Seven Mentors of Great Historical Figures

DegreeScout says, “Inspiration comes in a variety of forms. Many of us look to famous artists, intellectuals, entertainers and world leaders in search of ways to help us think, create, problem-solve and achieve. Yet, even the most famous and respected figures rely on personal mentors and heroes who are often a friend, family member, or teacher—an ordinary person whose wisdom, guidance and support has inspired them to achieve the extraordinary. The following are a few such examples.”

Read about all seven historical mentors

Mentors at the Superbowl

University_of_Phoenix_Stadium_field_02Virtually anyone can benefit from having a mentor. And most well-known, accomplished and successful people can identify people in their lives who acted as mentors. Seattle Seahawk’s Quarterback Russell Wilson considers Warren Moon to be a mentor; while New England Patriot’s QB Tom Brady considers Charlie Weis and Drew Bledsoe to be mentors.

The following list of mentor pairs was compiled from a variety of sources including autobiographies, biographies, newspaper articles, personal interviews, and diligent historical research. Mentor pairs portrayed in fiction or movies are also included.

Pairings are divided into ten general categories. In most cases mentors and their partners could be included in the same category. However, where a mentor and partner are from different career or life areas, the pairing has been placed in the partner’s category. (A few historical facts or humorous references to the term mentor are included at various places in the listings.)

The categories:

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

Add a Pair

If you know of other mentor pairs that could be added to this list, please e-mail:info@mentors.ca. Include the names of the pair and any sources you have to verify the mentor/partner relationship.

Who Mentored Whom Quiz Learning Activity

If time and facilities permit, I often use the Who Mentored Whom Quiz either as a ‘warm-up’ activity prior to the Mentors in Our Lives activity or as a fun way to conclude the Mentors in Our Lives activity.

Albert Einstein
Physicist and mentor, Albert Einstein (1879-1955) Who was his mentor? and Whom did he mentor?

The Quiz is a video that shows many famous mentoring pairs, and asks viewers to identify each person of the pair and guess which one was the mentor and which one was the partner. The video version that I have made is available on YouTube and draws from the thousands of famous mentoring pairs listed on the Peer Resources website.

This particular video on YouTube was prepared for a group of Canadian executives and includes mostly well-known Canadians who were (are) mentors and the well-known person they mentored. While the Quiz has a ‘scoring’ system, the real purpose of the Quiz is to reinforce the extent of mentoring throughout all walks of life, enable participants to gain insights about mentoring relationships, and have fun.

I suggest that users of this activity select the mentoring pairs from our list that will be most relevant to their own group, and then use Powerpoint to make their own Quiz or presentation.

Use Experiential Learning to Introduce Mentoring

Four-Way-Split_2A colleague recently asked me for ideas about how to introduce mentoring to the corporate executives he was coaching. This kind of request is becoming more and more prevalent in the business community as various executives and service providers learn about the value (or business case) for mentoring.

A consensus exists regarding the factors necessary to increase organization buy-in or commitment to a mentoring initiative, and they have been clearly identified by mentoring experts David Clutterbuck (see page 5 of this issue of the Peer Bulletin), Ann Rolfe of MentoringWorks, and Rene Petrin of Management Mentors. While the ingredients these experts enumerate are essential, I’ve created two activities that will  provide executives and managers with direct and immediate experience with mentoring, and engage even the most reluctant stakeholder in supporting the value of mentoring.

Activity One: Mentors in Our Lives

When many people are asked to identify a person in their life that they consider a “mentor,” they often draw a blank or say they didn’t have any mentors. This is not an unusual reaction. The term mentor can generate a variety of unstated definitions or characterizations based on popular myths.

This activity is designed to provide a more accurate definition of the term mentor, while at the same time establishing both a cognitive and experiential consensus for what characteristics are associated with the term mentor. Such a consensus typically increases interest in and commitment to mentoring.

