10,000 Mentoring Relationships Detailed in the Mentoring Hall of Fame

HallofFame3We reached a milestone in our collection of famous mentoring relationships in our curated collection known as The Mentoring Hall of Fame.

The list of mentor pairs 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

Some of the latest additions:

American film icon and director Clint Eastwood was a mentor to American director, screenwriter, and producer Michael Cimino (1939-2016); and is a mentor to Canadian film director Stephen Campanelli.

Minnesota Twins outfielder and baseball Hall of Fame member Kirby Puckett (1960-2006) is a mentor to Arkansas-born former professional baseball fielder Torii Hunter. He was remembered by one of the many people he mentored as a person who “Let us know we can pursue anything that we want to as long as we work hard.”

American short-story writer and poet Raymond Carver (1938-1988) considered his mentor to be American novelist, university professor and literary critic John Gardner  (1933-1982).

In Meg Wolitizer’s 2018 novel, The Female Persuasion, feminist Faith Frank is a mentor to college student Greer Kadetsky.

Kentucky-born American actor, director, activist and philanthropist George Clooney is a mentor to Boston-born American actor, director, producer and screenwriter John Krasinski.

Terrace, British Columbia-born Canadian choreographer, and dancer Crystal Pite is a mentor to award-winning Puerto Rico-born American dancer and choreographer Bryan Arias.

Former Vietnamese Prime Minister and economist Phan Van Khai (1933-2018), who was the country’s first post-American War in Vietnam leader, was mentored by Vietnamese politician, former Prime Minister of Vietnam and revolutionary veteran soldier in the war against the French colonists and American forces, Vo Van Kiet (1922-2008).

Texas-born American jazz guitarist Herb Ellis (1921-2010) was a mentor to jazz guitarist Emily Remler (1957-1990).

British educator and social entrepreneur Sir Cyril Taylor (1935-2018) was described as a “true mentor” to many who worked with him. Sir Cyril considered Jimmy Coronna, the travel director of the American Institute for Foreign Study, as his mentor.

Useful Quotes About Mentoring to Inspire Stakeholders to Support Mentoring Initiatives

Mentoring Quotes
Page 1 of Collected Quotes about Mentoring

From time-to-time we compile selected quotes from the monthly issues of the Peer Bulletin to illustrate a theme.

Here is one of the compilations on the theme of mentoring. The quotes are meant to be used to support the practice, importance, and value of mentoring.

Volume I is available for download at no cost here: http://goo.gl/yWRcjR

I would be delighted to receive more quotes. I do the research to verify the source of the quote, then add a link to more details about the source, and, if available, include a photo of the source.

Provide additional quotes and the name of the person who said the quote in the comments section attached to this blog entry.

Subscribe to the Peer Bulletin to receive these quotes as well as other pithy, inspirational, and sometimes funny quotes. Subscriber here: http://www.peer.ca/PRN.html As a subscriber you also get no-cost consultation on mentoring, peer assistance, and coaching; and you can gain free books, win extra months for your subscription, and eventually earn a completely free subscription.

Masaru Emoto (1943-2014): The Godfather of Water: Remembering His Legacy

Masaru_EmotoAuthor, researcher, and entrepreneur, Dr. Emoto’s passion was teaching his “Messages in Water.” He trained over 350 instructors from around the world to teach new generations about the truth and sacredness of water as he outlined in his book, Hidden Messages from Water and the Universe.

His followers and those he mentored believe their lives were changed personally and collectively by his pioneering research which they believe resulted in a wave of transformation, awakening and shift in collective consciousness around the planet.

Those he mentored believe he gave them a greater sense of themselves and an ability to create positive change by shifting their thoughts, words, emotions and intentions. Louise Hay said his work “gave me a new respect for water. I began blessing with love every glass of water I drank. Labels with positive words and affirmations soon appeared on my faucets, showerhead, garden watering cans, the toilets, every other water source I had, and all the many bottles of water I carried everywhere.”

His last words were “Arigatou”. (“Thank you” in Japanese), which in Japanese means to be grateful for our own existence.

