Dream Keepers Needed

s2020137.jpgProtecting our dreams has become one of the most difficult tasks in our contemporary world. Almost every dream I’ve had has been accompanied by external assaults and self-sabotage. Many of my dreams have simply become compromises. Keeping focused on what matters most, as coach Bruce Elkin has called our dream quest, requires a moral and ethical courage of significant proportion.

Media remind us continuously about the horrors, terrors, and crimes which touch on almost everyone’s day to day life. “Our senses are bombarded with aggression,” warns Margaret Wheatley, acclaimed speaker and author of “Finding Our Way: Leadership for an Uncertain Time.” Violence, moral challenges, political shenanigans, and the unprecedented examples of leaders engaging in deceit, lying and cheating appear to be eradicating the positive stories and role models we have for engaging in the activities necessary to achieve our dreams.

Accountability Can Block Dream Fulfillment
Are we also noticing a significant increase in aggressive demands for retribution, punishment, or vengeance when another person or official makes a mistake and strays from his or her own dream path? Has the use of derogatory, demeaning, and disrespectful terms increased when describing someone who does not share our values and dreams? Has righteousness replaced forgiveness and compassion? Are those who have let their dream falter to be despised? Are their mistakes, errors in judgment, and immoral acts so large that retribution rather than justice is the only alternative? Has Western society exaggerated the meaning of accountability so that someone always has to pay? Has assigning blame outstripped identifying and fixing problems as a full-time pursuit?

Recent business news provides two strikingly different examples of blame and accountability. Millions of dollars have been spent identifying, prosecuting, and convicting executives associated with the Enron disaster in the United States. Thousands of employees lost their jobs and pensions; thousands of investors were bilked out of their savings. One of the executives associated with this mess received a 24-year prison sentence; another died from the stress, and still others received assorted prison sentences and punishments. “Heads must roll,” was the catch phrase of former employees, government officials, and the general public.

Contrast this with the actions taken by the Sony Corporation when it was discovered their laptop batteries, which are used by almost every major computer maker, had the potential to overheat and catch fire. Sony recalled the batteries and initiated a global replacement system. Such a defect clearly tarnished the Sony brand reputation, and the recall program alone cost Sony more than $430-million (U.S.). When Sony announced they had discovered the technical reasons for the defect, they issued an apology to the public and did not fire a single employee. “Take responsibility;  identify and fix the problem,” was the catch phrase that went through Sony.

Character Lapses Can Obscure the Dream Path
While assigning blame appears to have become an obsession in western culture, it has also been accompanied an unprecedented number of challenges to moral character. Television, newspapers, magazines, and the Internet are crammed with stories about people who were pillars of the community one day, and felons, predators, killers, or untrustworthy the next. In most cases these reports are about normal, everyday people who started off with a dream, but wound-up getting severely side-tracked.

Unfortunately, such detours are not just a case of increased reporting. Instead, there is evidence that many people are engaged in detours from their dreams. A recent study of 36,000 U.S. teens by the Josephson Institute of Ethics sadly revealed that 82% of the teens polled admitted they lied to a parent in the last 12 months about something significant; 57% said they lied two or more times; 62% admitted they lied to a teacher in the last 12 months about something significant; 60% cheated on a test at school within the last 12 months, including 27% who said they lied of the survey itself; and 28% stole something from a store in the past 12 months.

The Josephson study also found that 59% of the students agreed that “in the real world, successful people do what they have to do to win, even if others consider it cheating;” and 42% believed that “A person has to lie or cheat sometimes in order to succeed.”

Michael Josephson, the founder of the Josephson Institute, describes this disturbing set of statistics about American youth as a “hole in the moral ozone.” The results of the Institute’s study are consistent with other surveys conducted previously by the Institute. “It is clear,” Mr. Josephson concludes, “that dishonest habits and values have become deeply entrenched in the next generation of corporate executives, cops, politicians, journalists, generals, and parents.”

Dreams Are Always Present and Can Be Reborn
But there is hope. There is an opportunity to turn this situation around. The Josephson study also found that:

• 98% of all students polled said, “It’s important for me to be a person with good character.”
• 98% reported that “honesty and trust are essential in personal relationships.”
• 97% of the 36,000 young people polled said: “It’s important to me that people trust me.”
• 83% said: “It’s not worth it to lie or cheat because it hurts your character.”
• 94% said: “In business and the workplace, trust and honesty are essential.”
• 90% said: “Most adults in my life consistently set a good example of ethics and character.”

