Three Questions to Jumpstart a Peer Group Meeting

A common thread that ties peer assistance work to mentoring and coaching is the increasing use of group models (peer coaching and peer mentoring along with peer helping) to provide services or supervision, and assist participants to accomplish their goals more effectively and more quickly.

In both peer mentoring and peer coaching, group members typically distribute leadership within the group and take turns initiating activities to act as a catalyst for all members. Peer assistance differs somewhat because there is typically an assigned leader or supervisor, but the leader still works toward increasing the empowerment of each member to act as a leader for all other members.

Participants in all three types of groups, when given the opportunity to act as the group leader for any session, often wonder about how to start the group. Typically, this start-up is called a warm-up, transition or check-in activity. Most leaders want to get off to a good start and energize, focus, or center the members with an activity that will act as a lead-in to the group’s agenda or purpose for being together. And while often a leader’s desire is to use a “fun” activity, all too often the activity chosen is only marginally related to the group’s purpose or more formal agenda.

Peer Resources has devised a group beginning activity that is highly effective in helping a group get started with an enjoyable “ritual”, deepen the connection of the group members to each other, provide a strong foundation for the group’s upcoming agenda, and provide an opportunity for participants to help, support, and encourage one another. The activity is called “trinity,” and while it has a strong spiritual element, it is spelled with a lower case “t” so that it won’t be confused with the more religious meaning of Trinity.

Trinity consists of three questions. Any member of the group can start and provide an answer to the first question and from there each group member, one after another, provides their own unique answer to the first question. The first question is: “What am I grateful for today?” The range of answers to this question can be far-ranging, and it is purposely asked as a “what” question instead of a “who” question, although it is perfectly acceptable to identify a person. No discussion of responses needs to occur; the idea is to quickly create an atmosphere of “gifts” we each have in our lives and a mood of heartfelt connection.

When everyone in the group has volunteered their response to the first question, another group member can ask and be the first to respond to the second question: “What are my intentions for today?” Responses to this question can focus on outcomes, feelings, accomplishments, or even how a participant wants to respond if things don’t go as planned.

The third question that concludes this opening ritual is started by a group member asking, “What’s most important today?” In peer assistance groups a variation of this question is: “Considering what you are going to engage in over the next week as a peer helper, what’s the most important thing you want to accomplish today?”

Sometimes a fourth question is included after participants have identified what’s important: “What can I do today to integrate my gratitude, my intentions, and what I think is important?”

While it might be possible to spend an entire session on the answers participants give to just these questions, the questions are really meant to create a start-up climate or mood that will help every participant to be present and focused. Various responses can be noted or placed in a “parking lot” for further exploration at a later date, if appropriate.

If SpiritMentor readers try out these questions, I’d appreciate hearing about how they worked. I’m grateful to communications specialist and writer Laura Lallone for providing the reminder of the power of these questions and giving permission to adapt them here.

Want Some Help? (Guest Blogger Richard Bach)

(I’m blessed to know people who are great bloggers (writers) and are willing to let me share their work with people who appreciate growth and development. Today’s guest article is by Richard Bach, the author of Jonathan Livingston Seagull,  Illusions, and other terrific books. His post reminded me of how important spirit mentors have been and continue to be in my own development. Readers can subscribe to Richard’s blog at richardbach.com/.)

“EVERY ONCE IN A WHILE, and only sometimes, maybe we can use a little bit of help.

Perhaps we’ve lost a job that we really liked, perhaps we’re in the midst of a divorce, or perhaps the dog that we were hoping might live forever, maybe she’s just died. Those are difficult times.

In the midst of such times, wouldn’t it be wonderful if there were one person in all the world, someone we loved and who knew just how to help us at that moment?  One who had the perfect ideas and exactly the equipment we needed to put us back on our wheels again?

Here’s an example. Let’s say that all these bad things have happened to us and suddenly we’ve driven over the edge a life-crater, and the only thing we could think to do then is to sit on the bumper of our car (which fell to the bottom of the crater, on its side, in the mud) and cry.

We’re in the crater, crying, and about then do we hear this faint little sound, from a long way away (chug-chug-chug…). If only we could have called somebody, but when we tried to do that, our phone died, too.

(chug-chug-chug… louder now.)

With any luck, we were thinking, we could have brought a gun with us and ended our  misery at last, but it turned out that we had left it at home this one time that we needed it.

