by Michael Jemphrey
Michael Jemphrey, Translation & Anthropology Consultant, SIL Francophone Africa
With two friends at university I bought a small wooden yacht thinking it would be so fun to sail round the coastline of Ireland. We bought a book about sailing and studied it a bit, looked at the pictures and got on top of the theory. We were ready to sail! On our maiden voyage we launched the boat into the Irish Sea and took off with great excitement. Minutes later we were panicking, there was water gushing up through the centerboard, the wind was blowing us off course, we were tugging at this rope and that rope to try and get the sails under control. Somehow, I can’t quite remember how, we ended back on land, after a frantic first sail of less than 15 minutes!
In our youthful enthusiasm we hadn’t realized that we needed a mentor, someone with a bit more experience, who had sailed before, to show us the ropes. Sailing is complicated – with lots of factors to take into account: wind tide, sails, other boats. Knowing the theory and putting it into practice are not the same.
Our work in SIL is also complex and increasingly so: plenty of theories and new methods on linguistics, translation, literacy, Scripture engagement, multiple multicultural partners and complex regulations to navigate. There is lots of information out there, but without a mentor we can feel all at sea. It is not just academic disciplines where mentors are needed. In a recent presentation on the launch of the Robust Mentoring initiative in Africa, directors were all saying we need mentors for our colleagues working in finance, human resources, project funding, administration.
A mentor can be so encouraging! Our leadership has determined that mentoring is so vital for our professional growth and for the robust health of our organization as we seek to serve others that it should be part of our DNA.
But there are so many questions:
- How to find a good mentor?
- How to be a good mentor?
- How to find the time?
- How to start a mentoring relationship?
- How to finish?
- How to navigate mentoring cross-culturally?
- How to organize and track a mentoring program so that people don’t fall through the cracks?
This website is one way we will address these questions and challenges together, learning from one another. We will seek to use the website to 1) gather useful resources on mentoring in one place, 2) publish a short blog post several times a year to encourage interaction, 3) facilitate discussion of questions and cross-pollination of ideas.
What metaphor comes to your mind when you think of mentoring? Leave a comment below.