This discrepancy between the real world behavior (actions and cynical attitudes) of the young people polled in this survey, and their desire or “dream” about what is truly important in life, is one of the key reasons why coaches, mentors, and peer assistants are essential in today’s society. It is just too easy today for young people to become sidetracked from pursuing their dreams. There are no short cuts for the hard work and character building activities necessary for a dream to become a reality.

Coaches, mentors, and peer assistants are in the best position to help people to articulate their dreams, to recognize the detours that interfere with dream progress, and to learn from their detours. Young people particularly need opportunities to learn how to make better choices to stay true to their path. Our willingness to listen, to express curiosity, and to encourage the expression of passion enables us to join with others to reconnect with their true path.

No one is completely immune from lapses in moral fibre or character. We all have events or actions in our lives that carry forward regret, shame, or guilt. But having a peer coach or mentor in our lives enables us to accept and use a lapse as a way to illuminate more clearly where we desire to be and how we can move toward that destination.

Coaches, mentors, and peer assistants are more often than not role models as well as skilled practitioners. This doesn’t mean they haven’t experienced their share of troubles, difficulties, and detours. What it does mean is that coaches, mentors, and peer assistants are more likely to have turned such life experiences into growth opportunities. Their ability to share their lives and connect in a supportive, non-judgmental, appreciative manner with their clients, partners, networks and communities contributes greatly to helping others reduce the gap between their current reality and the dreams they hope to achieve.

Everyone deserves to have their dreams protected. Everyone deserves to have someone in their life to help them rekindle the flame that powers their dream. I’m glad to be part of that dream protection team and grateful that so many others have had that impact on me.

References
de Zulueta, F. (2007). From pain to violence: The traumatic roots of destructiveness. New York: Wiley.

Elkin, B. (April 11, 2006). Coaching for creating what matters MOST. Simplicity and Success: A Life Coaching Newsletter about Creating What Matters Most, 4, 5. (Retrieved June 25, 2006 from http://www.bruceelkin.com/newsletter/news_vol4_06.html )

Gray, A., Stephens, S., and Van Diest, J. (2006). Simple living for the worn out woman (Lists to live by). Sisters, Oregon: Multnomah Publishers.

Josephson Institute of Ethics (October 15, 2006). The biennial report card – 2006: The ethics of American youth. Los Angeles, California: Author. (Retrieved October 15, 2006 from http://www.josephsoninstitute.org/reportcard/ )

Merrill, R.R., Covey, S.R. (2006). The SPEED of trust: The one thing that changes everything. New York: Free Press.

Renard, G. (2004). The disappearance of the universe: Straight talk about illusions, past lives, religion, sex, politics, and the miracles of forgiveness. Carlsbad, California: Hay House.

Roehlkepartain, E.C., Ebstyne King, P., Wagener, L., and Benson, P.L. (Eds.) (2006). The handbook of spiritual development in childhood and adolescence. Thousand Oaks, California: Sage.

Tolle, E. (2004). The power of now: A guide to spiritual enlightenment. Novato, California: New World Library.

Wheatley, M. (2004). Solving, not attacking complex problems. A five-state approach based on ancient practice. (Retrieved October 10, 2006 from http://www.margaretwheatley.com/articles/solvingnotattacking.html )

Wheatley, M. (2005). Finding our way: Leadership for an uncertain time. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publishers.

Wolfe, D.A., Jaffe, P.G., and Crooks, C.V. (2006). Adolescent risk behaviors: Why teens experiment and strategies to keep them safe. New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press.

Core Mentors Provide Mentoring from a Distance

Mentoring has traditionally involved people who interact with each other in person. Technology has expanded mentoring to include partners who communicate exclusively by email and telephone. But in both cases, the mentor and the partner establish and acknowledge their relationship.

However, there is another type of mentoring relationship where the partner is unlikely to meet the mentor and the mentor has no knowledge of the partner. Rey Carr, the CEO of Peer Resources, calls this relationship “core mentoring.” According to Carr, “Core mentoring occurs when you learn specific life lessons from the actions of a public or even historical figure.” A core mentor is more than a source of inspiration, a role model, or an admired hero. Carr believes that although we may observe or read about thousands of people worthy of our admiration, only a few prompt us to reflect on what we learn from them and integrate that learning into our everyday life.

Annika_Sorenstam
Annika Sorenstam

A recent example of a core mentor for Carr is Annika Sorenstam, considered the most successful woman golfer of all time. Even with all her tour titles, tournament wins, and record career money winnings, Sorenstam sought additional ways to challenge herself. She accepted an invitation to play against the men in the PGA Tour at the Colonial in Fort Worth, Texas. She wanted to take her game to the next level. She wanted to test herself against the best golfers in the world.

