Nothing About Us Without Us

first-nations-group2010The recent youth suicides within Indigenous communities in northern Ontario are tragic and heartbreaking. As often happens when these dramatic events occur, community leaders, parents, teachers, and mental health agencies are often stunned, shocked and puzzled about what to do.

A typical reaction is to provide additional funding for existing mental health services and to fund other resources that are often associated with youth suicide such as poverty, hopelessness, physical and sexual abuse, overcrowding and low levels of education.

Less likely to rise to the top of the priority list are peer programs where trained and supervised youth take an active role in helping other youth to deal with despair, hopelessness, fear, and trauma.

Peer-led interventions are more likely to positively influence the youth culture, speed-up the help and connection youth might need to professional services, connect troubled youth to safe, caring and compassionate peers, and provide the empowerment youth experience from being listened to, understood, acknowledged and supported.

The Province of Ontario is no strangerto evidence-based peer programs. For many years in the past, peer program leaders and consultants like Rey Carr, Diane Taub, Michael Peirce, Wayne Townsend, and Ron Jorgenson trained student peer mentors and facilitated train-the-trainer peer workshops for community leaders in that province (as well as every province and territory in Canada).

In addition, from 1990–1993, our group of trainers plus a dozen others created a national, Canada-wide program, known as “The National Stay-in-School Initiative,” that resulted in more than 30,000 peer mentors being connected to 100,000 students across the country.

Despite the hundreds of trained adult personnel and the thousands of students trained as peer helpers (many of whom have gone on to universities and colleges where they continued to participate in peer-led services) in Ontario, there are many rural communities that have yet to implement a peer-based service for youth.

I’d like to encourage readers of this SpiritMentor blog, particularly the Canadian readers, to write letters-to-the-editor or contact your MP and let them know that peer-led programs are not just add-ons, but are necessary elements to change peer culture to one of healthy, positive support and encouragement so that allyouth can live out their dreams rather than have their dreams thwarted by negative peer pressure and conditions over which they have little control.

Guest Post: Finding the Best Mentors by Wayne Townsend

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Intelligent Leaders — Finding the Best Mentors

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Informal Mentoring

When I was ‘on-the-road’ as a professional musician at the age of 18. I found it difficult to continue with formal percussion lessons with the best drummers because I was traveling too much to sustain a teacher. So, wherever I was located for the next gig, I would set up two sets of drums and invite drummers to play with me. (They were easy to find at each city’s music stores.) It is interesting that each drummer who played with me, learned many of my patterns (percussion vocabulary); yet, I learned many new techniques from each of them. Each mentor interaction provided me with more information about drums and percussion. This is “informal mentoring” at its best and it cost me nothing but my rehearsal time—smart investment. It helped me to stay on top of a very competitive market. The more versatile I became as a drummer and percussionist, the more work came my way. “Intelligent Leaders need breadth and depth.”

Finding Mentors

Although I was not aware of it at the time, I was continuously looking for role models. My father passed away when I was twelve and I kept looking for good people doing good things. I found many role models—some good and some struggling with life. I was quite deliberate in looking for behavioural responses that made sense—what to do and what not to do. All of this time, I was gradually developing the character of “me.” Informal mentoring can be powerful as long as you are open to it.

After university and three honours degrees, I entered professional life from a business perspective and learned about “formal mentoring.” I have been involved in Formal Mentor Training since 1985. However, I have been the recipient of informal mentoring my whole life. I continued to seek out people who were doing things that impressed me and I would ask them if I could speak with them about their work. Mentor questions came out quite naturally because I was interested in people and their work.

Mentor Training

In 1989, I was introduced to one of the best Student Retention Programs in the Province of Ontario by Tom Connolly with the Waterloo Board of Education. I was completely hooked. There was no turning back. Tom continues to be an informal mentor to me and he introduced me to Dr. Rey Carr, Peer Resources in Victoria, B.C. who developed the 3strongest “International Mentor Programs.” I trained in all of Dr. Carr’s programs: Peer Mentor Training, Mentor Training (Levels 1-3), Coach Training and Executive Coach Training. Then I followed with Cy Charney’s Mentor Management Training and ICF (International Coach Federation) training. Each of these connections added “breadth and depth” to mentor/coach training skills.

