It is important to gain an understanding of the relationship between a Mentor and the Candidate. When carried out properly, this relationship will be a changing one as the candidate develops his understanding and engagement within the Craft.
The role of a Mentor is much more than just a teacher, being more of an advisor, coach, confidential counsellor and sounding board. In fact, the role of a teacher will only exist during the initial stage of the process. Yes, there is a lot to learn for a new mason and there will be times when a Mentor does sit down and impart knowledge (teach), perhaps by explaining a section of ritual or the role of a specific office. However, this is really just the basic part of the mentoring process which will probably occur mainly at the start of the relationship as the candidate progresses through the three degrees. True mentoring will come when a candidate starts to manage his own learning and is guided along this path by his Mentor.
Great teachers share their knowledge and make learning enjoyable and effective. They focus on the three I's: Inspiration, Implementation and Integration. Firstly, they inspire people to want to learn. Secondly, they provide implementation tools that work. Thirdly, they help people to integrate their learning into their daily lives. We never forget a great teacher. As mentioned, this role will mainly take place at the start of the relationship.
Once the basic knowledge has been grasped, the relationship will develop into one of coaching. Good coaches often take three steps. Firstly, they encourage people to build on their strengths. Secondly, they equip people to tackle areas of improvement. Thirdly, they enable people to achieve ongoing success. Good coaches also recognise that people have different learning styles. Before communicating knowledge, they ask themselves "How can I put this message in a way the person can accept?"
A mentor will also act as an advisor. Advisors are people we seek out, to obtain specialist knowledge or advice on how to deal with a certain situation. To be able to carry out this role, the mentor must have credibility with the candidate and hold their respect. But how do you gain such credibility and respect? Several tips are worth bearing in mind. Firstly, be true to yourself. Secondly, be clear on your strengths. Thirdly, be clear on your limits.
A candidate may also look upon their mentor as a role model. Role Models are people we admire. They provide examples that we may wish to copy and emulate. Teachers for example can have a profound impact on us if they are inspiring and bring their subject to life. Sometimes we find ourselves talking, dressing or acting like them in our own lives. Positive models at work, for example, teach us about 'the things you must do to be successful around here'.
A Mentor may also be asked to perform the role of counsellor. Counsellors meet people who want to solve a problem they are experiencing in their personal or professional lives. This can be just as true within their Masonic lives as well. The classic method is to create a safe environment, practice listening skills and be non-directive. Providing the Counsellor acts as a good 'third ear', the person is often able to find their own answers to the problem.