 

“Dream big is one of the things I learned from Annika,” says Carr, “and then create goals to help you achieve your dreams.” Carr believes that all successful people, like Sorenstam, have dreams and put those dreams into practice through goal-setting.

Because Sorenstam was the first woman to compete against men since Babe Zaharias put the same dream into practice 58 years ago, her participation in the Colonial tournament garnered worldwide media attention. TV networks, journalists, and thousands of fans lined the course to watch her tee up. The pressure on her to perform was enormous. Every shot and putt was being viewed by millions of people.

Sorenstam’s ability to stay focused and maintain her concentration was clearly a life lesson. “Sometimes when I’m working on a project, my focus is more like melting ice cream,” Carr said, “but Sorenstam taught me that my focus needs to be more like a laser beam. Work on what is most important and what will result in the greatest payoff.”

She was prepared. Her training and practice included thousands of hours of physical and mental toughness exercises. But after 72 holes and the second round of play, she had reached the top of her “Mt. Everest.” She said, “I climbed as high as I could. It was worth every step. I’ll never forget this day in my life.”

Although Sorenstam did not make the final round of this PGA tournament, she had stretched herself beyond her normal comfort zone. She went on to win the Kellogg-Keebler Classic the following week with a 17 under par score. “Going beyond my comfort zone is not something I look forward to,” Carr admits, “but Sorenstam’s example brings home the need get out of my zone to really make life progress. One way I’ve found to do this is to surround myself with a safety net of people who challenge me and will also provide support and encouragement regardless of how well I do.”

Virtually every daily newspaper provides a story about a person who qualifies as a core mentor. Libraries, bookstores, and other media sources abound with works about core mentors. The key to recognizing a core mentor, according to Carr, is to tune into your emotional reaction when you read about or observe another person. “A sense of ‘resonance’ will occur indicating that something is touching your core. By asking yourself, ‘What am I learning from this?’ you will be able to generate a number of life lessons.”

The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark.

~ Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475-1564) ~

Remembering the Wizard of Mentors: John Wooden (1910-2010)

Mentorlogo(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 mentor pairings that are described at Famous Mentor Pairings were identified from a variety of sources including autobiographies, biographies, newspaper articles, personal interviews, and diligent historical research. 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.)

A frequently discussed topic in the professional literature is “What’s the difference between a mentor, personal coach, sports coach and teacher?” While many have tackled this question, a realistic answer is much more difficult when all these roles are superbly combined in one person. And no one combined them with more skill, elegance, and success than American Basketball Hall of Fame player and coach John Wooden, who died at age 99 on June 4, 2010 in Los Angeles California.

One of the advantages of attending the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) during the late 1950’s and early 1960’s was going to their basketball games in the Men’s Gym and watching the team set records for the most consecutive games won (88) and the number of NCAA championship seasons.

When I graduated from UCLA in 1964, the team won every game they played, including the NCAA championship (and nine more NCAA championships after that). And while the Shah of Iran was the controversial commencement speaker at my graduation ceremony, the most well-known and revered person on campus was John Wooden (1910-2010), the coach of the UCLA basketball team, known to everyone on the Westwood (Los Angeles) campus of UCLA as “The Wizard of Westwood.”

John_WoodenCoach Wooden, known simply as “Coach,” was not just a hero to students, he was loved and revered by all his players and was a mentor to virtually every player he coached during the 27 years he was at UCLA.

Jamaal Wilkes described Coach as “one in a billion as a coach, mentor and friend. As a friend, whenever you reached out to him he always reached back unconditionally.”

The reciprocity or mutuality we often mention as part of a relationship-based mentoring connection was demonstrated when Coach Wooden was asked to describe his ideal player, he told the New York Post in 1985: “I would have the player be a good student, polite, courteous, a good team player, a good defensive player and rebounder, a good inside player and outside shooter. “Why not just take Jamaal Wilkes and let it go at that.”
Kareem Abdul-Jabaar (known as Lew Alcindor when he played during my student days), the all-time leading point scorer in the National Basketball Association, said, “Many people have asked me if Coach Wooden was for real. They wanted to know if he really didn’t use foul language or really didn’t tell his teams they had to win a specific game. Coach’s value system was from another era, it was developed in an America that has passed on. The one thing that impressed me about coach was that he never stopped being curious, understanding he hadn’t learned everything that was possible to know.”

“Coach Wooden’s legacy transcends athletics, what he did was produce leaders,” UCLA Chancellor Gene Block said in a statement released by the school. “Through his work and his life, he imparted his phenomenal understanding of leadership and his unwavering sense of integrity to so many people.”