The activity begins by asking participants to:

  1. “Think back in your life, and picture a person outside of your family from whom you learned what we might call a life lesson; that is, a lesson or viewpoint that you still use or think today.”
  2. “When you have that person in mind, write the person’s initials on a piece of paper.”
  3. “Find a partner in the room here, and (a) share the brief version of the life lesson (what you learned from the person); and (b) identify the characteristics of that person (or what you recall they did or said) that helped you learn this life lesson.”
  4. “After you’ve (each) identified and shared the list of characteristics with each other, see if you can further identify any common elements and rank them in terms of importance.

The activity leader then solicits the findings from the group members, and writes them on a flip chart or whiteboard. What’s happening here is that the activity leader has provided a definition of the term mentor (a person from whom you learn a life lesson), has engaged the participants in experiencing that definition, and is soliciting from the participants a list of mentor behaviours or actions without having to provide a lecture or presentation about mentoring. (This is the essence of the Peer Resources’ experiential learning model.)

When the group has provided the characteristics (that are now on the flip chart), the leader asks the group to rank the various characteristics in order of importance.

When this is completed, the leader then suggests to the participants that not only have they identified mentors in their lives, but they have also identified the characteristics that mentor experts also identify as associated with effective mentors.

Should the leader examine the list and see that they do not match up with what mentoring experts suggest are the key characteristics, then the leader can add those characteristics to the list and ask the participants for (a) their sense of why their list differs from the experts; and (b) what they think of the experts list.

To conclude this activity, the activity leader asks the participants to share (a) what they’ve learned from doing this activity; and (b) how they might use or apply what they’ve learned in their work or personal life (with the possible inclusion of expressing gratitude, thanks or appreciation, if appropriate, to the recalled mentor.)

Activity II: The Five-Minute Mentor

5 minThis activity can be used to assist stakeholders and others who might consider becoming mentors to directly experience (a) how little time it actually takes to be an effective mentor (thus reducing the often expressed concern about the time required); (b) how a mentor can be effective without being an “expert” (thus reducing the need to view mentors as “all-knowing” in their field); and (c) introducing participants to a set of steps and questions for effective mentoring. The activity consists of six steps and follows the Peer Resources experiential learning model.

In each of the steps that follow, I’ve suggested dialogue or questions that the Mentor can use. These prompts are designed to achieve the purpose or value of that particular step. The Mentor may need to engage in additional listening such as demonstrating understanding and asking for clarification in order to assist the partner to articulate his or her ideas. (As the facilitator of this activity I typically wander around to each pair and provide coaching if they are stuck or engaging in unhelpful prompts.)

Step One: Find a partner.

Decide who will be the mentor and who will be the partner. (Note that we call the person receiving mentoring a “partner” and not a mentoree, protege, or mentee. We believe that the term partner more accurately reflects the learning-oriented relationship of mentoring.)

Step Two: Develop the Relationship (Build Rapport).

The Mentor sends a welcoming message (verbal and non-verbal) like, “I’m glad we could meet together. I’m really looking forward to working with you as your mentor.”

The Partner sends an appreciation message (verbal and non-verbal) like, “Thanks for taking the time to meet with me. I think I can learn a lot from our connection.”

Step Three: Set the Agenda (Formulate the Purpose)

The Mentor initiates the conversation (typically during early mentor/partner meetings) to establish an agenda and says something like: “Let’s focus on this session with Rey.”

The partner responds by adding to the agenda by saying something like “That’s great; and if we have time, let’s arrange our next meeting time and possible topics.”

Step Four: Engage in the Learning Conversation (Share Objectives, Current Reality, Challenges, Methods, and Action Plans)

The Mentor says something like: “I’d like to know about your goals for this session. What’s the most important thing you want to learn during this session on mentoring?”

The Partner: (shares learning goals)

The Mentor: “What is it about your learning goal that makes it important to you?”

The Partner: (shares value)

The Mentor: “How do you plan to achieve your goal?”

The Partner: (shares strategy or plan)

The Mentor: “What, if anything, might interfere with your plan?”

The Partner: (shares possible blocks)

The Mentor: “What methods might you use or have you used in the past to prevent block(s) from occurring?”

The Partner: (shares methods)

The Mentor: “Given what we’ve discussed so far, what actions will you take to put your plan into practice?”

The Partner: (shares action(s)

Step Five: Close the Session (Assess Progress)

The Mentor (referring to the mentoring interaction) summarizes what he or she has learned, suggests an agenda item for next session, and expresses appreciation for something he or she has observed.

The Partner summarizes what he or she has learned, suggests an agenda item for next session, and expresses appreciation for something he or she has observed.

Step Six: Identify Learning and Action

Now that the mentoring pairs have completed their experience, the leader asks the participants to identify what they learned from engaging in this activity and how they plan to put that learning into practice in their current work or personal lives.

As a result of what participants share in this step, the leader will know how successful the session was in achieving the goals as well as what areas may need more clarification or elaboration. Thus, the leader may now be able to initiate discussion based on the actual experiences and concerns of the participants.

Advice-Giving: The Forbidden Fruit of Mentoring, Coaching, and Peer Assistance

 

176_lionstalkingAdvice-giving in a coaching, mentoring, or peer assistance relationship appears to be a controversial topic. Yet, access to such advice is often the most frequent reason why clients seek the help of coaches, mentors, and peers. How can there be such a disconnect between the anti-advice-giving training that these practitioners receive and the desire on the part of clients and partners to obtain such advice? This article identifies the origin of the no-advice principle, and provides a concrete alternative that enables clients to maximize their needs, and coaches, mentors and peer leaders to maximize their skill.
Prohibitions Against Advice-Giving
Lesley Matile, the Managing Director of The Coach Academy and a 25-year veteran coach exemplifies the standard view of advice-giving. She believes that "in the purest form of coaching, which I believe is the most beneficial to clients, there is no room for advice-giving." She equates "purest form" with a "non-directive" approach to coaching. She has merged the counselling technique originally developed and perfected by psychologist Carl Rogers with coaching. She thinks that giving advice hinders client motivation, ownership, commitment to change, and reduces life-long learning. She does provide two benchmarks to use to determine whether advice given by a coach has value for the client. She instructs coaches to keep track of the number of times a client will say "Yes, but" as a reaction to a coach giving advice; and (2) to track the action taken by the client as a result of coach suggestions versus ideas the client has generated as a result of asking the client a "wisdom-accessing" question.
Management expert Chris Argyris (1999) supports Lesley's position. Mr. Argyris argues that a preponderance of advice from the "masters" is full of mixed messages and often yields a range of unintended and counterproductive consequences. Often people send these mixed messages without any awareness of doing so. And in many cases the sender may also send a subtle message that says this advice is not for discussion or full examination. Not all advice will lead to disaster, and Argyris tempers his view by providing a basis for determining how to sort the good from the bad.
Rosamunde Bott (2007), a career and writing coach, believes that making suggestions to clients can actually have a catalytic impact and often helps a "stuck" client or session get back on track. She supports the necessity for a coach to be flexible and not become paralyzed by a coach training instruction such as "coaches should not give advice."
Parent_Book-coverIt's likely that the prohibition of advice-giving in a helping relationship was made popular almost 50 years ago when Tom Gordon, a student of Carl Rogers, created the revolutionary approach to raising children known as "Parent Effectiveness Training." Gordon characterized the typical ways we respond to others into 12 categories called "Roadblocks to Communication." Such messages interfered with effective communication and typically made the person on the receiving end of such messages feel defensive, blamed, angry, accused, patronized, or admonished; not the necessary ingredients for improving a relationship. Probably the most controversial "roadblock" he identified and the one that appeared to be the most difficult to stop was "giving advice."
Tom Gordon based his practical ideas on the work of psychotherapists Carl Rogers and Alan Carr, both of whom had no place for advice in their therapy. Most of the thousands of lay practitioners who became advocates for Gordon's communication effectiveness approach described giving advice as a "no-no." Literally hundreds of books and articles on communication skills published after his pioneering work echoed or duplicated his twelve roadblocks approach (many without accurate attribution). Parents, teachers, and thousands of others learning the Tom Gordon system were stymied by this end to advice-giving and struggled to prevent it from creeping back into their repertoire.
The best contemporary media example of the prohibition of advice-giving in a helping relationship is depicted weekly in the award-winning TV-show In Treatment. This North American cable-TV show is about a psychologist, Dr. Paul Weston (superbly played by Golden Globe winner Gabriel Byrne), who provides weekly one-on-one psychotherapy to a series of four different clients. The show also includes a weekly session where the psychologist sees his own therapist, Dr. Gina Toll (brilliantly played by Oscar- and Emmy-winner Dianne Wiest).
The show is adapted from a popular Israeli television series and recast for a North American audience. Each week, at some point during the patient's half-hour session, the patient will ask the therapist for advice. The psychologist always responds by asking the patient a probing question, and never gives the requested advice.
While the show is intense, moving, and very realistic, it also has some lighter moments--one of which highlighted the advice-giving dilemma. At one point when Dr. Weston is in session with his own therapist, he asks her for advice. The therapist responds with a question; to which the psychologist has a short tantrum and says, "Now I understand why my patients get so frustrated when I don't answer their questions. Just tell me what you think!"
The Carr Alternative for Effective Advice-Giving
But is advice-giving really a "no-no?" Isn't getting advice often the primary reason people seek out coaches, peers and mentors? And how many times have coaches and mentors had to "sit-on" an idea they thought would truly help the seeker merely because the "no-no" approach taught by all the disciples of "effective" communication admonished them against it.
There is an alternative. Years ago when I was one of Tom Gordon's students, I created a simple, five-point method for dealing with advice-giving. I modified my mentor's system so that the powerful human urge to give advice and the strong motivation to get advice from a peer assistant, mentor or coach could occur without being a roadblock to effective communication.
184_comfortIn my system, the first step for dealing with advice-giving is to determine the degree of risk associated with giving advice. For example, start by assessing the emotional state and the visionary capacity of the person asking for advice. Is the seeker overwhelmed, calm, agitated, enraged? The more activated (at one end of the emotional continuum) or the more depressed (at the other end of the continuum), the higher the risk that the advice will be meaningless, not heard, or completely rejected. Even worse (and often a stated reason for withholding advice), the advice seeker may act on the advice and when it doesn't work or leads to even more severe circumstances, the seeker blames the advice giver for the muck he or she is now mired in.
At the same time, a lack of vision, a low ability to forecast, or an inability to state goals, places the advice seeker in a poor position to understand advice and often leads to arguing with, disputing, or demeaning the advice giver. Persons who have a better idea of where they want to go and can articulate their goals are often able to hear advice not as a command, but as a possible option or suggestion.
Before doling out advice, then, the advice giver can reduce the risk of advice-giving contributing to poor communication by assessing both the emotional state and visionary ability of the seeker. When the assessment results in a low-risk conclusion, then advice-giving is more likely going to contribute to an improved and fulfilling relationship. (When the assessment reveals a high-risk situation, then continued deep listening and asking powerful questions are better options than advice-giving.)
Inviting a response logoWhen the advice giver determines that the seeker is in an appropriate low-risk state to receive advice, he or she can then extend what I call step two or "the invitation." In many cases the seeker has already specifically asked me for advice. But if this hasn't happened or is implied, I will ask seekers whether they think my sharing a similar experience and what I did about it might be helpful to their situation. In other words, I want the seeker to invite my contribution. I recommend an invitation such as "Would it be useful to you for me to let you know what I did about a similar situation and how it turned out for me?" This step can help the seeker feel supported and that he or she is not alone.
In step three, which I call "the disclosure step" the advice-giver draws upon his or her own life experience and frames the advice within that experience. Rather than saying, "Here's what you should do..." the advice-giver constructs his or her advice as a personal statement: "When I was experiencing (the advice-giver describes his or her similar situation), here's what I did or thought..." (The amount of description of the experience may vary depending on the circumstances.) The two key elements to this step are the advice giver's ability to "own" the advice ("here's what I did" and not "you should do this...") and "frame" the advice within his or her own life experience.
The fourth step in effective advice-giving is called "the open dialogue step" and is simply the next sentence that follows the disclosure step. I recommend adding a question to the end of the disclosure statement such as: "In what way, if at all, does my advice fit for your situation?" or "Having heard my description and what I did or told myself, how close does that come for your situation, challenge, or circumstance?" The purpose here is to encourage the advice-seeker to honestly react, respond, reject, or modify the advice giver's statement without disrupting the relationship.
Finally, in step five the advice giver listens deeply to the reaction of the seeker and through asking powerful questions helps the seeker modify, revise, or create the advice as to what to do or think. I call this final step "switching gears," (a term borrowed from Tom Gordon). The purpose of this step is for the advice giver to "let go" of the need to give advice; and let of of the need to insure that the seeker complies with the advice. Instead the advice giver tunes-in even more deeply to the seeker's circumstances and life experience.
Advice-giving is neither good or bad in a coaching relationship. Instead, it's more useful to think of giving advice as having risks. As coaches, mentors and peer assistants we can reduce the risk and ensure that giving advice contributes to an empowering relationship. Since giving advice and seeking advice are so strongly ingrained in our being, it's probably more useful to figure out how to do it effectively rather than relying on the more outdated communication skills models that prohibit giving advice.
References
Argyris, C. (1999). Flawed advice and the management trap: How managers can know when they're getting good advice and when they're not. London: Oxford University Press. This book can be purchased through Amazon.ca (for Canadian orders),Amazon.com (for US orders), or Amazon.co.uk for international orders.

