Imagine my surprise...
…when, beginning grad school in 1973 here in Denver, Colorado, I learned that one of my main intentional mentors at the time also had mentors. That impressed me.
As Leadership Design Group’s whole-person mentoring model began to be formed during those three important years, it was also impressed upon me that there are three types of mentors we each need in our lives. Realizing this…
…none of us
are without mentors,
unless we choose to be.
This is not written to you in the order of importance, for all three types of mentors are needed in our lives. All three types of mentors are crucial for you and I to keep growing forward in the development of meaning in our lives.
…the Distance Mentor…
When someone tells me they do not have an in-person mentor, accessible, I ask them, (…and not meaning to pull any “mind pranks” here…) “Do you read?” Of course, today’s “reading” can be listening to a book, but no matter wether with your eyes or ears…do you read? This is not a trick question.
My main, in-person, grad school mentor had a personal library of several thousand books. Indeed, he was a reader. 😉 Often, in his office, without leaving his chair, we would be talking about some life issue and he would direct me to a certain aisle in his personal library, to a certain shelf, to a certain book, to a certain page, to a certain thought. He would then invite me to come back to my chair and read to him what I found…and that would fuel our conversation for that particular mentoring moment.
Three years of that, sometimes even once per week, left me with a deep impression of gleaning wisdom, insight, diversity of opinions from a wide range of authors, men and women, who were immersed in their particular fields of thought and work. My love for books oozed into high gear those days.
My love of mentoring emerging leaders (…they would each tell you…) consistently includes inviting them to read a wide variety of authors that then become their distant mentors. These are not just authors we agree with, but authors who are inviting us to think ever deeper about our own lives, the needs of others, and the needs that exist in our world.
I’m smiling at this, but last week one of the brilliant 30-something leaders I mentor locally asked me, “Do you have a book for everything?” I once asked the same of the my mentor mentioned above. If I don’t know of a book, film, piece of art, life experience that may nurture or expand their thinking, we forge a partnership to find one. We all have mentors if we can read.
…the Peer Mentor…
During my grad school experience I made fast friends with several fellow students. Two are still alive. Two are deceased. All four of them were/are brilliant. Over our lifetimes, to the current moment, I am still in touch with the two who are still alive. I miss those who have stepped into eternity ahead of the rest of us. They “got” me. I “got” them.
I’m not dumb, by a long shot (…though I once thought I was because, unfortunately, I was told that a lot growing up…), but from high school, through college, and then grad school, somehow I made it a habit to hang around, get to know the brighter kids in my classes. An older, well educated, well-traveled man in my younger life championed my insatiable curiosity.
I realize now that that olde gent was most likely a first serious mentor to recognize in me something more than my “clever, creative antics” that got me in occasional trouble. One day he said to me, “Young Roberts, never let anyone stifle your curiosity. And you have more than almost anyone I’ve met. Never stop asking questions. Make sure you find friends who will ask questions with you about all of life.”
Thus, with deep thanks, I have some of those kinds of friends. They are peers in our being world citizens, even though some of our beliefs may significantly differ. We challenge each other to think through life’s issues that show up on the horizons of our individual lives.
In an enriching way we are mentoring each other, as valued and respected peers, committed to listening deeply to what is being said, and why. We are committed to trading ideas, listening to the “hard stuff” of life, suggesting books, films, music, experiences that will broaden and deepen each of our lives. If you have friends such as these, you are, in this way also well mentored.
…the Intentional Mentor…
In a major capacity, this is what Leadership Design Group is all about. Intentional mentoring. This happens one-to-one. In person, it can be done in a committed group of emerging leaders. And this also takes place with married couples or soon-to-be-married couples I’ve the privilege of mentoring.
Here an intentional consistency takes place where we mutually agree to meet for approximately 90 minutes every two to three weeks. Timing is arbitrary and is worked to fit our mutual schedules. This happens with leaders from the Denver area, and on FaceTime or Skype for those who live away from here, even in other countries.
What, in time, results from this intentionality is that deep-change begins to emerge. Even though we may discuss their different personal agenda items, we are aware of the whole person, and what is being impacted in that person’s 8 dimensions of their own whole life.
A bit of a confession, sitting here at my computer I find myself again smiling. When a mentoree commits to being intentional with what we are talking over…when that man or woman, no matter their age, commits to exploring all of who they are, in, under around and through their own whole unique life so that deep change is given permission to take place…transformation happens in time, at depth…in time…all the time.
We all have distance mentors if we give that some thought. As my friends know, if you need a book to read, let me know. I’ll either have a suggestion, or help you find the best one for where you are with who you are and what you are needing to explore.
The simple truth is that we often have fewer peer mentors. Rarely do we not have access to these gems of relationships if we but give that some thought. Who do you respect that has thoughts and life experience that you would like to engage?
Too often, others like us, can get so busy with doing life that we forget to have an intentional mentor, or three, that we can count on to be guides in our lives. Those who do have intentional mentors seem to be thriving deeper and stronger than those who do not in all the dimensions of their lives.
This is a “toss up” question: can one have too many intentional mentors? