Friends Influence Health, Happiness and Productivity

The value of friendships in our society across both our private and our public lives has been completely under-rated, according to New York Times best-selling author Tom Rath. Drawing on more than five million interviews conducted by The Gallup Organization as well as the work of several leading researchers, Mr. Rath uncovered some startling truths about the bonds we form and how they affect everything from our attitude to our productivity. The results are provocative and certain to change the way we look at friendships. Mr. Rath details all in his latest book: Vital Friends: The People You Can’t Afford to Live Without.

Among the author’s discoveries:

• People who have a “best friend” at work are seven times more likely to be engaged in their work. They also have fewer accidents, more engaged customers, and are more likely to innovate and share new ideas.

• Although most companies don’t encourage, and some outright forbid, close relationships between workers, Gallup research shows that close friendships at work boosts employee satisfaction by almost 50%.

• The research overall shows that the quality of the friendships in life are the best predictors of daily happiness and life satisfaction, and have profound implications for physical health and longevity.

• People with at least three close friends at work were 46% more likely to be extremely satisfied with their job and 88% more likely to be satisfied with their lives.

• Friendship is the silver lining in a marriage, accounting for approximately 70% of overall marital satisfaction, and was found to be more than five times as many people ranking it as more important than sex or “intimate relations.”

• Spending time with the boss was rated as the least pleasurable time of the day. However, when employees have a close friendship with a boss, they are more than twice as likely to be satisfied with their jobs.

• The water-cooler effect: Employees are three times as likely to have a close-knit work group if the physical environment makes it easy to socialize. Unfortunately, only one-third of the people studied report working in such an environment.

• Do friends shape your waistline? If a best friend has a very healthy diet, you are more than five times as likely to have a very healthy diet yourself.

• Successful friendships are the ones in which friends play a specific role in your life. There are eight roles of friends defined in the book (see below). The fatal mistake in friendships is forcing one person to fill every role.

The studies that the book is based on reveal that people have significantly better friendships if they can easily describe what each friend contributes to the relationship. To make that possible, Gallup built an assessment to help people determine the roles friends play and to give both participants the language to talk about those roles and how to make them better. Each copy of Vital Friends has a unique code that allows readers to take the assessment that identifies what role a friend plays in his or her life.

Here’s a look at the top eight friendship roles that research uncovered:

Builders are friends who motivate you, invest in your development, and truly want you to succeed — even if it means they’ll go out on a limb for you. These friends help you see your strengths and advise you on how best to use them. They are generous with their time and encourage you to accomplish more. They’ll never compete with you and will always be standing at the finish line to cheer you on.

Champions stand up for you and your beliefs and they praise you to everyone else they know. They are the friends who “have your back” and will advocate for you when you’re not around to defend yourself. Champions are your strongest supporters who thrive on your accomplishments and happiness.

Collaborators are friends with similar interests, those who share your passion for sports, hobbies, religion, work, politics, food, movies, music, or books. Shared interests are what often make collaborators lifelong friends and those with whom you are most likely to spend your time.

Companions are always there for you, whatever the circumstances. You share a bound that is virtually unbreakable and when something big happens in your life, good or bad, this is the person you call first. These friends are always giving you meaningful gifts and they will sacrifice for your benefit.

Connectors are the bridge builders who help you get what you want. These friends get to know you and then instantly work to connect you with others who will share your interests or goals. They extend your network dramatically and give you access to new resources. If you need a job, a doctor, a friend, or a date, call a connector.

Energizers are fun friends who are always there to boost your spirits and create more positive moments in your life. They pick you up when you’re down and can turn a good day into an even better one. Energizers are those to call on when you need a laugh, a smile, or a bit of relaxation in your day.

Mind Openers are the friends who stretch your viewpoint, introduce you to new ideas, opportunities, cultures, and people. They help you to expand your vision and create positive change in your life. These are the friends who challenge conventional wisdom and come up with creative solutions to whatever problems or obstacles you face. They are stimulating and motivating and allow you to express opinions that you might be uncomfortable articulating to others.

Navigators are friends who give advice and direction. You seek them out when you need guidance and counsel — they’re great at talking through your options. Navigators are best at hearing your dreams and goals and then helping you find the path to achieve them.

Having the right expectation of your friends is everything, writes Tom Rath in Vital Friends. If your expectations of a friend are in line with what they contribute to your friendship, the relationship is poised to thrive and make both of you better off in the process.

In the foreword to the book, Tom Rath provides some fascinating insight into his own interest in the concept of friendships and their value. “The energy between two people is what creates great marriages, families, teams and organizations,” writes Mr. Rath. “Yet when we think consciously about improving our lives, we put almost all of our effort into self-development. As I look back on my formal education, it was based almost entirely on mastery of a topic or building my knowledge base. In grade school, I learned how to read, multiply, and write, and I attempted to learn a foreign language. During college and graduate school, I had the opportunity to focus on even more specific topics that piqued my interest. Throughout my professional life, I have attended countless development programs that aimed to make me more productive. Even when I have dedicated time to developing others, my attention has focused on each person’s self-development. I had it all wrong. The potential was hiding within each relationship in my life.”

The book shines a potent and provocative new light on the value of friendships throughout our lives and gives us each the tools to make the most of each and every one of these connections.

About the Book Author:
Tom Rath is the coauthor of the #1 New York Times and #1 BusinessWeek bestseller, How Full Is Your Bucket? With more than 500,000 copies in print within its first year of publication, his book has spent 15 months on the domestic bestseller list. Now available in more than ten languages, Mr. Rath’s book has also been an international bestseller. After 12 years with The Gallup Organization, Mr. Rath now leads Gallup’s Workplace Research and Leadership Consulting worldwide. He also serves on the board of, an organization dedicated to cancer research and patient support. Mr. Rath earned his bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Michigan. He is currently pursuing graduate degrees at Johns Hopkins University and the University of Pennsylvania. He lives in Washington, D.C.

Book Purchase Details:
The book, Vital Friends: The People You Can’t Afford to Live Without, can be purchased from (for Canadian orders), (for US orders), or for international orders.

Famous and Not So Famous Mentoring Relationships

In preparing for mentor program leader training and talks to corporate stakeholders about mentoring, I would punctuate my comments with examples of mentoring relationships between people whom I thought my audience would recognize.

This goal had three outcomes. One, I discovered how much more popular informal mentoring has been over the ages than I had realized; two, audience members were often inspired to take action towards mentoring based on their admiration for the people, heroes, or role models they saw in the examples; and third, over time I compiled a list of thousands of mentoring relationships.

What follows are examples from four of the ten categories:

  • Actors, Comedians, Producers and Directors (Stage, Screen, and TV)
  • Mentoring relationships depicted in motion pictures and television
  • Musicians, Songwriters, and Singers
  • Classical and Broadway Musicians, Composers, Conductors, Ballet, and Modern Dancers
  • Fashion, Media, and Celebrities
  • Artists, Writers, Photographers, Publishers, Novelists, Poets
  • Mentoring relationships depicted in print (novels stories, fiction)
  • Sports Figures, Athletes, and Coaches
  • Historical, Political, Spiritual and Civic Leaders
  • Business, Industry, Education, Science, and Medical Leaders






The full list of mentoring pairs is available at





Solving a Multi-Billion Dollar Problem with Mentoring

PeerLogo-ObamaPeer Resources conducted a national study of the 2000 most productive corporations in Canada to determine the extent to which they were involved in mentoring (Carr, 1999). Almost 1700 of these companies participated in and completed our interviews. Our findings revealed that the two primary reasons for establishing a mentoring program in these highest producing Canadian corporations were (1) to provide opportunities for the career development of employees, and (2) to identify and nurture leadership potential in employees.

We also found one other result. Unfortunately, we did not pay sufficient attention to this additional finding because at the time we were too focused on how to bring mentoring youth in the community and corporate mentoring experience together. Today, however, this finding could be considered a multi-billion dollar oversight. What we found was that less than five percent of the sampled corporations reported that mentoring served either the purpose of (1) attracting and retaining employees, or (2) establishing systematic leadership succession planning.

Ironically, these two infrequently noted mentoring strategies can be more easily examined in terms of cost implications or return on investment (ROI) than either of two reasons that led most companies to initiate mentoring programs. Today, for example, more and more companies are recognizing the cost of losing an employee. Turnover or employee loss can be as high as 50 percent in some industries. Previously all the costs associated with recruiting, interviewing, selecting, and training a replacement employee remained obscure. Now, however, business analysts have consistently calculated that for every employee that leaves a company the cost to the company will be about 1.5 times the employee’s salary to hire a replacement.

I don’t shop at Wal-Mart very often, but I’m always impressed by the range of products and friendly service. Yet I noticed something that seemed at odds with the friendly service: I hardly ever encountered the same employee when I returned to scout out another product. My observation was verified by a stunning figure that appeared in a recent business newspaper. Wal-Mart has to hire between 500,000 and 600,000 employees a year to replace employees who leave. While the article I read was focusing on the progress unions were making in organizing workers (not much), the turnover figure left me wondering about Wal-Mart and how much this turnover is costing them.

Wal-Mart employs close to 1.6 million associates worldwide. The average salary of a Wal-Mart employee is estimated to be between $US13,000-15,000. Managers average between $80,000 and $106,000. Using the cost-of-turnover formula, this means that Wal-Mart spends approximately $1 billion dollars annually just to replace employees!

Replacement cost also includes the costs associated with (1) a staff managing the existing work load when an employee leaves, and (2) the time staff must take to orient a new employee and bring him or her up to speed. If turnover is extensive, it can severely disrupt the workplace and have a dramatic impact on productivity. These factors, which previously were not considered part of turnover cost calculations, are now more likely to be estimated when assessing how turnover impacts the dollar value of productivity.

Recognition of this cost has prompted many companies to search for better ways to reduce turnover and increase an employee’s commitment to and connection with the organization. Some of these companies rely exclusively on strategies that improve pay, bonuses, perks, or other financial incentives. But a rapidly increasing number of corporations are relying on mentoring strategies to prevent or reduce turnover. The primary reason for choosing mentoring is because study after study of new employees, questioned about what attracts and keeps them associated with their employers, has shown three consistent needs: (1) opportunities available for learning; (2) associations with people who care about the work they do; and (3) ability to engage in meaningful work. No other workplace strategy can fit more snugly with these needs than mentoring.

Employees are not the only ones who leave a corporation. One of the results described in a 2004 study by Booz Allen Hamilton of the world’s 2,500 largest companies has shown a dramatic rise in the number of CEO’s (14 percent) leaving their corporate position. European and Asian countries have even higher percentages of revolving door CEO’s.

A recent study ( showed that the average CEO pay in 70 of the 100 largest companies in the US is $14.1 million. Yet too few of these corporations have in place any type of leadership succession plan. The number of companies that hire an external CEO far outnumbers those that hire from within. Yet data from the Booz Allen Hamilton study shows that external hires are more likely to result in an unsuccessful tenure often resulting in the newly-hired CEO leaving before term, lowered overall productivity, and an endless string of bad hires. The situation has become so rampant at the top executive level, the authors of the Booz Allen Hamilton study called CEO’s “the new ‘temps’ of the working world.”

The cost to replace a CEO is staggering. Yet the cost to create a leadership succession plan where top executives mentor less senior executives is minimal. Corporations must establish a way to groom future candidates for the chief executive position. The creation of an executive-level mentoring system is essential to continue the productivity of the corporation and the accountability to shareholders. McDonalds (as reported in the Booz Allen Hamilton study) lost two CEO’s to untimely deaths during one year. Yet they were able to continue on despite these tragedies because of their well-established executive mentoring program.

Mentoring today is necessary at all levels of corporate life. While ROI isn’t the only reason to initiate and maintain a mentoring program in business, the tools available now to measure such returns add considerable weight to the value of mentoring and its impact on benefits to corporate life.

For further information about the studies cited in this article:

Carr, R. (Winter, 1999). The status of corporate mentoring in Canada: A survey of the 2,000 most productive businesses. Compass: A Magazine for Peer Assistance, Mentorship, and Coaching, 15, 1, 13-19. (Retrieved from

Challenger, Grey, & Christmas, Inc. (2015). 2015 December CEO report: 114 CEOs out in December bring yearly total to 1,221. Author. (Retrieved from

Lucas, S. (November 2012). How much does it cost companies to lose employees? CBS MoneyWatch (Retrieved from

Lucier, C., Schuyt, R., and Tse, E. (Summer, 2005). CEO succession 2004: The world’s most prominent temp workers. strategy+business. (Retrieved from

Riggs, P. (2005). Executive remuneration: thriving under observation? Mercer Human Resource Consulting. (Retrieved from

“Someone’s sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago.”

~ Warren Buffett ~

Turning Concepts into Experiential Training

Albert Einstein
Physicist and mentor, Albert Einstein (1879-1955)

Adults with minimal formal education are often reluctant to rely on written material as a way of gaining knowledge. Many adults with considerable formal education will describe the struggles they had using what they read as a basis for their learning. No matter how well a training binder is prepared, nor how important the information contained in the binder might be, persons who have aversions to such prepared formats will be unable to benefit from such best intentions.

A recent workshop I led provided support to this viewpoint. Considerable emphasis had been placed on preparing materials for the participants in a training workshop. A nifty binder was devised, and simple, straightforward, easy-to-read materials were created for the content. Each participant received the binder several days prior to the workshop.

At the workshop, only a handful of those gathered said they had examined the binder ahead of time. During the workshop, almost no one voluntarily or spontaneously opened the binder to use as a learning aid.

Faced with limited time, trainers will often opt to cram a lot of facts into a short time period, relying on a lecture, handouts, and presentation as the most efficient way to help participants learn the material. Participants might be dazzled by an entertaining and humorous talk. Or they might be awed by an intelligent lecture. But have they actually learned something they can use directly to improve their own work and goals? What seemed like an efficient method of organizing information actually turns out to be an ineffective way to ensure learning.

One reason trainers rely on lectures is that they may not have the experience to trust in group process. That is, the leader may not know how to assist a group to learn what it needs and to act on those needs. They may not be willing to give the group the opportunity to veer in its path towards fulfilling its learning needs. And if the group falters or goes off track, most trainers do not know how to help the group restore the agenda.

Some trainers make a mistake in the opposite direction. They do not see themselves as part of the learning group, and they fail to make contributions to the group. Instead they “bite their tongues” and do not want to interfere with group process. This hands-off attitude typically is experienced by group members as confusing and frustrating and usually polarizes the group with many group members tuning out.

Virtually any concept can be turned into an experiential learning activity. Start with learning goals. If your goals include terms like “increase awareness” or “create understanding” that’s a good start, but it may not be enough. Go a step further and ask yourself: “what should participants be able to DO (differently…) as a result of this learning event. Thinking differently could be an important change, but may not be the practical action you had in mind. Moving from one level of awareness to a different degree of awareness may be an important change, but still may not lead to the results you wanted.

Suppose the concept you want participants to learn is something like: personal support is more likely to bring about change than perceived threat. Your starting learning goal might be: participants will understand the typical impact of support and threat on change. But what ought the participants be able to DO with this understanding? One possible action learning goal might be: use at least 3 ways to reduce threat.

Here’s how Grey Owl, one of the authors of Peer Resources’ experiential learning cycle, would structure a learning activity to achieve the action learning goal. First he would ask the group participants to recall a time in their lives when they made a significant change. Then he would have the participants pair with each other and briefly share their change stories. Next he would ask the group members to brainstorm the factors that helped and hindered their change. Using a flip chart, a list of the factors would be produced. If certain factors do not appear on the lists, Grey Owl would ask the participants: what role… (the missing factors)…played in their change experience. He might also ask the participants to state what specific things their group partner did that helped or hindered them sharing their story of change. Depending on their comments, additional factors would be added to complete the list.

Grey Owl would then ask the participants to examine the two lists and determine whether any general themes or principles could be derived. One way this can be done is to ask the participants: “When you look at this particular list, what meaning does it have for you?” When the various meanings are shared, common themes are underscored and exceptions are noted.

Focusing on the action phase of the experiential learning model, Grey Owl, would ask the participants to consider the themes and meaning identified and describe three specific actions they might individually take to help someone make a change. As a validation, participants would be asked to determine the degree of fit between the three actions they have selected and their charted list of factors that helped and hindered their own changes.

(Contact the author for additional articles about Peer Resources’ Experiential Learning Model.)

Ray Bradbury (1921-2012): The Mentor Who Spoke for Martians

162raybradburyRay Bradbury, the writer most responsible for bringing modern science fiction into the literary mainstream, died June 5, 2012. He was 91, and had amassed not only a phenomenal body of work but also acted as a literary mentor to hundreds of writers as well as scientists, in addition to having mentors of his own.

Two of Bradbury’s own mentors were Robert Heinlein, one of the greatest science fiction writers of all time; and Ray Harryhausen, a pioneer in motion picture visual effects creating the elaborate special effects in movies like Jason and the Argonauts and Clash of the Titans.

Ray Bradbury met Ray Harryhausen when he was 18 and they began a lifelong friendship. Bradbury said of Harryhausen, “This guy kept a mechanical dinosaur in his garage. And we were both ridiculed for our dreams as kids.” This struggle to be accepted helped them work together to find ways to express their creative ideas.

Harryhausen was also best man at Ray Bradbury’s wedding in 1947 and said that the minister at his friend’s wedding gave Bradbury’s donation back, saying, “You’re a writer, aren’t you? Here, you’re going to need it.”

Another one of Ray Bradbury’s early mentors was Mr. Electrico, a carnival entertainer who jolted himself with electricity and then zapped members of the audience with a sword. Mr. Electrico touched young Bradbury and said, “Live forever!”

On the day of his uncle’s funeral, Bradbury spotted Mr. Electrico and his troupe alongside the road as the family drove by. Bradbury made his father stop and let him out. The entertainer showed him around, introducing the boy to the other entertainers, including the illustrated man, who were then called ‘freaks’.

“You’re the reincarnation of my best friend, who died in my arms during World War I,” Mr. Electrico, once a Presbyterian minister from Illinois, told the young Bradbury.

“That day I was running away from death,” Bradbury explained. “Mr. Electrico saw something in me that I didn’t see.”

Ray Bradbury was a mentor to many writers. One of them was Richard Bach, who was later to be best known for his book, Jonathan Livingston Seagull. When Bach finished his first book, Stranger to the Ground, Bradbury wrote to him and said, “At the end of life when we must all lay ourselves out, with what thoughts shall we do so? Will we think, ‘I did my best!’ or will we think, ‘I never tried.’”

Colin Marshall, the host and producer of Notebook on Cities and Culture reviewed a keynote address that Ray Bradbury made in 2001 to the Point Loma Nazarene University’s Writer’s Symposium By the Sea, where Bradbury tells stories from his writing life with the intention of acting as a spirit mentor to those aspiring writers in the audience.