Best Practices: Barrier or Boost for Mentoring

Buzzwords Give the Impression of Excellence
Best Practices: Barrier or Boost for Mentoring

By Rey Carr

Mentor-Partner-ConferenceA frequent request to Peer Resources from community leaders, business personnel, researchers and others interested in starting a mentoring program is for a list of “best practices” in the field.

This is a sensible request. After all, as long ago as 1999 the leading mentoring experts in the USA such as Peer Resources Network member Larry Ambrose, Margo Murray, Rita Boags, Betty Farmer, David James, Kathleen Wright, Linda Stromei, and dozens of others equally engaged in mentoring were all featured presenters at the Best Practices in Mentoring Conference at The Bolger Center in Potomac, Maryland. For several years coaching associations and organizations have been struggling to create a set of standards that reflect ‘best practices;’ and The Library of Professional Coaching includes a whole section on “Best Practices.

Multiple organizations in Canada, the U.K., and the U.S.A., including the Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC), the Evidence Exchange Network for Mental Health and Addictions (EENet), Peers for Progress (PFP), U.S. Government’s National Registry of Evidence-Based Practices (SAMHSA), the National Association of Peer Program Professionals (NAPPP), Peer Resources, Peer 2 Peer (P2P), and the April 12, 2014 conference in California titled Towards Best Practices in Mental Health Peer Programming(website), are just a few of the groups striving to provide a set of best practices.

Enquiries that we receive, participants attending best practices conferences, and visitors to the hundreds of websites focusing on best practices, expect to learn about those foundation practices that identify successful mentoring that will enable them to make a difference in the lives of those touched by such practices, and to learn about how to apply those practices in their own organizations. This is the common goal of almost every quest for ‘best practices.’

What if compiling a set of mentoring best practices, for example, actually leads you down the wrong path? CEO coach Mike Myatt describes best practices as ‘evangelical’ statements that “rarely warrant being deemed as universal truths. It is nothing short of over exuberant thinking to assume that any single solution can be applied anywhere and everywhere…Just because company A had success with a certain initiative doesn’t mean that company B can seamlessly plug-and-play the same process and expect the same outcome.”

Eugene Bardich (2011) believes that the work involved to actually engage consistently in a best practice is rarely accomplished. Most of the time, one will find ‘good’ practices or ‘smart’ practices that offer insight into solutions that may or may not work for a given situation.

Internationally recognized management consultant and author Ron Ashkenas (2010) in his HBR Blog article acknowledged that many organizations are exceptionally good at “stealing shamelessly” from other companies. But while some companies thrive with their borrowed ideas others soon abandon the idea. He noted that such best practice borrowing often fails because of two reasons: failure to adapt or tailor to the new environment; and failure to adopt which is what happens when leadership fails to fully support the “borrowed” process.

Former International Mentoring Association (IMA) president and former Peer Resources Network member, the late Dr. Joe Pascarelli, had a slightly different perspective on best practices. In his email that appeared on the IMA group discussion site Dr. Pascarelli, who believes that best practices is a synonym for ‘evidence-based practice”, said:

“Best practice came out of a national context that identified those practices that were soundly based in research (and development) and were acknowledged as such. Originally there were specific criteria and standards that certain programs met and, as a result, these practices were disseminated (via federal funding) so others could learn about and consider ‘adopting.’ Herein, lies the catch. We know from decades of research that no program can be ‘adopted’ and installed in a ‘foreign context’ without being ‘adapted.’ I am not hairsplitting but pointing to the difference. In these days, we are using ‘Best Practice’ very loosely and, in some cases, based on self-nomination. So, if there is a publication based on Best Practices in Mentoring (and there is not), it would still be limited in terms of the contextual dimension that needs to be addressed.”

The late Barry Sweeny, a long-time mentoring expert and the former editor of the newsletter of the International Mentoring Association as well as their web master, agreed with his colleague, Dr. Pascarelli. According to Dr. Sweeny, “The basic question in examining and considering ‘best practices’ is best for what? What is best for one program may not be best for others.”