With all of this training and experience over a lifetime of mentor and coach training, I still believe that Dr. Carr’s Mentor Training is the strongest program internationally [www.mentors.ca]. The foundational principles of his training programs are well researched, sound in practice and transferable to any setting. In addition, I have been using Carr’s closure procedure for years in many counselling and social settings. These mentor principles provide a process for strong, empowering and facilitative processes that move groups and individuals forward.

105+CoverFor Canada Day, Dr. Carr published a free ebook about Canadian Mentors and match-ups that reflect his lifetime of work on mentoring in Canada. He is an incredible mentor and role model.

Finding The Best Mentors

What I have learned about mentoring and coaching is that mentors/coaches are simply a phone call or email away. It is about getting to yes. You simply have to ask the question: “Would you be willing to meet with me for an hour so that I can learn about…?”

It is that simple at setting up an informal mentor. If you do this often enough, your learnings will happen. From those meetings, you might ask one of those informal mentors to be a more formal mentor. If by chance they say ‘no’ or they don’t have time right now, then your next question is: “Do you know of someone who may be able to help me with this area of learning?”

It is all about getting to yes and your personal professional development.

(Thanks for my friend and mentoring partner, Wayne Townsend for allowing me to share his post here. I treasure our relationship and it is a great example of how a true mentoring relationship shifts to where the mentor learns as much from the person he or she has mentored.)

Shaping the Future: 150+ Canadian Mentoring Relationships

I’ve created a new e-book on Mentors and Mentoring in Canada. The book coincides with the celebration Canada’s 150th Anniversary. It includes more than 150 examples of mentoring relationships from all walks of life in Canada including sports, history, leadership, the arts, politics, entertainment, music, and business. I’ve also included ideas about the key principles associated with mentoring; how mentoring and coaching are the same and different; illustrations of mentoring relationships from my own life and what I learned from them; and examples of mentoring relationships experienced by well-known and lesser-known Canadians. To make it easier to find particular people and who mentored whom, I’ve included a name index. The e-book can be downloaded at no cost from http://goo.gl/IsJvWr 

   Feedback is welcomed and testimonials will be treasured.

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The Latest Entries to Peer Resources’ Mentoring Hall of Fame

Latest Entries to the Mentor Hall of Fame

Virtually 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.

The list of mentor pairs in the Mentor Hall of Fame was compiled by Rey Carr 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 include

  • 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

Here are some of the latest entries to the Mentor Hall of Fame:Kanawa-LezhnevaPrice-FlemingChambers-JonesBeau-DickChong-Darwem

Evolutionary Peer Mentoring: A Growth Group for Seniors

BreakfastOnce a week for the past eight years a group of us meet for breakfast and discuss a variety of topics. What started as a one-time breakfast meeting with former workplace colleagues to catch up on retirement progress, has evolved into a continuing peer mentoring activity that relies on an unusual structure to manage engagement.

In her article, Group Mentoring: Strategies for Success, Lois Zachary (2011) identified peer group mentoring as one of the three most commonly employed models for achieving learning goals. Our group meets all of the criteria that she identified as associated with peer mentoring, including (1) having similar interests or needs; (2) setting our own agenda; (3) engaging in self-management and self-direction; (4) managing the focus of the discussion to make sure all members’ needs are met; and (5) ensuring that each group member benefits from the knowledge, expertise, and experience of the other group members.

What’s surprising or unusual, however, about our peer mentoring group is that we have yet to discuss, consciously review, or deliberately implement any of the five criteria Dr. Zachary identified. In other words, we didn’t review options and select one that we preferred. Instead, our structure and process have evolved over time. They may continue to change, but both seem to have been achieved by what can best be called a ‘happy accident.’

Using the happy accident approach for developing a peer group meeting structure may not be suitable for everyone. It can severely test the patience of those who prefer a certain degree of structure, a set agenda, or an urge to ‘get things done.’

As an experienced group leader in other contexts, I’m (happily) surprised that this peer mentoring group has been so successful, despite violating some of the standard principles associated with effective group management. For example, a lower level of structure in most groups typically leads to low levels of participation or inconsistent engagement by various members of the group. In our group, participation is equally distributed. Each member introduces topics; some members bring materials or resources to the group to share with the others, and everyone in the group contributes to every discussion (whether they know anything about it or not).

