At MFBF we consistently talk about the importance of membership and what it means to the longevity of our organization.  But, have we ever considered what role mentorship plays in involving new members?  Curt Swenson has and he shared his perspective with attendees of the Montana Farm Bureau Annual Convention.
Curt is the Vice President of FutureSync International and has vast personal and professional experience in mentorship.  Curt impressed upon listeners that none of his most influential mentors took a class or read books on mentorship.  They were simply intentional about getting involved in Curt’s life and making a positive impression.

What Does it Take to be a Good Mentor?

Desire to Share—be willing to share personal experiences and advice with others
Time—everything takes time and we know you don’t necessarily have it.  That’s why mentorship is intentional.  You choose to make time for another individual.
Reality Check—slow them down, help them see realities of their situation and evaluate them.
Develop Goals—based on that reality check, what goals are necessary for you to still be a successful mentor and help this individual grow?

Ask More/Advise Less—Curt advises us to ‘think Socratic’; ask more and you’ll get more.
Listen—being a mentor isn’t simply about sharing your life experiences and opinions.  Listen to theirs.
Plan—in order to help your mentee be successful, you need to plan for it.  What are their goals?  What do you hope to help them learn or accomplish?
Curt believes that positive mentorship is mutually beneficial.  During his presentation he equates it to, “iron sharpening iron, you grow each other.”  He also cautions against waiting for them to come to you.  If you feel compelled to enter someone’s life in a more intentional and focused way, you might have to create the relationship yourself.  However, taking this step has benefits that grow exponentially.
Positive mentorship experiences increase the likelihood of future mentoring in others and you play a role in growing culture with intent. 

Putting Mentorship to Work

This all sounds fine and dandy, but how does it apply to you?  Well, let’s consider this perspective.  Any time you invite someone to join Farm Bureau, attend a meeting or help plan an event you have the opportunity to enter that person’s life as a mentor.  The same principle applies on the farm or ranch; we desperately need the next generation to return to production agriculture and engage in the industry.  While there are plenty of willing young folks out there, the process of getting started on your own or transitioning a family business from one generation to the next is especially daunting.  What a perfect opportunity to choose to be a mentor in someone’s life.
Mentorship is more than telling someone, ‘how we’ve always done it.’  In fact, it’s nearly the exact opposite.  A successful mentor often sees a mistake coming, may even advise against it, but ultimately lets the mentee fail (within reason, of course).  The role of a mentor in these situations is to provide the support and encouragement to say, ‘looks like that didn’t work, how are we going to fix it?”  Your job is allowing them to fail forward, make mistakes and teach them that they can get back up and keep going.
True mentors also help others identify and grow their own talents, interests and ideas.  You’re not creating a mirror-image of yourself.  That can be difficult to swallow for those of us who are transitioning the family business or handing over the reins at the County Farm Bureau, but it’s necessary if your true intent is the continued growth and success of your family business or local Farm Bureau.