Former University of Louisville basketball coach Denny Crum, who was an assistant coach to John Wooden for 10 years at UCLA, said that Coach was “a ‘life coach’ before such a thing existed. Coach walked the talk; doing the right thing and living like basketball was incidental to his family and life.”

Another one of the players he coached, Bill Walton, who went on to an outstanding career in the National Basketball Association, recognized Coach as his most cherished mentor, saying that his own family’s home is “a shrine to John Wooden.”

“Coach Wooden never talked about winning and losing, basketball Hall of Fame player Walton, recalled in a statement released after Coach’s passing, “but rather about the effort to win. He rarely talked about basketball, but generally about life. He never talked about strategy, statistics or plays, but rather about people and character. Coach Wooden never tired of telling us that once you become a good person, then you have a chance of becoming a good basketball player.”

When Coach wanted to renew his driver’s license at age 95, one of his former players, Michael Warren, drove him to the licensing office. He recalled the event saying, “It’s like walking around with Jesus or Mother Teresa. It may sound outlandish, but in all sincerity, when you think about the things he accomplished and how humble he remained, he’s one of those figures who transcends everything – ethnicity, gender, and race.”

I was fortunate to meet Coach when I was dating a coed who was a UCLA cheerleader, and we often attended events to support the basketball team. She introduced me to Coach, and despite his fame, reputation, and commitment and engagement with his players, he wanted to know what I was studying, what sports I enjoyed, and what I was planning on doing when I graduated.

When he learned that I was a psychology major he wanted to know if I’d be interested in his Pyramid of Success. What impressed me most about this is that he didn’t say I should really know about this, but here was one of the most revered people in sports asking me if I would be interested in a copy. Of course, at the time there was no website to refer to, just actual paper documents. His offer to provide me with a copy and be interested in my future stayed with me for many years.

His Pyramid of Success is used by athletes, coaches, and business leaders around the world, and he is known not only as a great athlete (he was himself a three-time All-American basketball player at Purdue), but as a mentor who believed that learning and practicing the fundamentals of a successful life was the major contributor to being a successful athlete. Coach summed it this way, “Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best you are capable of becoming.”

Coach Wooden is probably the most quoted athlete/coach of all time, and what he has had to say in his many inspirational speeches and talks is widely circulated on the Internet (close to 500,000 websites include his quotes) and catalogued in his many books. An inspiring sample of his ideas about success, their origins, and finding the best in each of us is illustrated in his 2001 TED talk.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but most of the short conversations we had during the time I was at UCLA were filled with things he would say that were inspiring, quotable, and personable. Despite his busy schedule he took the time to be friendly and warm, and when he talked he seemed genuinely interested in what I (as well as my cheerleader girlfriend, Barbara) had to say.

He was the first person I talked with who expressed the view that adversity was a great teacher and a way to get to know yourself. His viewpoint acted as a catalyst to help me make some key changes in how I was coping with my own lack of success in my athletic career. One of his quotes was “Things turn out best for the people who make the best of the way things turn out,”

I think that he was a mentor, friend, and teacher to almost everyone he came into contact with. Coach said, “You can’t live a perfect day without doing something for someone who will never be able to repay you.” I’m sure that anyone who had a conversation with him realized that the differences between a coach, mentor, or teacher were no where near as relevant as the spectacular way Coach combined them all.

Walking into Discovery: A Metaphor for Coaching, Mentoring, and Peer Assistance

rac-trial-islandThe city I live in is one of the premier tourist destinations in Canada. It’s a city known for gardens, ocean views, residential architecture, mild temperatures, and friendly people. Traffic, crime, noise, and pollution are all minimal here. And although I’ve lived here most of my adult life, it’s only been the last few months, that I’ve really gained a knowledge of where I live.

While I used to drive or cycle virtually everywhere in the city, I’ve been spending much more time walking as a way to exercise and improve my health. Daily walking has become a passion and has led me to literally “take the road less travelled.” I’m addicted to it. And I’m amazed at the benefits it has had, not just for my health, but for my perspective and spirit.

Slowing down, strolling, and meandering through my neighbourhood has revealed to me much of what I’ve been missing for many years. Not only have I been able to see beautiful gardens close-up, but I’ve been able to stop and talk with their gardeners. I’ve met more neighbours, their children, and their dogs and cats. I’ve learned more about renovations, financial troubles, family needs, and civic concerns.

I’ve also found short-cuts, trails, paths, and back alleys that I didn’t use or know about previously. I’m travelling in the same area, but I’m seeing things I hadn’t seen before. I’m experiencing the importance of neighbourhood relationships in an urban area, which seems to be essential during a time in our history when many factors act to separate us as neighbours.

