Mentoring is about unfurling…

by | Mar 12, 2018

Today I met a friend who works for an organization that is financially highly successful and the economic gains to leaders in the higher ranks of this organization retains them far longer than the prevailing culture could possibly afford. My friend said being in this organization is like perpetually being in an ‘assessment centre’, you are continuously benchmarked and evaluated for the financial gain you are able to generate. Inspite of being highly successful and rewarded in her role, she didn’t seem particularly satisfied with the opportunities offered to grow. Though hers is probably an extreme case, I am aware that this is the reality of a lot of leaders today. Quarterly results and the unrelenting focus on bottom-line profits have unfortunately created organizational cultures where it is difficult for most of us to thrive as whole human beings.

We all need a counterweight. We are all hungry to learn in an expansive, emergent way rather than an evaluative, narrowing way. And this is what an effective mentoring relationship can offer us. Effective mentors facilitate learning through a process that is essentially power-free, they teach us through consultation and collaboration rather than constriction and assessment.

The anthropologist Carlos Castaneda used the word ‘magic’ to describe his unique mentoring relationship with the Yaqui medicine man, Don Juan – and truly it is my experience that there is a magical quality to the mentoring process when it takes a life of its own and leads mentor and protégé through an experience of shared discovery. The philosopher Ram Dass referred to mentoring as a ‘dance’ and biblical writers used fishing analogies to capture the spirit of mentoring magic and told of removing ‘scales from eyes’.

I have had the unique privilege to mentor across generations and across financial/social strata of society. From bright MBA students to successful professionals, refugees wishing to reintegrate into the workforce in Switzerland (through the wonderful Lernwerk) to women entrepreneurs in developing countries. And repeatedly I realize that effective mentoring cannot be a solo performance. To be effective and lasting, it must be accomplished through a two-way relationship – the synchronized efforts of two people. The synchrony and synergy of mentoring are what give it a dance-like quality. They are also what make it magical.

The mentor is a teacher, a guide and foremost a person acting to the best of her or his ability in a whole and compassionate way, and in plain view of the protégé. Mentoring is about being real and about being a catalyst. It is about personal power rather than expert or role power. It is therefore far more art than science. This is not to imply that a mentor must be some kind of a superheroine without flaws, doubts or vulnerabilities. If anything, a lot of research shows that leaders who embrace vulnerability are far more effective in leading towards transformation. Fundamentally, mentoring is about growing – mentors growing with protégés and protégés growing with mentors. The core of a mentoring relationship is more about a mutual search than imparting wisdom.

Effective mentoring is a song about unfurling – one in which the last few stanzas have yet to be written….

Thrivewithmentoring is my contribution to catalyse more mentoring relationships across the globe and create a more equal world. Thrivewithmentoring is grounded in very specific convictions: that the principal goal of mentoring is to create self-directed learners, that the primary tool for learning is discovery, and that the most effective context for reaching that goal is a learning partnership.

After 3 successful launches in Switzerland and India, Thrivewithmentoring brings the magic of mentoring to Basel on 15th March, 2018, 1800 hours at the wonderful kleinhafen.

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