by Kate M.
Kate M, Translation Consultant, SIL
If somebody asked me, what was missing from mentoring I received as a translation consultant-in-training, I would say, “Being challenged – challenged to grow in my consultant and interpersonal skills; challenged to develop deeper knowledge of Biblical languages; challenged in writing papers; and challenged in my knowledge of related disciplines.” As it was clear that I could easily meet the requirements for becoming a translation consultant, my main mentor didn’t see the need to challenge me. In contrast, my current mentor regularly challenges me. For example, last year I learned better time management and this year I’m expanding my knowledge in different areas. In accepting these challenges, I am finding joy when seeing my hard work pay off and also seeing growth in areas I had not even thought about.
An effective mentor sees strengths and also areas for development in his or her mentee and has the privilege of speaking grace and truth into the mentee’s life. In the following examples, drawn from my personal experiences as a mentor, I will show how speaking grace and truth into a mentee’s life can spark growth.
A hard-working, young woman was leading translation checking sessions very competently. However, I noticed that she frequently used the words ‘maybe’ and ‘it is possible that…’ when she presented her ideas and suggestions to the team. Her perception of herself was that she is ‘just a beginner’ and here she was mistaken. The truth she needed to hear is that she is an expert in her field. For her this truth provided the freeing grace of growing confidence. The challenge for her was and is to speak with humble confidence, as the expert she has already become.
In another situation, a woman has been struggling for years to meet the requirements for qualification as a translation consultant. She feels lost in the system and on several occasions, she has said, “Maybe I should just leave it”. This mentee needs to hear several truths, ranging from the fact that not all translation consultants have the same role and that her gifts are acceptable as they are, all the way to something as simple as, “You can do it!” Sometimes the truth needs to focus on a mentee’s strengths rather than growth areas. The challenge for this mentee is: will she persist and become a consultant? The mentor needs to offer grace, in this case holding her accountable for her own progress and promising to support her until she reaches her goal.
A young man really wanted to become a translation consultant and was working hard to reach this goal. During a mentored session it became obvious that he is lacking in several areas. The members of the team did not fully accept him. It was difficult for him to come to terms with this, but he had to realize that he wasn’t cut out to be a consultant. It would have been a comforting half-truth to say that he could grow to become what he wanted to be. The challenge here is different from the previous two examples. Can he accept that becoming a translation consultant is not possible for him at this time? Grace in his case was shown by his main mentor who allowed him to change his role to one that allows him to work using his strengths and in areas about which he is passionate.
Speaking grace and truth into a mentee’s life isn’t easy: accepting the words of a mentor isn’t easy either. Here are a few guidelines that I have found helpful (this is not an exclusive list):
- The relationship between a mentor and mentee is one of trust: let your mentee know you care about them.
- Listen, observe, and ask questions to work out the strengths and challenges of your mentee – these may not be immediately apparent.
- Be aware of the differences between the mentor’s culture and the mentee’s culture: how are truth and grace spoken in the culture of the mentee?
- Pray for wisdom and kindness: the delivery of the mentor is as important as the mentor’s words themselves.
- Allow your mentee time to process what has been said: give her the space to think and pray through your words, to ask questions and to give feedback. Admit if your observations were wrong.
Questions to think about:
- What are the differences between encouragement and challenge?
- What are some of the methods we use to speak grace and truth into another person’s life? How would you apply this to mentoring?
- How do you help your mentee grow?