Walking also facilitates communication. Almost everyone I walk by expresses some acknowledgement with a “hello,” “how’s it going?” or “lovely day” comment. Eye contact is common. And I even get a chance to learn how others see me. Some people that I say hello to when I’m walking by, return the recognition with, “Hello, sir.” I didn’t realize I had gotten that old yet to have the privilege of being called “sir.” Every now and then a conversation starts that goes beyond mere acknowledgement.

As a cyclist I knew that I was already seeing, smelling, and experiencing things that driving in a car didn’t provide. But I didn’t realize what I was missing. Walking has allowed me to slow down and actually take in much more than I knew was there. I’m seeing things that I’ve always seen, yet I’m seeing them differently.

Walking is probably a good metaphor to use to describe a way to improve our work in coaching, mentoring and peer assistance. The pace of our daily life may not leave much time for reflection, contemplation, meditation, and silence. Too often we don’t slow down enough and we miss what’s really going on. Typically when I return from a walk I feel energized and more connected within the layers of myself. If I can communicate a slow walking pace in my mentoring, coaching and peer work, I think I’m providing a safer and grounded area for deeper exploration, curiosity and adventure. A slower pace signals, “Our time together is a sacred place.”

Destination walking is a useful way to get to a specific location, and using it as a metaphor again, having a destination or goal can be an essential element of progress in coaching, mentoring, and peer assistance. I used to be an avid destination seeker. But sometimes having a goal interferes with exploring a detour and possibly discovering a treasure that is hidden in a less travelled lane.

Destination walking often is associated with taking the shortest, quickest or easiest path. While I still take destination walks, I am no longer consumed by a focus on getting to the end; instead I’m ready for detours or travel down an unfamiliar route. The number of things I’ve discovered, and the satisfaction I’ve experienced during the journey in an unfamiliar neighbourhood have enriched my life. Since a common element of coaching, mentoring, and peer assistance is the focus on the practitioner and client (or partner) working together, walking seems to be a highly suitable way to travel.

When I walk down avenues I have walked along many times before, I often see something new or something I hadn’t noticed before. And the landscape changes with the weather and the seasons, just as our “inner landscape” changes with our moods, or insights and growth. Going over familiar territory in coaching, mentoring or peer assistance sessions may lead to noticing some new aspect, focus, or perspective that did not surface previously.

From what I’ve been reading about brain neurobiology, walking increases cohesion between the left and right hemisphere of the brain so that creativity and cognitive processes can better connect; the brain becomes more integrated and our ideas flow more freely. Walking allows us to stop and “smell the roses,” although in my neighbourhood, it’s more likely to also include “smell the tomatoes.” I hope you will be able to travel the road less travelled.

Everywhere is within walking distance if you have the time.

~ Steven Wright ~
American humorist

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

HOW MENTORING DIFFERS FROM COACHING: THE FOUR PILLARS

4_pillarsOver the years we’ve received hundreds of enquiries about the differences between mentoring and coaching (as well as therapy, consultation and supervision). Having engaged in all five roles (actually six, if I include the role of client, partner, consultee or supervisee), I can attest to the value of clarification. Role clarity decreases boundary problems, sharpens focus, and pinpoints expectations. Such clarity also leads to a deeper sense of purpose and commitment. But highlighting differences can lead to missing the similarities. All five areas, for example, represent ways to help people learn, change, and manage adversity. All five require a relationship of trust, understanding, and authenticity. And all five base their success on the ability to listen.

In 1999 I prepared a chart that lists differences between coaching, mentoring, and therapy based on ten criteria, and I held the naive view that this would be the definitive list. Other experts believe the differences are simpler as in the distinction that Margo Murray, a leading expert in mentoring, stated by saying that “mentoring is a process and coaching is a verb.” Some contributors to the Peer Resources’ Twitter feed support this view: “Coaching is a skill good mentors use and mentoring is a process,” according to one contributor.

Probably the most popular distinction made by our Twitter contributors is the voluntary nature of mentoring as compared to the paid or fee-based aspect of coaching and therapy. One would- be poet chimed: “When it’s free, I can be me; when I pay, show me the way.”

Other contributors recognized the importance of relationship in both coaching and mentoring, but distinguished the two by saying that mentoring was more personal and coaching was more impersonal. While most agreed that a mentor is seldom responsible for the resulting actions of the partner, there was less agreement about the degree to which the coach is responsible for the client’s success. The mentor may point a person in a certain direction and provide support, but takes no responsibility for the outcome.

