What Can You Learn from Maya Angelou, “Mentor Extraordinaire?”

Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou said, “In order to be a mentor, and an effective one, one must care.”

We lost a powerful voice in the past week when Maya Angelou passed, but her voice will continue on. Ms. Angelou had a life of mentoring and touched the lives of millions who have had joy in reading her works. In the fuller quote below, she speaks to the role of a mentor in her relatable yet eloquent way:

“In order to be a mentor, and an effective one, one must care. You must care. You don’t have to know how many square miles are in Idaho, you don’t need to know what is the chemical makeup…of blood or water. Know what you know and care about the person, care about what you know and care about the person you’re sharing with.”

That’s a simple yet powerful statement about touching the face of the future.

You only need to read the quote once and you get her message loud and clear.


The dictionary describes this verb as “to make provision or look out for” or “to have an inclination, liking, fondness or affection.”

What does caring for your mentees look like to you?

I have a good example in my life. One of my mentors, Linda, knew that I was pretty anxious about a potential job opportunity coming up. It would mean a promotion for me as well as the extra responsibility that goes with that. She also knew my commitments at home and how I was seeking to honor time with my kids.

She showed she cared by listening to me. She’s a great listener! I walked through all of the pros and cons, my potential roadblocks, my list of “What ifs” (some of which was nail biting and fretting but she hung in there with me)

“What if I have to travel too much?”
“What if I miss out on some of the kids’ activities?”
“If I pass up this opportunity, what if another doesn’t come up?”

I don’t know that we solved it all at that particular get together, but I left feeling like she had my back and that, either way I decided to go, that she would be there to support me. I knew she cared.

(I didn’t take the job, by the way, and it turned out to the best decision ever!)

How about you? How are you showing your mentee that you care?

Here are some thoughts that might help you think about that:

Consider one mentee that you are currently working with
• Make a quick list in your mind of issues/concerns going on in their life
• Call or send a message to them to encourage them or plan a get-together
• When you do get together, invite them to share and then be a great listener

What else can you think of?

I honor Maya Angelou for her mentoring to so many and her contribution to the world. I suggest you pick up a copy of one of her books, perhaps her classic, “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” to get to know this influential “mentor extraordinaire” a little bit better.

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Lori Bachman created The MentorShift Group to equip mentors and mentees with a practical and powerful mentoring system. The system is designed to equip those who use it to, not only flourish in their own mentoring relationships, but to be able to transfer its success to others as well.