Dr. Sweeny suggested that a way to manage best practice enquiry is to first examine the goal of the mentoring program. He believes that the goal determines what might be best for that program. “Anyone who asserts a set of best practices must be asked,” Dr. Sweeny told me, “best for what goals, before we would consider adopting an approach, model, or solutions. That makes the process of program development more complex. There are many choices, forks in the ‘development road,’ and dead ends.”

One way to manage this complexity according to Dr. Sweeny is “to work with a program development mentor—someone who is experienced in the process and settings where many diverse goals have been addressed by different approaches and models.” He recognized that this could be “a more financially costly way to go, but then heading off on your own without such experienced guidance can cost considerable time, waste energy, and even result in the loss of good will from managers and participants if there are issues and problems along with way.” (Some of the world’s best mentor program development specialists are listed on the International Mentoring Association website.)

I agree with Dr. Sweeny and Dr. Pascarelli, both of whom I have known for years through our membership in the International Mentoring Association. Given the experience I’ve had with Peer Resources fielding questions about how to establish a mentoring program, I can add three additional perspectives.

Recognize that the Pursuit of a Quick-Fix is Innate
I’ve often found that the search for best practices is often a way of avoiding coming to grips with what is really necessary to develop an effective mentoring initiative in the enquiring organization or service. When I’ve practiced Barry Sweeny’s advice regarding asking about goals, I’ve been amazed at how few best practice searchers can actually articulate any goals. They often haven’t thought about this very deeply. There’s a common sense understanding that finding a set of best practices will enable all other elements required for effective mentoring to fall in place. At the same time, searching for best practices seems easier than dealing with some of the harder questions that require insight, reflection, internal research. Discovering a short cut seems deeply rooted in our brain functioning.

Develop a Set of Best Questions
Relying on best practices is a way to avoid engaging in thinking deeply about the issues and reflecting on the answers, and their potential uncertainty unavoidably involves some discomfort and pain. It’s natural to avoid going through this process, which is often negatively characterized as ‘reinventing the wheel.’ As an alternative, instead of working on establishing a set of best practices derived from the ideas of others, practitioners need to propose a set of best questions to ask themselves and their team members. Here are some examples of ‘best’ questions as applied to mentoring, for example:

  • What do you hope to achieve with a mentoring program?
  • What results do you expect?
  • Why are these things important?
  • What needs do the people in your organization have that can be better met through mentoring?

Assign a Risk-Level to Program Options
While a best practices guide can inspire you to think of, reflect on, or be inspired by what others have done, it can also be a barrier to creating your own path that is more likely to fit your organizational culture, values and mission. Just because others have developed a particular practice that works for them, doesn’t mean their success will transfer to your organization.

But it also means that they could work and benefit your mentoring initiative. When using best practices, take a “risk-based” approach. That is, with every ‘best practice’ reflect on the pluses and minuses of implementing that best practice in your organization. Ask yourself “How will this help or hinder the results we want? What might be an unintended or unexpected positive or negative outcome if we implement this best practice?”

The complexity of the human endeavor to live healthy and fulfilling lives is too important to leave to a set of best practices in any health and human services field whether it be mentoring, medicine, peer assistance, coaching, or other health practice. Best practices tell us about what worked in the past. If we want to live in the past, imitate them. If we want to build for the future, create practices that come from our hearts.

References

Ambler, S. (2011). Questioning “best practices” for software development: Practices are contextual, never best. (Retrieved from here.)

Ashkenas, R. (November 10, 2010). Why best practices are hard to practice. HBR Blog Network. (Retrieved from here.)

Bardach, E. (2011). A practical guide for policy analysis: The eightfold path to more effective problem solving, 4th edition. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. This book can be purchased through Amazon.ca, Amazon.com, or Amazon.co.uk.

Body, A. (2006). Principles of best practice: Construction procurement in New Zealand.New Zealand: Construction Industry Council. (Retrieved March 17, 2014 from here.)