Coaching is seen as a more professional relationship where the coach may believe he or she has some responsibility to help the client make the necessary changes. For example, one contributor wrote: “A coach helps somebody do what they already know is the right thing to do. A mentor helps a person to determine the right thing to do.” Another web visitor said: “Mentoring gives a personal touch. It’s like the advice of a best friend, but coaching is just for the sake of the job.” And finally, a web visitor quipped: “A coach can keep you from getting into trouble, whereas a mentor may lead you to the trouble.”

Not everyone is worried about these distinctions, and many practitioners are content to leave such details to academics. A website contributor summarized this viewpoint by saying, “In the future, making distinctions between terms such as these two (coaching and mentoring) will prove futile and unproductive. Fewer people will be interested in definitions and roles and more people will be interested in results and practicalities.”

A recent enquiry about the differences between mentoring and coaching, as well as a question presented to a LinkedIn discussion group on this same topic, led us to conduct a search on Google. To our surprise and amazement the search produced more than three million hits. But really, three million different takes? (If anyone wants to take on a study summarizing a random selection of these viewpoints, we’d be glad to publish your results.)

Without repeating in entirety what we have been emphasizing over the years about the differences, the gist of our response is that there are far more similarities between the two ways of helping others than there are differences. We’ve also said that the search for the definitive answer to the question is unproductive and may even lead to considerable misinformation based on stereotypes and lack of experience.

Blurring the Boundaries of Mentoring

Recently the imaginary line that separates mentoring and coaching has become less precise as coaches, for example, more frequently offer what they call “mentor coach” services, and business entrepreneurs in a variety of niche areas offer mentoring for a fee, thus eliminating what used to be one of main distinctions between the two areas: one is paid (coach) and the other is a volunteer (mentor). The International Coach Federation (ICF) recently provided an “approved definition of ICF mentor coaching” stating that mentor coaching is “coaching on coaching-competency development of the applicant-coach as opposed to coaching for personal development or coaching for business development, although those aspects may happen very incidentally in the coaching for competency development” (Marum, 2011). In most coaching communities and organizations in Europe this role would be considered supervision, not mentoring. Not coincidentally the way a person qualifies to be an ICF-approved mentor coach typically involves paying a fee for such a service.

In addition, I recently attended a mentoring conference where a well-known expert gave a keynote that was advertised as being about mentoring, during which one of the international mentoring experts at my table turned to me and said, “Isn’t the speaker referring to coaching and not mentoring?”

An increasing number of individuals are calling themselves mentors and offering their services to “mentor” others for a fee. This could be a reasonable commercial or entrepreneurial venture but it could also be an exploitation of individuals who are desperate to find a mentor because of the highly publicized outcomes associated with having a mentor. The irony here is that traditionally only the person who experiences someone else as a mentor can assign that term to the other person. Typically in informal mentoring a considerable period of time can transpire before the person receiving mentoring may realize that the person who had an influence on them could actually be called a mentor.

Some of the published documents purporting to distinguish between mentoring, coaching and therapy often use models of each that seem outdated, stereotyped, uninformed or exaggerated just to strengthen their own perspective. To make matters more confusing a few well-known coaching sources have chimed in on the answer to this question, and, surprisingly, have in many cases actually reversed the characteristics associated with each.

Mentor and Miracle Are Not the Same

The coaching industry is not the only area forging new ground or transcending the boundaries associated with traditional mentoring. Michael Garringer (2011), advisor to the National Mentoring Center (NMC), noted that the effectiveness of formal mentoring with some youth populations has led to the application of mentoring with “higher-risk youth” such as children of incarcerated parents, gang-involved youth, homeless youth, youth who have suffered abuse and trauma, teenagers in juvenile detention, children and adolescents with disabilities, and most recently, youth who have been victims of sex trafficking. In some cases the expectation is that mentors would be able to bring about behavioural changes usually associated with the intervention of therapists, supervisors, probation officers, case workers, teachers, and child care workers.

Similar high expectations have been expressed by adult visitors to our website who complete our Find a Mentor form. Many of the requests for mentors are accompanied by goals that typically include a desire for immediate results. In many cases we refer the Find a Mentor applicants to coaching services such as The Coach Connection or individual coaches who are members of the Peer Resources Network in order to help them sort out their goals, increase their own creativity in their search for results, make the changes they want to make, and achieve the results they desire.

The Four Pillars of Informal Mentoring

Many of the confusions associated with the distinctions between mentoring and coaching have arisen because more and more mentor leaders adopt and transfer the principals associated with informal mentoring. Informal mentoring has had such a powerful and memorable way of being with another person that it seems like a “slam dunk” to apply these principles to formal mentoring schemes. This transfer from informal to formal has been made to appear easier as experts have attempted to distill the elements associated with successful informal mentoring and adapted, adjusted or just plain “plunked them down” on formal mentoring program requirements.

