Let mentees choose and down with dittos–more mentoring lessons from “The Voice”

It's my first season watching The Voice and I'm observing powerful lessons on mentoring. It's a topic that's especially close to my heart since writing "Organic Mentoring" with Barbara Neumann, based on her doctoral research on a new and needed approach to mentoring Millennials and GenExers.  Since the book's release, we've been privileged to travel and speak on the topic, and everywhere we go, we learn something new.  But who knew some of those insights would come from a popular TV show?

First, let the mentee choose the mentor. The young women Barbara interviewed said this too. How does it work on "The Voice"? The mentors are established artists. The first auditions are called blind auditions because the mentor can only hear the hopeful vocalists. They cannot see them.  But if the mentor hits a button, their chair spins around signaling that they are willing to mentor the vocalist–to put them on their team and work with them to develop their gifts. If more than one mentor spins  their chair around, then there's a little contest between the mentors to see who can persuade the younglings that they would be their best choice. They playfully spar with encouraging words and reasons why the novice should pick them, a virtual unknown. The mentee must make their choice quickly but their choice can ultimately mean the difference between moving forward in the competition or elimination.  The novice has probably considered their choice ahead of time, should chairs spin their way, but ultimately, their gut kicks in and they choose.

Why let the mentee choose the mentor? Because a healthy mentoring relationship requires a click–something that occurs when the mentor and mentee are drawn to one another. Then a natural comfortable relationship follows, combined with anticipation and excitement.  It's chemistry, like warming up mom's best apple pie and topping it off with best quality vanilla bean ice cream. When the two come together, something exciting happens.  I've experienced that click with many women in the seminary where I teach and at my church. And I've benefitted from the mentoring relationships that follow as much or more than the women I've walked beside. And, like mentors on "The Voice", I often find ways to encourage potential mentees before they initiate the relationship.

Just like the coaches on "The Voice" encourage potential mentees, I do that simply by starting up informal conversation in the hallway or where ever we happen to come into contact. I look them in the eye, learn their name, and listen to what's going on in their life. And if they sense the click, it's not long before they invite me for coffee or make an appointment in my office. Even the most confident young  woman benefits by knowing that I'm available, willing, and I think she's incredible–and I actually do. Every one of them is created in God's image with untapped gifts given by God Himself. We older women are called by God to help women coming behind us realize that potential. Just like someone believed in me when I could not believe in myself, these younger women need someone who will believe in them too. And when that "belief transfer" occurs, the sky's the limit! We saw it as novices metamorphed on "The Voice" and I see it every day with women I coach. It blesses me to be part of that!

Second, don't try to remake the mentee into a ditto of you. What fun to see novices progress from the blind auditions to the finale! I've watched several of the coaches closely to ascertain their approaches to mentoring.  And I've noticed that the best mentors give the novice freedom to develop their own style and create the kind of music that best suits their gifts and their preferences. They don't try to remake them into miniature Pharrells, Blakes, Christinas, or Adams.

Young Christian women told Barbara that they appreciate mentors who don't see them as a receptacle to be filled, a makeover candidate, or a potential ditto. We who mentor should sit up and pay close attention. Young women today have a strong sense of individuality and they believe that there are many ways to be a godly Christian woman. For many of us older women, choices were limited. When my mother was growing up, a woman who wanted a career could become a nurse or a teacher–that was about it! Today women can enter almost any career. When my mother was growing up, almost all Christian women were wives and mothers. Today some young Christian women are following the counsel of Paul and deciding that they can serve God more fully by opting out of these traditional roles. And for others the timing is simply different. If a mentor attempts to pour every young woman into the mold she created for herself, the mentee may run for the exit as fast as she can go.  The mentees who made it far were coached to explore different options.  The result was each mentee finding and developing their own voice and style according to their particular design.  And that's what we want for our mentees whether they are fourteen or forty. God has made each woman beautiful in her own way–the mentor's role is to help her discover that beautiful design and how God wants her to develop into the fullest and best version of herself.  

These are just two examples of positive coaching from "The Voice"–helpful for mentors today. I've seen others, fodder for a future blog. How about you? Any practical tips you can share from unusual sources? I'd love to hear your insights.


Sue Edwards

Dr. Edwards is Assistant Professor of Christian Education (Specialization: Women's Studies) at Dallas Theological Seminary and holds degrees from Trinity University, DTS, and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. She is the author of New Doors in Ministry to Women, A Fresh Model for Transforming Your Church, Campus, or Mission Field and Women's Retreats, A Creative Planning Guide. She has 30 years experience in Bible teaching, directing women's ministry, retreat and conference speaking, training teams and teachers, and writing curriculum. Married to David for 34 years, she especially enjoys extended family gatherings and romping with her four grandchildren.

One Comment