A low structure can also make it easier for some group members to dominate discussion or process in a way the meets their needs only. While the specific interests of a particular group member may serve as a topic discussion starter, the person who initiated the topic typically asks each of the other group members for their reactions or ideas about that topic. Group members also respond with their own viewpoint, whether they are specifically asked or not. Responsibility for leadership is distributed evenly among all group members.

Another problem that can lead to difficulties in groups is the degree to which the group has established a verbalized consensus on the group’s purpose. Many groups have no way of determining the degree to which they are achieving their purpose or desired results without an overall objective. This lack of clarity typically leads to low engagement, inconsistent attendance, or dropping out completely.

Although we’ve never spoken directly about our purpose, the fact that we have been meeting consistently for eight years (with time out during certain months for holidays), indicates that the model we have developed is satisfying, effective, and successful.

The Mindfulness Process

Our current way of interacting with each other has been repeated enough times that it is possible to describe some of the elements that have contributed to the success of our peer mentoring group. If I had to come up with one term or phrase that would characterize our meetings, I would use the term ‘mindfulness.’ Our interactions seem to (1) show conscious awareness or willingness to explore our current thoughts, feelings, and opinions; (2) seek alternative views or be open and curious about the views of others; and (3) resist any tendency toward judgment and instead focus on acceptance; and (4) be willing to include a sense of presence and authenticity.

Jon Kabat-Zinn (2009) has written extensively about mindfulness and the impact it has on stress reduction, and Peer Resources Network member Doug Silsbee (2010) has centered mindfulness as a key to successful coaching interactions. While we did not purposely establish a mindfulness perspective or process in our group, it has evolved in a way to be our most consistent way of interacting with each other.

 

“Age does not diminish the extreme disappointment of having a scoop of ice cream fall from the cone.”

~ Jimmy Carter ~

 

Bring it Up

While variations occur in any meeting, here are the most consistent mindfulness elements of our peer group dialogue.

Many of our discussions have to do with the circumstances associated with aging, health, exercise, mood, and medical or alternative treatments. These topics probably have more to do with the fact that all the group members are over 65. But many discussions are initiated around ideas that come from books we’re reading, current events, things we’ve discovered online, or past experiences.

Regardless of the topic, the initiator typically takes some time to share, explain or expand on the topic, and, if appropriate, bring up any inner dialogue and feelings about it. Sometimes this can lead to catastrophizing, making it seem like disaster is imminent or immense. Typically when this happens it is also followed by what might be considered a creative awareness, where the current topic seems related to some past experience, fear or action.

Whatever path the initiator takes the topic, there is a pause where that person asks the other group members for their reaction, assessment, or comment.

Catch and Release

At this point, various group members express their understanding of or experience with the topic. This may include seeking clarity, sharing a similar experience, or drawing upon their own wisdom or learning.

The intention is to acknowledge the content, feelings, and perspective of the initiator, while at the same time releasing the initiator from having to hold on to negative or stressful feelings, particularly those that facilitate catastrophizing or feeling alone.

Not all topics feature emotional content. Some are more idea- or intellectually- centered. These are often discussed with the intention of focusing on meaning-making questions or comments such as ‘What do you make of that?’ or ‘This is what I gained from it when it happened to me.’

Sometimes group members share what action they have taken when faced with a similar circumstance. However, we are not what I would consider a ‘result/ action’ oriented group. That is, there doesn’t appear to be a drive on any group member’s part to figure out what to do about something. This doesn’t prevent members from asking for advice or ideas, and this often becomes a way to draw upon the wisdom and experience of group members.

Bring it In

More than 60 years ago I had a high school coach who at the end of each practice would say, “Okay fellas, bring it in.” That was the signal that the physical practice was over and we were to gather in a group around the coach. The coach would then provide feedback or comments to the players on what he observed that day, and he would encourage us to express our gratitude to other players for what we were experiencing that day.

This wasn’t always easy as some of the conflicts between us led to some nasty, snarky or sarcastic ways of doing what the coach asked us to do. At the same time, when another player authentically expressed gratitude or appreciation, it had a powerful and lasting impact.

That early experience had such a profound impact on me that I’ve carried the experience through into my personal and professional life. Using it as part of the peer mentoring group seemed like a natural and useful thing to do. Fortunately, it’s contagious. I only tried it a few times before it became a fairly common aspect of the interactions for all of us within our group. We often nish our meetings or topic discussions with a type of ‘bring it in’ activity. It’s not so much a formal procedure as it is a way to help each other replace negative thoughts or feelings with things we appreciate or are grateful for. These more personal comments to each other also allow us to express our compassion and support for each other.