In many cases this transfer has been highly successful, yet there are certain elements that contribute to the effectiveness of informal mentoring that are yet to be fully captured by formal mentoring schemes. They can occur, and leaders of formal mentoring programs may do their best to facilitate them, but they are often more subject to factors beyond the control of the program design.

The details of the Four Pillars that follow and examples (available as a PDF download) from my own experience about particular outcomes that I believe are primarily associated with mentoring, are not exclusive to mentoring; and I’m sure that many, if not all, my coaching colleagues would hope that their work as coaches would result in similar outcomes.

As an introduction to the real life examples (available to Mentor News subscribers), I thought I’d identify the four elements that I believe distinguish mentoring from coaching. These four characteristics are derived primarily from my personal and professional experience as a mentor and as a recipient of mentoring, and they reflect an evolution of my learning since I proposed the original list of 10 distinctions back in 1999.

Mentoring is About Lessons for Life

Simply put, I believe that mentoring has to do with learning something that you might not have learned on your own or possibly might have taken you much longer to learn on your own. While some mentoring connections are initiated today to achieve short-term performance or behaviour changes (or there is an expectation that such changes will be the primary outcome), the historical and predominant element associated with mentoring is the influence it has on spiritual growth and development. I’m not referring to religion here, but instead to higher consciousness, character values, and a way of being in the world.

I’m also not referring to specific life skills or tasks to accomplish as soon as possible, but instead I’m referring to spiritual input that enables a person to discover, practice, and master his or her own way of integrating the mentor’s lesson into action (Zukav, 2010). And there may be times when such action might take place years after the contact with the mentor has been completed or ended. It’s almost as if the life lesson lay dormant in consciousness until a particular circumstance or opportunity appears.

This delayed response is why so many people can vividly recall certain individuals from their past and recite almost word for word a particularly influential dialogue. A common thread associated with this delayed response is that most people did not recognize or call the person a ‘mentor’ at the time of the actual interaction. Yet, years may have gone by before they realize they were, at the time, in the presence of a mentor that had an influence on their spiritual being.

Mentoring is About Relationships

The essence of any mentoring relationship is the relationship itself. It is the relationship that determines whether anything of value is transferred between the mentor and the partner. Whether the mentor acts as a teacher, guide, catalyst, role model or any of the other dozen roles that have been enumerated, the key factor as to whether there is a transmission of knowledge or wisdom depends on the quality of the relationship.

And while the quality of the relationship may need time to develop, there are innumerable examples where such a relationship develops instantly. In addition, there are many times when the mentoring relationship can occur without ever having physically met or had a conversation with the other person. This is why so many people can have a mentoring impact, that is, provide lessons for others that last a lifetime, without actually knowing each other.

Certainly, factors such as trust, rapport, and caring (and a sense of humour) are important in any helping relationship, particularly to ensure effectiveness in today’s formal mentoring programs, but such factors are not relevant in many informal mentoring relationships because the quality of the mentoring connection is based on a spiritual relationship. I’m not referring to a cognitive or intellectual connection, but instead to something beyond cognition, often something that is beyond memory, and resides more in a higher level of consciousness—a spiritual memory.

Mentoring is About Paying It Forward

Almost every person who has been involved in an effective mentoring relationship perceives mentoring as a gift, and they often demonstrate their appreciation and gratitude by passing on some aspect of their mentoring experience to others. Whether it is the life lesson, a particular piece of wisdom, a way of being, or the desire to act as a mentor to others, the gift is more often than not passed on to others.

This experience of paying it forward, and particularly the willingness to act as a mentor to others, is one of the most powerful reasons that mentoring has continued to grow exponentially throughout society. William Gray, founder and president of Corporate Mentoring Solutions, a British Columbia-based mentoring consulting firm, was among the first to recognize that the “The proteges of today are the mentors of tomorrow.”

While the following anecdote about the gift of mentoring and paying it forward may be unusual, it demonstrates the unexpected outcomes and influence of mentoring.

A high school math teacher in Seattle, Washington was gathering his materials at the end of the school day as he prepared to leave for home. Appearing at his classroom door was a former student who had since become one of the most highly successful dot-com entrepreneurs in the computer software industry. They both recognized each other immediately, and embraced while expressing great appreciation for seeing each other again.

The dot-com entrepreneur stated that he recalled during his days in that high school math class that his mentor had talked about how much he wanted to have a real sports car, but couldn’t really afford one on his teacher’s salary.

The former student handed his mentor a set of keys and said, “Look out the window.”