Now the chugs are louder still and all of a sudden from above the rim of the crater we’re in, here’s the one person we hoped would come to save us, and she’s brought her industrial heavy-duty crane along with her.

She calls down to us, ‘Want some help?’

We would have kissed her, but twenty feet down in the crater, that wasn’t going to happen, so we just looked up at her through our tears.

Her crane is quiet now, not so much noise. Before we can imagine an answer, she shouts again, ‘Would you like a cookie?’

Before we could tell her that we need a lot more than a cookie, down comes a package from her. Bad-news good-news time. We missed the catch and it fell into the mud. But the package was not torn and with only a little effort we open it and in a minute we feel a little better than we did before. Our friend is gone for a minute and the next thing we see, looking up, is that her crane is peeking way over the edge of our crater and a heavy steel cable swings down toward us with a big hook at the end.

Is that strange or what? We prayed for help and here it is!

After our wheels rest on the highway again, she disconnects the big hook from our car.

‘There’s some left,’ we say, while we return the package to her, five cookies lighter. ‘How did you know…?’

‘Happens all the time,’ she says. ‘Some days you’ll think about a person you love and we your friends can tell. You can use some help, all right, and what we have along with us, it turns out to be just what you need.’

She hands the package back. ‘I have lots of emergency cookies in the cab. Keep these with you. They’re always nice to have with you while you recover from a crater.’

What an amazing story this is! And what’s even amazinger is that this story happens to everyone who needs help, anyone who has taken time to meet the ones who would be their helpers.

I learned how to meet them years ago. Chances are that you’ve met some friends then, too. From time to time we forget that they’re there, and we spend a minute sitting on the bumper and crying before we remember that we have helpers no matter how deep our crater may have been.

When I was 12, I met Horatio Hornblower of the British Royal Navy, 1795, through an introduction of C.S. Forester. Hornblower would sail into terrible events at sea, enemies and explosions all around him, yet he used his good sense, his powerful will and his fundamental sense of right, and a little bit of what seemed to be luck, to avoid being destroyed.

At that time there were just two books about Horatio. I loved those books! It took me a while before I discovered that I had become his friend, that I could call on the same qualities that he had used to keep me from being destroyed. I found that I had learned from him to avoid the enemies and explosions during terrible events in my own life. When I had to fight, I could call on him to teach me how to fight the instant before it was necessary.

About the same time, I realized, that I had found a powerful friend and advisor in my mother, Ruth Helen Bach. She’s been dead for 50 years now, but I still hear her in my mind. ‘Take it easy, dear son, think your problems out, first. If you must fight, learn about the nature of your enemy, and discover, perhaps, that beneath their masks they may be your friends.’

Not aware of what I was doing, I began to build my own Board of Advisors. Of course I knew that I was the Chief Executive Officer, my decisions would determine what would happen in my life. But in time I learned how to convene my advisors before I made any major decision.

One day I added Antoine de Saint-Exupery to my Board. Saint-Ex believed in the importance of our mission on earth, important enough for him nearly to die in the sands of the desert, in the storms of the sky, and finally he died flying for the principles of the country he loved.

I found that my Board can be of any size I wish, and represents any idea that mirrors my own values. Today on my Board of Advisors are four living mortals, eight deceased mortals, 13 fictional mortals in various costumes, and two dogs.

You may suspect that one of the fiction souls may be Bethany Ferret, the captain of the Ferret Rescue Service Boat 101, the Resolute. You’d be right, of course. Such a gentle quiet unstoppable force to save lives, of course she’s there! In those five books of the Ferret Chronicles, I count eight of the characters who are now my Advisors. I could list them, but that’s what the books do, they tell why these characters are each teaching me how to reflect their own qualities.

Of course some of my spirit guides are there, and the two most loving dogs that ever have I met.

Look over my Advisors and there’s a painting of my own wish of the ideals I live for.

How do they work in practice?

When I’m desperately tired, when I want to stop instead of fighting on against fatigue, I call on one advisor, Bruce Lee. And strange things begin to happen. As soon as I call on Mr. Lee, he responds with a sudden burst of hidden energy, and it stays until my job is finished. Not just a belief of energy, but living real power, expressed in an instant number of finite physical foot-pounds required to complete the task.