Marshall identified the following 12 points from Bradbury’s speech and offered his interpretation of what Bradbury told the audience:

Don’t start out writing novels. They take too long. Begin your writing life instead by cranking out “a hell of a lot of short stories,” as many as one per week. Take a year to do it; he claims that it simply isn’t possible to write 52 bad short stories in a row. He waited until the age of 30 to write his first novel, Fahrenheit 451. “Worth waiting for, huh?”

You may love ‘em, but you can’t be ‘em. Bear that in mind when you inevitably attempt, consciously or unconsciously, to imitate your favorite writers, just as he imitated H.G. Wells, Jules Verne, Arthur Conan Doyle, and L. Frank Baum.

Examine “quality” short stories. Bradbury suggests Roald Dahl, Guy de Maupassant, and the lesser-known Nigel Kneale and John Collier. Anything in the New Yorker today doesn’t make his cut since he finds that their stories have “no metaphor.” Bradbury suggests a course of bedtime reading: one short story, one poem (but Pope, Shakespeare, and Frost, not modern “crap”), and one essay. These essays should come from a diversity of fields, including archeology, zoology, biology, philosophy, politics, and literature. “At the end of a thousand nights,” so he sums it up, “Jesus God, you’ll be full of stuff!”

Get rid of friends who don’t believe in you. Do they make fun of your writerly ambitions? He suggests calling them up to “fire them” without delay.

Live in the library. Don’t live in your “goddamn computers.” He may not have gone to college, but his insatiable reading habits allowed him to “graduate from the library” at age 28.

Fall in love with movies. Preferably old ones.

Write with joy. In his mind, “writing is not a serious business.” If a story starts to feel like work, scrap it and start one that doesn’t. “I want you to envy me my joy,” he tells his audience.

Don’t plan on making money. He and his wife, who “took a vow of poverty” to marry him, hit 37 before they could afford a car (and he still never got around to picking up a license).

List ten things you love and ten things you hate. Then write about the former, and “kill” the later—also by writing about them. Do the same with your fears.

Just type any old thing that comes into your head. Bradbury recommends “word association” to break down any creative blockages, since “you don’t know what’s in you until you test it.”

Remember, with writing, what you’re looking for is just one person to come up and tell you, “I love you for what you do.” Or, failing that, you’re looking for someone to come up and tell you, “You’re not nuts like people say.”

When U.S. President Barack Obama learned of Ray Bradbury’s death, he offered the following words of tribute:

“For many Americans, the news of Ray Bradbury’s death immediately brought to mind images from his work, imprinted in our minds, often from a young age. His gift for storytelling reshaped our culture and expanded our world. But Ray also understood that our imaginations could be used as a tool for better understanding, a vehicle for change, and an expression of our most cherished values. There is no doubt that Ray will continue to inspire many more generations with his writing, and our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends.”

Ray Bradbury has published more than 500 works of literature, including short stories, novels, plays, screenplays, televisions scripts, an opera, and verse.

The Seven Steps Needed for Effective Peer Coaching in the Workplace

Advisory_GroupPeer coaching models, resources, and interactions are no longer limited to school-based services. Many organizations and businesses that emphasize cooperation, communication and team building are turning to peer coaching as a way to increase the resourcefulness of employees and provide a higher quality workplace.

One area where peer coaching has expanded is in law enforcement and emergency services. Several such organizations that use peer coaching are now listed in the Peer Programs section of the Peer Resources website. The model of peer coaching that is typically used is based on the seven-step model created by Rey Carr of Peer Resources. His model, called the Experiential Learning Cycle, is based on the steps necessary to maximize learning from experience.

What follows is a brief description of the focus of each step, a sample of what a peer coach might say in that step, and a short list of the skills a peer coach would use during that step.