Daniels, A.S., Cate, R., Bergeson, S., Forquer, S., Niewenhous, G., & Epps, B. (2013). Best practices: Level-of-care criteria for peer support services: A best-practice guide.Psychiatric Services, 10, 1176. (Retrieved March 17, 2014 from here.)

Greene, J.P. (2012). Best practices are the worst: Picking the anecdotes you want to believe. Educationnext. (Retrieved March 17, 2014 from here.)

Marston, G., & Watts, R. (2003). Tampering with the evidence: A critical appraisal of evidence-based policy-making. The Drawing Board: An Australian Review of Public Affairs, 3, 3, 143-163, (Retrieved March 18, 2014 from here.)

Sunderland, K., & Mishkin, W., (2013). Guidelines for the practice and training of peer support. Calgary, AB: Peer Leadership Group, Mental Health Commission of Canada. (Retrieved March 17, 2014 from here.

Williams, D.D.R., & Garner, J. (2002). The case against ‘the evidence’: A different perspective on evidence-based medicine. The British Journal of Psychiatry, 180, 8-12.


 

“Best practices’ lacks scientific credibility, but it has been a proven path to fame and fortune for pop-management gurus like Tom Peters, with In Search of Excellence, and Jim Collins, with Good to Great. The fact that many of the ‘best’ companies they featured subsequently went belly-up—like Atari and Wang Computers, lauded by Peters, and Circuit City and Fannie Mae, by Collins—has done nothing to impede their high-fee lecture tours. Sometimes people just want to hear a confident person with shiny teeth tell them appealing stories about the secrets to success.”

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

Walter Cronkite (1916-2009): Remembering His Legacy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“And that’s the way it is.”

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.

Knowlton Nash: Canadian Broadcast Mentor (1927-2014)

Knowlton_Nash broadcaster mentorChanging his mind about wanting to be a jockey led to the start of a 37-year career in broadcasting and becoming a role model for virtually all TV-news broadcasters. His successor at the CBC Peter Mansbridge said, “As a mentor to me, whatever kind of work crisis I might be going through or career crisis, I’d talk to Knowlton, and he’d give me fantastic advice.”

Another broadcaster described Mr. Nash’s influence this way. “I interviewed Mr. Nash about his book, Kennedy and Diefenbaker: Fear and Loathing Across the Undefended Border. He explained how he had covered both the Kennedy and Diefenbaker political administrations. I asked him what these men were like when they weren’t commenting on public policy. He said Diefenbaker was a man who looked at you for what you were and Kennedy was a man who looked at you for what you could become. His comment gave me a lifelong perspective on those who had given me guidance and believed I could do something with my talents. He basically helped me to identify my mentors. I never had the opportunity to thank Mr. Nash in person for his guiding words. All I could do was pay it forward with that same attitude.

Preventing Abuse in a Mentoring Program: What Went Wrong in Pennsylvania

IStopping‘m outraged, saddened, and distressed about the alleged child abuse events that happened in Pennsylvania. I’m not referring to who was fired or for what reasons, or to the grand jury investigation report (available online) that found so many people complicit in the pedophile crimes, or that it took way too long to discover this criminal behaviour.

Although I find these things disturbing and disgusting, I’m also concerned about what role mentoring or “alleged” mentoring played in this series of criminal acts, and what impact this might have on the future of recruiting mentors, as well as encouraging children and youth to have mentors in their lives.

Let’s be clear. What the accused man, who had a lengthy career as an assistant coach at the University of Pennsylvania, allegedly did to his multiple victims can in no way be considered mentoring. But he was the founder of a non-profit, youth-serving foundation that enabled him be a mentor and have unlimited access to children.

Through this youth-serving foundation, the accused child abuser was able to connect with dozens of youth who, along with their parents, expected, but did not receive, mentoring. Instead, they were connected with an unsafe individual whose primary aim was to find vulnerable children and youth to meet his pedophilia needs.