There, sitting in the parking lot, was a brand new Porche sports car with a ribbon on top. “Your encouragement and unwillingness to give up on me had such a powerful impact on my life that I wanted to find a way to make your dreams come true as well. I hope you like it,” said the entrepreneur to his mentor.

The mentor was stunned. The generosity and thoughtfulness of the gift was extraordinary, but he also was stunned to learn that the impact of his mentoring, which seemed so much a part of his way of being, had played such a significant role in the life of his former student.

Then, he remembered that back in the days when the entrepreneur was a student in his class the math teacher had also talked about how he and his wife wanted to have a baby. He looked at his former student and said, “Should I be calling my wife and finding out what you’ve left at my house?”

The pay it forward pillar is also one of the primary reasons that more formal mentoring programs have been initiated in so many communities around the world. Initially fueled by successful adults recalling an individual from the past that had a significant positive impact on their life direction and choices, these formal programs have been initiated to re-create or provide similar experiences for children, teens and young adults. Whether these formal programs will act as a catalyst for participants who will be just as eager to pay it forward is not clear at this time.

Mentoring is About Mutuality

Most effective mentoring relationships grow and develop in a way that maximizes the exchange of value between both parties. Typically, the relationship begins with the mentor taking the lead and the partner responding to the mentor’s questions or comments. As the relationship develops it is characterized by a relatively equal exchange of questions and comments; and, as it grows further, an effective mentoring relationship evolves with the partner taking the lead and acting as a mentor to his or her mentor. Eventually, an observer would be unable to determine which person was the partner and which person was the mentor.

This mutual exchange is neither unique to or exclusive to mentoring. Such exchanges are often at the core of other forms of helping such as Re-evaluation Counseling, Peer Mentoring Groups, mutual aid or self-help groups, Mutual Aid Counselling (developed by one of my mentors R. Vance Peavy) and various training activities where practitioners take turns acting in the practitioner and client roles. This pillar of mutuality is also commonly found to exist in many kinds of relationships and has been called The Law of Reciprocity which has been described by many authors including my favourite, Robert Cialdini (1993). It is also known as the Golden Rule of “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.”

Emphasizing the Four Pillars as a way to highlight the features of mentoring is not meant to imply that mentoring and coaching can be easily distinguished. In reality mentoring, whether formal or informal, often involves considerable coaching. However, whether coaching involves mentoring requires that the person receiving the coaching perceives the coach as a mentor. Such a perception may only occur some time later in the course of the relationship. The value of the Four Pillars is primarily for persons who are seeking mentors or seeking to be mentors. Understanding how mentoring stands out from other ways of assisting people will help to clarify expectations, deepen skills, and enhance growth and development.

References

Carr, R.A. (1991). Dancing with roles: Differences between a coach, a mentor and a therapist. Compass: A Magazine for Peer Assistance Mentorship and Coaching, 15, 1, 5-7. (Available as PDF download for Peer Resources Network members at: http://www.peer.ca/Projects/compassprn1.html)

Carr, R.A. (2004). Pinpointing the differences between mentoring and coaching. Peer Bulletin 123 (Retrieved February 22, 2012 from the Peer Resources’ members only area.)

Carr, R.A. (2004). Mentor as coach. (Retrieved February 22, 2012 from the Peer Resources’ members only area.)

Cialdini, R. (2007). Influence: The psychology of persuasion. New York: Harper Business.

Garringer, M. (2011). “It may be the missing piece” – Exploring the mentoring of youth in systems of care. Reflections from the 2011 Summer Institute on Youth Mentoring. Portland, Oregon: Portland State University. (Retrieved February 18, 2012 from http://pdx.edu/youth- mentoring/publications)

Gray, W.A. (2011). Mentoring relationships that work. (E-book published by and available through Smashwords)

Kaplan, J. (2007). Coaching versus therapy. Available directly from the author, who is a member of the Peer Resources Network by sending an email to Jeff Kaplan.

Marum, P. (April 2011). Board approves improved definition of ICF Mentor Coaching. Coaching World. (Retrieved February 22, 2012 from the ICF website here.)

Murray, M. (2001). Beyond the myths and magic of mentoring: How to facilitate an effective mentoring process. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Pelan, V. (February 17, 2012). The difference between mentoring and coaching. Talent Management.

Spinelli, E. (December 2007). Coaching and therapy: Similarities and divergences. Paper presented at the 3rd Annual BPS SGCP National Counselling Psychology Conference, December 18, 2007. (Retrieved February 22, 2012 from the Peer Resources’ members only area.)

Zukav, G. (2010). Spiritual partnership: The journey to authentic power. New York: HarperOne.