Not all our group meetings follow the pattern of mindfulness, nor does each meeting always include the three elements described above. Sometimes our focus is on recalling a past event or experience, sharing stories about family adventures, agreeing that our former workplace was a better organization when we worked there or telling jokes or humourous anecdotes. I’m convinced that the flexibility in both agenda-setting and how we manage the discussion as well as the personal meaning, knowledge, and support we gain from and give to each other is the glue that has attracted us to continue to meet with each other on a regular basis.

The size and consistency of our group also matter. For the most part, there are four of us, sometimes five; and from time-to-time one of the members brings a guest. While we might be able to accomplish mindfulness with more members, a larger group might lead to inconsistent attendance and less opportunity for follow- up, and less likelihood or willingness to tune-in to our way of being with each other.

Peer mentoring, particularly for small groups of older members of a society, go far back in history. The Knights of the Roundtable, Tribal Councils, Elder Chiefs, and other forms of ancient governing practices were all examples of peer mentoring.

Peer mentoring for seniors can be a powerful way to stimulate brain functioning and learning, meet social connection needs, and enable seniors to continue to grow and develop. Could others use our system? Possibly, but the key would be how to develop a mindfulness approach that would work for that particular group. From our experience, we stumbled into it by happy accident. There are many paths to a mindful or fulfillling way to participate in peer mentoring. We’re grateful we found ours.

References

Kabat-Zinn, J. (2009). Letting everything become your teacher: 100 lessons in mindfulness. New York: Dell Publishing.

Kabat-Zinn, J. (2006). Coming to our senses: Healing ourselves and the world through mindfulness. New York: Hyperion.

Silsbee, D. (2010). The mindful coach. Seven roles for facilitating leader development. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Zachary, L. (2011). Group mentoring: Strategies for success. Peer Bulletin, 205, 12-14.

 

FN-Group“Conversation was never begun at once, nor in a hurried manner. No one was quick with a question, no matter how important, and no one was pressed for an answer. A pause giving time for thought was the truly courteous way of beginning and conducting a conversation. Silence was meaningful with the Lakota, and his granting a space of silence to the speech-maker and his own moment of silence before talking was done in the practice of true politeness and regard for the rule that, “thought comes before speech.”

~ Luther Standing Bear (1868-1939) ~

Ogala Sioux Chief

Using Quotes About Mentoring

quotemarksQuotes are a valuable way to create value in mentoring. They can serve as a source of inspiration, an acknowledgment of value gained, a tool for clarifying ideas and act as a catalyst for reflection and learning.

Over the years, I have collected a variety of quotes which I originally used in workshops, training, lectures and professional publications. Sometimes quotes lend credibility to ideas since many of the quotes come from well-known persons in history or contemporary society.

Quotes can also be used as a basis for discussion of ideas and meaning. I’ve also used the quotes as the basis for an experiential exercise with participants by asking a question about the quote such as ‘how might this relate to your experience?’ You may find that a quote reminds you of a story or anecdote. Maybe the quote has a special meaning for you.

I have created an e-book filled with some of my favourite quotes. In the e-book, I’ve provided an opportunity for users to make notes or add reflections about the quotes to make them more useful in discussing mentoring or conducting training sessions.

Some quotes specifically mention “mentoring” and others represent concepts or perspectives related to mentoring. The quotes are meant to generate ideas about what personal philosophy or perspective might be reflected in the quote.

Rather than just providing a quote in an attractive font with an interesting background— as is typically found on social media or within various books and magazines—I wanted to honour the person quoted by

  • including a photo of the person,
  • providing a link to learn more about the person, and, if available,
  • adding that person’s mentor or whom that person mentored.

A note on the accuracy of attribution of the quotes in the e-book. The Internet can provide multiple sources for verifying the source of a quote, but sometimes false attribution can be so widespread that the person who actually created what was being quoted gets completely lost. We’ve done everything we can to verify the accuracy of these quotes and their source. If you find an alternative origin, please let us know. I’ve also included quotes about quotes that reflect humorous or satirical viewpoints on the accuracy of quotes.

This e-book is free to SpiritMentor blog readers and can be downloaded here –>http://goo.gl/bhPX8k