According to a statement from the Board of Directors of this foundation that is on their website, a period of six years elapsed from the time at which the CEO of foundation was informed of this pedophile’s inappropriate behaviour by Penn State authorities, and when the accused was banned from involvement in the foundations programs involving children. Six years!

The foundation’s statement also claims that “all the alleged incidents (of abuse) occurred outside our programs and events.” What isn’t said in their statement is how many children and youth he procured through the foundation to fuel his alleged criminal activities even if they occurred ‘outside’ of their program. (Editor’s note: After this article went to press the statement on the foundation’s website has been revised to indicate that the CEO of the foundation has resigned; the foundation intends to conduct its own internal investigation, and has admitted to complicity in providing children for the suspected pedophile.)

The reason this terrible connection concerns me as a mentor, grandparent and mentoring professional, is that mentoring youth has become and continues to be one of the most powerful ways of assisting young people to be successful in life. Virtually all youth-serving agencies today include a mentoring program that connects safe, caring and responsible adult volunteers with children or youth in a learning-oriented relationship.

As one of the pioneers of creating these relationships, and the co-architect of Canada’s most successful national mentoring program, we know what it takes to ensure that such programs are credible, trustworthy, and effective. If a few simple principles are not included in mentoring program policies and they fail to be closely monitored by program leaders, then it is likely that predators, abusers, and bullies will become involved and take advantage of some of our most vulnerable youth.

Such was the case in Pennsylvania. A youth-serving agency enabled an alleged serial pedophile to engage in authorized mentoring relationships with dozens of children and youth. The consequences of his actions have not only violated and traumatized many young people and their families, but have also led to the firings of others who had knowledge of his acts yet apparently failed to take the necessary steps to apprehend and stop further assaults.

Further disciplinary action, prosecution, and legal challenges involving others will depend on a more comprehensive investigation.

The Failure of Screening Techniques

How did the mentoring agency in Pennsylvania fail to prevent these criminal acts? Like many other mentoring agencies their intention is to screen out anyone who could possibly do harm to their clients. The primary way most mentoring agencies accomplish this is by having every applicant submit to a criminal record check requirement and provide a number of personal references.

But neither of these two methods is foolproof. For example, only someone who has been arrested in a jurisdiction covered by the police check will be flagged when the check is conducted. In addition, persons who have been questioned during an investigation which may have turned out to be inconclusive or resulted in too little evidence to bring to court will not be flagged. Even convicted pedophiles who change their names and move to different locations, states, provinces or countries can also defeat the intention of a criminal record check.

There is also some controversy about the cost of conducting criminal record check investigations. Who should pay for them? The already overworked police agencies often will not charge a non-profit agency for this additional work, but in other cases there is a fee associated with conducting the check. The cost factor often trumps the thoroughness, follow-through, follow-up, or continuation of scrutiny. Thus a person who passed the check the first time, but who is subsequently convicted unbeknownst to the agency, may have continued access to youth to victimize.

Most importantly the lack of coordination between local, provincial, national, and international policing units limits accessibility to complete records. Consequently the record of a pedophile convicted and imprisoned in one jurisdiction may not appear in another. What’s even more frightening is that it is likely that most pedophiles are not apprehended, and continue to engage in their criminal activity for long periods of time. The pedophile in Pennsylvania would have very easily been successful in defeating the standard criminal record check system used in that state.

The Failure of References

Letters of recommendation from associates are equally limited in their value as a safety assurance method. Prior to being discovered for his actions, the man apprehended in Pennsylvania, who was also a well-known college football coach, would have been able to obtain letters of recommendation from many of the people who eventually reported him for disturbing behaviour with children. These letters from very well-known and respected individuals would have carried great weight and clearly been influential in selecting him as a mentor.

Most pedophiles are highly skilled at hiding and conducting their criminal activities in private so that their immediate family, friends, neighbours and co-workers would be shocked, stunned, and in disbelief to learn of these horrible acts. Prior to being discovered, pedophiles, particularly those already involved as sports coaches or other youth-oriented activities, would have no problem asking others to provide letters of recommendation.