1. Greeting, rapport building, expression of appreciation, setting an agenda. (“Hi, Kathy; I’m glad we’re able to get together today; I appreciate the opportunity to talk with you. One thing I’d like to do in the time we have together is to practice my coaching skills. How about you? What would you like to add to the agenda?”)

2. Exploration of the concern, issue, or situation. (“Okay, Kathy, tell me about your situation, concern or circumstance.”) Peer coach listens, expresses understanding, asks clarifying, not directing questions.

3. Setting goals or outcomes. (“Kathy, what’s the end result? or How would you like it to be? or What’s your goal here? And why is that -are they- important to you?”) Peer coach listens, expresses understanding, asks clarifying, not directing questions.

4. Establish a plan. (“Kathy, now that we know where you want to go and why getting there is important to you, what actions can you think of to bring your current reality closer to your goal?”) Peer coach listens, suggests ideas, shares experiences and what result they brought about and asks partner how peer coach ideas/experiences fit for him/her.

5. Plan for potential barriers. (Kathy, now that we have some ideas how to deal with your situation, what barriers, roadblocks, or resistance do you think you might experience trying to put your plan into action?”)

6. Action planning. (“Kathy, what do we need to do to put your ideas into practice? Which actions, who needs to do what, when; and are there any other steps that might be required?”) Peer coach listens, shares ideas.

7. Ending, rapport building, expression of appreciation, expression of confidence, follow-up schedule. (“Kathy, we’ve come up with a solid plan of action that seems like it will bring your reality closer to where you really want to be. And I’m confident that your plan will work given clarity of your goals, your motivation, and the attention you’ve paid to potential barriers. I particularly appreciated your willingness to talk with me about it. When do you think would be a good time for us to get together to talk about your progress?”)

Peer coaching and other forms of coaching clearly have much in common. What makes peer coaching more suitable for peer interaction in the work place is that peer coaching emphasizes mutuality or reciprocal interaction. Peers take turns coaching each other. There is also a greater degree of disclosure by the peer coach regarding his or her own experience and what the peer coach learned from that experience. Peer coaching builds on the natural inclination that peers in the workplace have to share and learn from each other.

While employees can benefit from training to strengthen their peer coaching skills, a majority of peer coaching takes place informally and spontaneously. Many employees have significant experiences at work or because of their work and do not have the opportunity to maximize their learning from those experiences. By having a person within their peer group who can act as a catalyst for such learning, employees are more likely to benefit from their experiences and improve the contributions they can make to living the vision of the organization.

Distinctions Between Mentors and Coaches May Rely on Spiritual Development

MENTORS Peer Resources LogoOne of the most frequently asked questions sent to the mailbox at Peer Resources is “What is the difference between a mentor, a coach and a counsellor?” Distinguishing between these three roles may actually be misleading, according to a recent e-mail response from Rey Carr, Chief Executive Officer at Peer Resources. Carr believes that “the language of distinction is at best motivated by a need for clarity or at worst indicative of turf guarding or competitiveness.” In order to distinguish between mentors, counsellors, and coaches, for example, someone has to pinpoint or describe each role. Such descriptions in Carr’s view typically stem from outdated, stereotyped or “straw man” role definitions. Carr reports that it is not unusual for a practitioner in one of the areas (for example, counselling) to read a description of what a coach does and remark,”Hey, I do most of those things too.”

Carr hypothesizes that few experienced practitioners in any of these roles worry about or spend much time on role differences. According to Carr, “experienced coaches and mentors can tolerate considerable ambiguity in their roles. Such acceptance can often lead to more productive, innovative and effective interactions. New coaches (or mentors or counsellors) may be developmentally unready to accept role merging. They may be more worried about where they fit into the scheme of things and how they are going to market their services.” Carr, who has trained hundreds of coaches, counsellors and mentors, believes that moving from a competitive stance, where one tries to distinguish oneself from others to a cooperative stance, where one discovers commonalities with others is a measure of spiritual growth, often ignored in most professional training programs.


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