Peter Pan: The Boy Who Never Grew Up is a Better Mentor Than You

When Peter Pan teaches the Darling children how to fly, he uses a process for mentorship that's so simple even a kid can do it.

Many people in business go wrong by over complicating things. They give too much information too quickly and miss key moments of support. If you've made the same mistakes in the past, Peter has a 5-step process to successful mentorship that can help you.


The 5 Steps to Peter Pan's Mentorship

People complicate the idea of "mentorship" too often. They think of Daniel waxing on and off all day under Mr. Miyagi's supervision or Luke Skywalker force-lifting a spaceship while Yoda watches.

In reality, mentorship is an everyday event. Everyone can benefit from having a mentor, and anyone can be a mentor to someone else. When an employee starts a new job, the supervisor showing them the ropes is acting as their mentor. But when a long-time employee takes on a new duty, they are being mentored by a supervisor just the same.

In Disney's animated retelling of Peter Pan, the scene where Peter teaches the Darling children to fly is very simple, and it's that simplicity that makes it a great example of mentorship. If you've never seen it or it's been a while, here's how it goes:


1. He breaks information down to bitesized pieces

Peter's instruction before their first attempted flight is very brief: "You think of a wonderful thought." He keeps the direction short and to the point, giving them only what he believes they need to perform the new behavior.

As you mentor others in a work environment, think of how you can break new information down to its simplest form. People perform new behaviors better if they are simple.


2. He demonstrates the desired behavior

After Peter's simple instruction, he flies around the ceiling of the small room. He gives them an expectation of what flight should look like and what he expects them to do.

If you've ever learned to play piano, this is what your teacher was doing when they played a piece before giving you the sheet music. Demonstrating a desired behavior gives people an example of what they're expected to perform. It takes an abstract idea of behavior and makes it concrete.


3. He works directly with the people he's mentoring as they learn

When Wendy, John, and Michael make their first attempt at flight, they all hold hands with Peter, and he helps them into the air. Then he lets go to see how they do.

Guide your employees personally wherever possible. Face-to-face interaction and supervision helps people feel like you care, and it puts you in a position where you can best see how they're improving and where they need help. That being said, also be careful not to micromanage. Peter letting go after he's guided them is essential. Just as much as people need face-to-face supervision, they also need opportunities to try things on their own.


4. After failure, he re-evaluates

After the three children crash, Peter takes the time to evaluate what happened and what went wrong. When he realizes what was missing (pixie dust), he personally takes care of it.

Help your employees overcome obstacles. If you want them to succeed, you must ensure they have all the necessary tools for success. Also, don't be too hard on employees if they don't succeed right away. Instead, evaluate how you can better mentor or prepare them so they make fewer mistakes.


5. After success, he continues to guide

After everything is in place and the Darling children are actually flying, Peter doesn't just say, "Okay, great, here are the directions to Neverland. See you there tomorrow," and then take off. Instead, he continues to guide them in their flight.

Even after your employees are successfully implementing new behaviors, it's important to stay available. Follow up with them periodically to see how things are going. Give them the chance to ask any new questions that might arise and to give feedback so that you can improve along with them. The biggest secret to being a successful mentor is being available, interested, and showing them you genuinely care about their success.


How You Can Improve Your Mentoring Skills

Bitesize knows how important mentors are. We design our training materials to help mentors as much as participants.

Watch this video to learn how Bitesize trains exceptional mentors.