Posts Tagged ‘Moses’


Successful Mentorships Require Security and Maturity

Posted on: February 6th, 2018 by Hayim Herring

Mentorships can be exceptional experiences that provide mutual satisfaction and learning. Mentorships can either be formal onboarding relationships required by a new employee’s organization, where a new employee is assigned a mentor who has more work experience. That veteran employee can help a new hire circumvent rookie mistakes and accelerate a new person’s learning in a specific content area and, more generally, help someone navigate the unfamiliar culture of the organization. Or, a mentorship can be informal, where someone with less experience has an ongoing professional relationship with a veteran in the same or related field, who may or may not be a part of the same organization. Informal mentorships happen more organically, flowing from a mentor’s desire to nurture younger talent and return the help that he or she received from someone at an earlier professional stage, while a mentee has an intuitive feeling that this informal mentor has no agenda other than to be of professional support.

Mentorships are different from coaching relationships, where typically an external expert is hired for a limited engagement to help an individual deepen self-insight into characteristics and habits that get in the way of better performance, to help with a specific skill, or provide alternative ways of framing issues that yield ideas or solutions that a coaching client could not see before. Coaching relationships are designed to support an individual who seeks growth in embracing a new challenge and deeper insight into one’s professional persona – the one that a person has acquired, or a latent one that a person decides to develop – at any stage of life. One of the essential differences between a mentorship and a coaching relationship is that the latter has a clear contractual beginning, middle and end with measurable goals. Mentorships can become messy because they are much more fluid.

That’s why successful mentorships require security on the part of the mentor, and maturity on the part of the mentee because a mentoring relationship has a shelf life. A secure mentor knows when it’s time to gradually create some distance with a mentee, so that person can begin to acquire greater self-confidence, self-awareness, and expertise. Someone who is accustomed to being mentored may experience that distancing as an unexpected lack of caring when it is actually an act of deep professional concern for the well-being and growth of a younger colleague.

And some mentees are too eager to assert independence of personality. They unknowingly rupture a relationship with a mentor through indifference to how much he or she has benefited from the experiences and relationships cultivated through a mentor. These relationships become complicated when mentors are reluctant or unable to know when to intentionally decrease their influence so that the mentee can begin to increase her or his independence and develop an authentic persona. If a mentor lacks that self-awareness, the person being mentored may need to more abruptly end the relationship, creating an atmosphere of awkwardness and causing a mentor to feel underappreciated. But in the best of all worlds, a healthy mentoring relationship evolves and both parties begin to transition from a more hierarchical relationship to a peer-to-peer relationship.

I’ve been thinking about some of my own coaching and mentoring relationships, both as a receiver and as a giver, during this time in the cycle of Torah readings, when we’re reading about the Israelites’ journey from Egypt to the promised land. What might have been a relatively brief trip turned into a disastrous forty-year period of wandering. I wondered if the father-in-law of Moses, Jethro or Yitro in Hebrew, might have made a difference in the tumultuous relationship that Moses and the Jewish people experienced that turned their trip into a forty-year trek. Moses clearly respected his father-in-law’s wisdom and experience and takes his advice in establishing a court system that was not solely reliant upon Moses (see Exodus 18). Yet, it appears that despite Moses’s pleading to Yitro that he helps him navigate this desert terrain, Yitro declines (Numbers 9:29-32). I’d like to think that Yitro’s primary motivation for refusing to remain with Moses is that he doesn’t want to stunt his son-in-law’s potential that he (Moses) can’t yet see in himself. He knows that his son-in-law cannot actualize his own leadership potential if Moses remains in Yitro’s shadow.

A mentor can have a lifelong influence. Even after a mentor passes away, if you’ve had an especially fortunate experience with a mentor, you can still feel the presence and guidance of that person. You internalize aspects of someone’s exemplary character and wisdom and express them in your own unique way. But that only happens when a mentor practices tzimtzum or self-contraction, so that the mentee can develop into a full person in her or his own right.

What Do You Do When You Lose?

Posted on: January 19th, 2012 by Hayim Herring
Tim Tebow

From Jeffrey Beall on flickr

As a leader, what do you do when you lose on a big issue? By “big issue,” I mean one that is core to your beliefs and values. You’ve put the winning strategy in place, you’ve practiced, you’re confident but not arrogant, you’ve executed well—but you fail at your mission.

I’m not referencing Tim Tebow in asking this question (okay, maybe I was thinking about the Denver Broncos’ loss to the New England Patriots last Sunday). I was actually reflecting on the opening of this week’s Torah reading, Vaera (Exodus 6:2-13). The reading opens with God listening to Moses’ disappointment about his unsuccessful encounter with Pharaoh. Moses had followed God’s directives explicitly in confronting Pharaoh. Yet, Moses doesn’t get the result that he anticipated. Pharaoh doesn’t free the Jewish people from slavery and in fact, inflicts even more punishment on them. So Moses vents his disappointment on God.

Too often, leaders (and especially clergy) have a tendency to isolate themselves when conditions become difficult. Instead of finding a mentor, family member, trusted confidant or a coach, they erect a barrier around their feelings and carry the pain of disappointment alone. Prayer to God can definitely be helpful. But I believe that it’s not enough.

The Torah was not written as a management book, but it is often an incredibly wise source for personal reflection on leadership. This week’s Torah reading once again offers important guidance to leaders of all stripes. Disappointment and failure inevitably strike. But when they do, we see that we don’t have to endure them in loneliness. If you don’t have someone with whom you can share moments of triumph and joy, and times of disappointment and frustration, consider making it a priority to find someone. You’ll see how much sustenance you can draw that will keep your leadership vital for years to come.