While hopefully rare, there is one other problem with letters of recommendation. When asked to write such a letter, some people agree to do so even if they have reservations about the person. The letter writer, like others in society, may even have some observation or evidence of inappropriate or questionable action of the letter requester, but the letter writer doesn’t want to make trouble, get someone else in trouble, or cause themselves some additional difficulty because of their suspicions or gut feelings. There are many instances where letter writers are not honest in their letters for fear of retribution, threats or violence. Few people are willing to take on the responsibility or consequences of being a whistleblower.

This not an uncommon circumstance and it often contributes to pedophiles employed as teachers or coaches being transferred to other schools, agencies or jurisdictions with decent letters of recommendation from previous employers or co-workers. This unwillingness to take a stand and do what’s right is one of the factors that enabled a teacher/principal in British Columbia to move from school to school prior to being convicted and imprisoned as a pedophile.

Practices to Promote Safety

The inadequacy of criminal record checks and letters of recommendations to screen out pedophiles (as well as other immoral or criminal behaviours) does not mean they should be abandoned. The deficiencies in these screening methods have been addressed by Friends for Youth, a mentoring organization in California, that published a set of comprehensive guidelines for ensuring a stronger screening process that goes beyond simple background checks.

Screening methods need to be combined with at least three other mentoring program practices that are designed to keep children and youth safe from predators: training, boundaries, and monitoring.

In-Person Training. All volunteer mentors must participate fully in face-to-face orientation and training, led by skilled and experienced mentor program personnel. While the potential mentors are learning certain skills associated with being an effective mentor, the program leader has an opportunity to observe directly how the potential mentor responds, interacts with others, and how they perform in role play situations covering a variety of areas essential to mentoring effectiveness.

In addition, orientation and training for potential mentors provides the program with an opportunity to discuss with and gain commitment from the volunteers with regards to child abuse and neglect reporting standards and requirements.

Although this scrutiny that can take place during orientation and training is not foolproof, it provides the training leaders with information about individual candidates, their abilities and attitudes, and assists them to develop a more refined working relationship with each potential mentor which will be essential for the success of the next two necessary program practices.

Clear Boundaries. Probably no other behaviour was a greater signal of trouble in the Pennsylvania pedophile case than the violation of appropriate mentor program boundaries. In no circumstances should gifts, money, un-escorted trips, sleeping in the same room, or dozens of other transgressions be allowed or tolerated in a mentoring relationship. These are immediate red flags, and the prohibition of such acts must be communicated fully not only to the mentors, but also to all those involved, including parents, guardians, the children and youth being mentored, and other personnel responsible for making mentoring successful.

Every mentoring program must include such boundary discussions in publicity, recruiting, and training. This boundary element appeared to be completely missing in the Pennsylvania mentoring organization that enabled a pedophile to connect with children and youth, as the pedophile provided extensive gifting, trips, game tickets, showering together, and sleep-overs in his home.

All of these boundary violations, while on the surface appearing to be an indication of caring, opportunity and generosity, have, in reality, great potential to establish a highly troubling conflict and trauma for youth. The horror that was created for children in the Pennsylvania case was dramatically enabled by these boundary violations.

Monitoring and Supervision. While boundaries are essential, they must also be enforced. All mentoring relationships that connect children and youth with adults must be closely monitored and supervised by qualified personnel until which time the mentoring program leader can express confidence and trust in an un-monitored or less frequently supervised relationship.

Sometimes this progressive trust approach means that mentoring relationships must begin in public places such as school class or activity rooms with a third party present or able to observe from time to time. If the mentoring relationship is activity-based, that is, the mentor and youth attend a game together or play some kind of game together, these activities must be supervised or accompanied by another adult.

At some point mentor program leaders have to trust the judgment of the mentor as to what is appropriate. However, every mentoring program must have a policy in place that requires the mentor to discuss potential risks with the program supervisor prior to engaging in such behaviour.

