you already are. Success is actually building others to grow too.

Give to them when they genuinely ask of you

Still making reference to Prof Enabulele, giving to your mentee is the physical sign that you are interested in them. If you have the habit of giving to them when they need some help, they will cherish you even more. However, some mentees could abuse this, and turn into parasitic beggars to you. In this case, you must learn how to identify genuine requests from dubious ones.

Have some fun, don't let mentorship drain you

Mentorship is often considered unnecessary by many people, especially those who think there is already enough burden to add mentorship to. As well as we will agree that mentorship is important for several reasons, you still need to find some time off worrying about other people, otherwise, a feeling of apathy develops in you when you are totally uninterested in the noble culture of mentorship.

Be committed to your communication with them

Thankfully, communication in these modern days has gone digital. Social media is now a great channel for communication. If you are engaging with your mentee via these social medial platforms, it is important you give them some attention when you are available. If they know this, they will understand better in times when you are away and truly busy.


What is mentorship and what are the benefits of mentorship? We have x-rayed some reasons why mentorship fails, and also provided some ways to become successful at the vocation of mentorship.

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Prosper Yole

I am a lifestyle blogger, I write useful articles on successful life tips and hacks. Posts bearing Prosper Yole as author are either written by the blog author himself or by our various other contributors. Thank you for reading through. I look forward to having you more often. Please subscribe to my blog and follow me on Twitter @ProsperYoleOfficial


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