That’s their gift.  The Advisors open an electric rainbow of energy, physical, mental, creative energy, that brings me through the challenges of any day.

How can I talk about these silly ideas for my thoughtful and reasonable readers? Isn’t the suggestion of an invisible Board of Advisors, isn’t this crazy stuff?

My friend (and Advisor) Donald Shimoda all of a sudden appeared to me as I was writing this, with an answer:

‘Of course it’s crazy stuff! You write about crazy things because they work for you! And now you think it will work for anyone who calls on the power of beautiful ideas. Bless you for writing these words, dear Richard!’

What can I say? Except for his polite blessing part, he’s right.”

(Note: In the comments section below feel free to list your own Board of Spiritual Mentors.)

Mentoring Plays a Role in Contemporary Music: Part II

MENTORS Peer Resources LogoVirtually 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 mentor pairing that is described in this article was identified from a variety of sources including autobiographies, biographies, newspaper articles, personal interviews, and diligent historical research. An extensive list of additional well-known mentor pairings, including those from TV, motion pictures and fiction, can be found on the Peer Resources website at www.mentors.ca/mentorpairs.html.

In addition to the list of mentor pairs from the world of entertainment, business, creative arts, sports, politics, history, and science available in the Peer Resources listings, a few historical facts or humorous references to the term mentor are also included.

On many occasions, we have featured the mentoring relationships of various well-known musicians, singers and songwriters. But behind almost every successful artist there is a producer or music business specialist who has played a significant role in identifying and developing the artist’s musical talent.

Even these music business specialists attribute their own success in business to someone who took the time to mentor them. UK citizen Don Grierson, legendary Vice President of A&R at Epic, Capitol, and EMI, is directly responsible for signing and/or working with some of the world’s most noted artists including Celine Dion, Heart, Iron Maiden, Sheena Easton, Joe Cocker, Wasp, Bad English, Little River Band, George Clinton, J. Geils Band, Kate Bush, Gloria Estefan, The Jacksons, Duran Duran, Tina Turner, Queen, Indigo Girls, Spin Doctors, Alice Cooper, and many, many more.

Awbrey Madison, a Los Angeles-based independent artist, said that “Don has been a great mentor and I am currently working on my second project with him. He is a professional who knows every facet of the music business, goes the extra mile to find the best musical fit, and is great at finding the right people to work with. Above all, he is a great guy who’s honest and supports the artist’s vision. I count myself very lucky to have someone like Don Grierson guiding my career!”

Don attributes much of his success to his mentor Jerry Moss, an American recording executive, best known for being the co-founder of A&M Records (he is the “M” in A&M Records). Don says that he owes his success, in part, to “Jerry saying to me ‘I believe in you.’ That support led me to work hard, and now I work hard to help others have their dreams. My advice to anyone who wants to be successful in the music business is to believe in yourself, hone your craft, fight for yourself, and educate yourself.”

“In my experience, a mentor doesn’t necessarily tell you what to do, but more importantly, tells you what they did or might do, then trusts you to draw your own conclusions and act accordingly. If you succeed, they’ll take one step back, and if you screw up, they’ll take one step closer. What it is they teach you…pass it on.”

~ Michael J. Fox ~

Canadian actor and father

Foundation for Parkinson’s Research

Seamus Heaney (1939-2013): An Irish poet and Nobel Prize Winner Remembered for his Mentoring Legacy

Seamus_HeaneyThroughout his career, Seamus Heaney was a conscientious and inspiring teacher. He held teaching positions at Queen’s University Belfast, Carysfort College, Harvard University, U.C. Berkeley, and Oxford University. In addition to giving lectures all over the world, Mr. Heaney mentored now famous Irish poets, including Paul Muldoon (who said of his mentor: “he helped all of us develop our imaginative powers”), Ciaran Carson, and Medbh McGuckian. Known for his gentle, respectful personality and encouraging manner, it is no surprise that Heaney maintained lifelong friendships with many poets and students of all ages. Heaney was also a teacher to the countless readers who never met him but read his prose. Heaney’s own mentor was writer Thomas Flanagan (1923-2002), about whom he once said, “If I did something that was quick Tom would say, you’re better than that Seamus.”

Seamus Haney’s last words to his wife, were “Don’t be afraid.”

(Thanks to @UlfKirchdorfer for providing this tribute.)