Bott, R. (2007). To advise or not. Personal Success Magazine. (Retrieved April 30, 2009 from http://tinyurl.com/cjjfx6)

Sweeny, B. (2010). What a mentor can do when advice seems unwelcome. Peer Bulletin 210. (Retrieved November 2013 from http://www.peer.ca/Projects/Bulletin194.html).

Underhill, B. (2014). To give or not to give (advice, that is). CoachSource.

“ShDave_Thomasare your success and help others succeed. Give everyone a chance to have a piece of the pie. If the pie’s not big enough, make a bigger pie.”
~ Dave Thomas (1932-2002) ~
Founder of Wendy’s and Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption
Mentored by Phil Clauss and KFC founder Harland Sanders

Walter Cronkite (1916-2009): Remembering His Legacy

179_walter-cronkitenewsWalter Cronkite was one of the most recognizable and trusted journalists of the last 60 years. No other figure prompted as many young people to pursue journalism as a profession. And very few journalists provided as much mentoring to others as Mr. Cronkite. “Like many other aspiring journalists,” said Gordon Joseloff, “I grew up watching Walter and idolizing him. I was watching when he told us John Kennedy had died, when he said the conflict in Vietnam could no longer be won, and when man walked on the moon.”

When millions of Americans heard: “Direct from our newsroom in New York, this is the CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite,” hundreds started to dream of launching a career in broadcasting.

Bob Schieffer, who anchored the Saturday edition of the CBS Evening News from 1973 to 1996 said, “Walter used to talk to the reporters, he’d call you out on the beat – ‘what’s going on, why did they say this, why did they do 179_bob-schiefferthat.’ But, on those days when Walter would call you after the broadcast and say, ‘good job on that tonight,’ you really felt good about it because that was the highest compliment you could get.”

179_danratherDan Rather, who succeeded his mentor as the anchor of the CBS Evening News (1981-2005), said of his mentor in a report to NewsBusters: “Walter’s instructions to us in the field were always, you know, ‘Tell it straight without fear or favoritism. Pull no punches. Say it like it is, insofar as is humanly possible. Keep your own prejudices and biases and feelings and emotions out of it.’” Mr. Rather described his mentor as a person “who took the news seriously, but he didn’t take himself all that seriously.”

179_katie-couricKatie Couric, a journalist who moved from NBC to CBS and became the first solo female anchor of a major US-TV network, also recalls Walter Cronkite as her mentor. Ms. Couric saw him as a standard setter, who could balance objectivity with compassion and emotion. “I admired his honor, integrity and decency, and his spirit lives on in a very palpable way in the hallways of CBS.”

