At Willmar Electric, our purpose statement is “People Making a Difference for People.”

My last blog was about a friend who mentored a coworker to help them advance professionally, only to be left feeling unappreciated a few months later when the mentee moved on from the firm they worked at.

The situation reminded me of a talk I heard a few decades ago at a conference.  The talk was given by Howard Hendricks.  It was one of the most impactful talks I have ever heard.  I remember exactly where I was seated, I can still hear the keywords in my head today.

“In everybody’s life, there should be a Paul, a Barnabas, and a Timothy.” His message was that we should all have a mentor, a peer to who we are accountable, and a person we are mentoring.

Powerful stuff.

As you can tell by the names used in the story, it was Biblically based. I’m a Christian, so I know his message applies to me, but I assume it applies to everybody.  (Of course, I’m a Christian, so I think Christianity applies to everybody.)

Having a “Paul” in your life, being a mentee, is easy to apply.  If you don’t think you need to be mentored, please stop reading and don’t bother with interacting with me.  Not needing a mentor means you think you have arrived.  You think you are fully developed.  (You’re not, we can all improve.)

Having a “Barnabas” in your life, having a peer to whom we are accountable, can be challenging.  It isn’t easy to so open with somebody who sees your faults and is allowed to hold you accountable when needed.  Most of the time, people would prefer to just be accepted for who they are and left alone.  But if we are never held accountable over time, nobody will be able to stand to be around us for long periods.

When we fail to do what we say we are going to do or our actions don’t match our words, a friend comes alongside us and gently points our misdeeds. Otherwise, the rest of the world will see us as a hypocrite.  Everybody is a hypocrite.  The best people realize it and seek to improve their behavior.

Having a “Timothy” in your life is the hard part.  Being a mentor is tough.  First, it means you have the confidence in yourself to think you have the wisdom to pass along to somebody else.  It means you think you should serve as somebody else’s example.  We all have flaws, and if you are self-aware, you know them better than anybody else. But taking the risk of pouring into someone else’s life is critical if we are going to advance the things we hold dear.

See Howard Hendrick’s talk here. (He is at a men’s conference, so he speaks only of men.  But what he says transcends both genders).