Not all potential boundary violations can be determined ahead of time. However, two simple questions a mentor can ask ahead of time can identify almost any action that has potential risk: (1) Will the behaviour be approved, encouraged, and appreciated by the child’s parent/guardian? and (2) If local authorities learned of this behaviour, would it be supported and encouraged?

Continuous Evaluation. Monitoring also includes conducting continuous evaluations of interactions, relationships, and outcomes of the youth-mentor interactions. Typically, these assessments are managed through interviews or phone calls with both the mentor and the youth separately and together.

These reviews are particularly essential at the beginning of the mentoring relationship and must be conducted with skill and sensitivity in order to maintain confidentiality or privacy, while at the same time giving the mentor program leader the confidence that the relationship is progressing appropriately. Where boundaries may have been accidentally or innocently crossed, the program leader can immediately take appropriate action to ensure future compliance.

Fortunately, most youth-based mentoring programs in North America pay strict attention to these few simple and basic principles. Many add other ideas to even further reduce the likelihood that the safety or children in their care will be compromised.

It is not clear from the website of the foundation in Pennsylvania that they have implemented any or all of the basic and essential program practices mentioned here. But it is clear that their public face on the Internet provides too little information to encourage the confidence and trust of parents, the public, or other mentoring professionals. What is available on their website is not sufficient to fully inform and educate parents their children will be safe and benefit from a mentoring relationship.

The Illusion of Safety

The success of at-risk youth mentoring programs and services throughout the 1980s to late 1990s, led to proliferation of extensive government-initiated funding opportunities in the USA. While thousands of agencies took advantage of this financial support to create or add mentoring programs, too few paid attention to implementing all the safety requirements outlined here.

Most of these newcomer agencies used the police record check, letters of reference and personal interviews as their primary method of attending to safety. Shoestring budgets, the hiring of inexperienced but well-meaning staff, timelines that met funding requirements in place of appropriate and known standards, revolving personnel, and policy shortcuts, typically resulted in few of these organizations actually engaging in thorough screening, comprehensive personal training, progressive monitoring and on-going evaluation.

Millions of children currently have or have had safe, responsible, caring mentors that they connect with on a regular basis. Mentoring continues to be one of the most powerful ways we can help each other in improve our lives in society and accomplish great heights. Let’s keep it great by ensuring that all mentoring programs pay attention to these proven principles and practices.

“Even very caring, responsible adults can be lulled into complacency by the ‘Illusion Of Safety.’ The Illusion of Safety happens in settings or situations where people feel so relaxed, sheltered, or distracted that they stop focusing on ensuring that their children have adequate supervision, understanding, and skills to avoid potential dangers.”

          ~ Irene van der Zande, Kidpower Executive Director ~

“Most predators look like you or me and act perfectly normal. They’ve perfected the ‘mask of sanity.’ They do less well trying to respect the boundaries of others. They won’t take ‘no’ for an answer—especially when you’ve already answered a few times. If you feel you are not being heard, you might be dealing with someone who is dangerous, not just annoying. Predators also usually have trouble imitating the most human of traits—empathy.”

~ Dr. Keith Ablow, Psychiatrist and Life Coach ~

“Many [mentoring] programs are struggling with relatively few resources and insufficient personnel to provide mentors with ongoing support and supervision…. These observations underscore the need for careful screening and training of mentors and for the provision of ample resources to support the development and management of mentoring programs.” (Source)

~ Jean Rhodes, Mentor expert, author, and Professor of Psychology, University of Massachusetts ~

“Even though references are commonly used to screen and select employees, they have not been successful in predicting future employee success….If given the chance to choose their own references, even undesirables such as Nazi leader Adolph Hitler, serial killer Ted Bundy, and terrorist Abu Nidal would be able to find three people who would provide them with favorable references.”

~ Michael Aamodt, Devon Bryan, and Alan Whitcomb. (1993). Predicting Performance with Letters of Recommendation. Public Personnel Management,22, 81-90. ~

“It may be that your sole purpose in life is to serve as a warning to others.”

 ~ Grey Owl, Tribal leader and mentor ~