“His legacy is extraordinary,” she recently said in an interview show. “I get so inspired when I re-read something he wrote. When I got the job at CBS he took me out to dinner and told me about some of his greatest thrills as a journalist. And in every story he emphasized how important it was to be fair and objective. When he talked about President Kennedy’s funeral he got teary and I started to cry. But he also beamed with joy when he talked about the first space capsule. His voice was full of the enthusiasm of a child. I took to heart one of his most important perspectives on the news: ‘Get it first, but get it right.’”

The American public knew Mr. Cronkite for his objectivity, seriousness, and fact-based reporting, but less known was his playful nature outside of the newsroom. As reported in The New York Observer, Don Hewitt, the creator of 60 Minutes, told an anecdote about Mr. Cronkite’s sense of humor. “A new reporter had arrived while we were at Cape Canaveral,” said Mr. Hewitt, “and Walter said to him, ‘If you just keep looking at that rocket there on that green patch at the end of the runway there, you’ll see it blast off. Just don’t take your eyes off it.’ The guy sat there for six hours waiting for it to go off. It was a lighthouse.”

Mr. Cronkite also demonstrated that being a journalist did not mean withholding opinions. He believed, for example, that “America’s health care system is neither healthy, caring, nor a system.” He also noted the limits of a mentoring relationship when he said about Dan Rather: “He and I just aren’t especially chummy.” He also was concerned about leading a balanced life and said “I think somebody ought to do a survey as to how many great, important men have quit to spend time with their families who spent any more time with their family.”

Mr. Cronkite had a passion for sailing and New Orleans jazz. The New York Times reported that Mr. Cronkite liked to exchange off-color jokes with Ronald Reagan and “whimsically competed with his friend Johnny Carson to see who could take the most vacation time without getting fired.” (Source: New York Observer)

Partly because of his significant influence as a mentor, Arizona State University (ASU) established The Walter Cronkite Mentorship Program at the ASU Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. This program pairs students in the graduate program with experienced journalists.

Mr. Cronkite was clearly the most trusted journalist of all time. While I didn’t know him personally he taught me a valuable lesson that I have never forgotten and that I use continuously, and for which I owe him a debt of gratitude.

179_reyatsfstateDuring my graduate student days at San Francisco State University (then called San Francisco State College), I was, like students all across the US, actively involved in protesting the American war in Vietnam. My generation of anti-Vietnam war protestors owes him a significant debt. The efforts to end the US involvement in Vietnam through the mobilization of the largest anti-war movement in the history of the United States met with limited success.

But on February 27, 1968, US President Lyndon Johnson watched Walter Cronkite on the CBS Evening News comment that the Vietnam war was not winnable and an end must be negotiated, “not as victors, but as an honorable people who lived up to their pledge to defend democracy, and did the best they could.” President Johnson is reported to have responded by saying, “If I’ve lost Cronkite, I’ve lost Middle America.” Several weeks later President Johnson stunned a nation-wide TV audience when he announced he would not seek reelection.

The mentoring lesson I learned from Mr. Cronkite was that significant and lasting change can only come about from trust. It is seldom achieved through protest or aggression. I have carried that learning on in my work as a peer assistant, coach, mentor, employee, and CEO, as well as in my personal life with my family and friends.

“And that’s the way it is.”

Warren Bennis (1925-2014), Leadership consultant

Warren_BennisOne of the most sought after business leadership consultants in history, Warren Bennis advised presidents, business leaders, and students, and along the way became one of the most generous of mentors. He wrote more than 30 books on leadership and earned the title, “father of leadership.”

As an educator he led classes at Harvard, Boston University, MIT, and USC. His own mentors included Nobel Prize winning scholars, and one of the most well-known of his mentors was social psychologist Douglas McGregor. Dr. Bennis said Doug McGregor, “Pulled qualities from me I didn’t know were present. He not only recognized my potential, but he also gave me confidence.”

“Having a mentor like Warren Bennis,” wrote Dr. Mark Goulston, “not only makes you want to do a better job, it makes you want to be a better person.” Another business leader mentored by Warren Bennis was Dave Logan, founder of CultureSync. In describing the many things he learned from his mentor Dr. Logan said, “I’ve learned that no matter how busy I am, life will go much better for everyone (including me) if I take time out to mentor.”