…the business of the Scouter — and a very interesting one it is — is to draw out each boy and find out what is in him, and then to catch hold of the good and develop it to the exclusion of the bad. There is five per cent of good even in the worst character. The sport is to find it, and then to develop it on to an 80 or 90 per cent basis.
The Greek god Mentor was charged with the care of Odysseus’ son Telemachus when Odysseus left for the Trojan War. Mentor’s name has become identified with those who, more or less informally, share practical advice, wisdom, and knowledge with less experienced colleagues.
Mentors can be teachers, instructors or coaches but their role is distinct from teaching or coaching.
Mentors inspire sparks of interest into a fire of concentration and development that leads people to believe in themselves, to achieve the improbable or impossible. They concentrate on the talents and possibilities evident in those they mentor, working to help them push us past perceived limitations, self-doubt and realize our full potential.
Mentors have great faith in us when others may not, they are there when we falter, not to pick us up, but to show us how to pick ourselves up and keep on going.
Mentoring well is, as Baden-Powell said above, a ‘sport’ and an ‘interesting business’. Words are the tools Mentors use to convey encouragement, instruction and real faith in the individual. Mentors are not busybodies or micro-managers; they don’t suffocate their subjects. Mentors are not glorified cheerleaders; they maintain critical objectivity and tell you things only someone with an honest interest in your welfare can.
Mentoring Scouts can be aimed directly at building character, but shouldn’t devolve into lecturing. As B.P. said above our job is not a direct attack on the bad, but a strengthening of the good.
Mentoring Scouts is a continuous process for Scouters. Mentoring relationships may be casual or formal (the Scoutmaster, for example, is formally charged with mentoring the youth leadership) but they ought to be coordinated so Scouts aren’t getting conflicting advice from several sources at once.
Mentoring Scouts is not doing things for them, it’s clearing the way, inspiring and enabling them to do things for themselves.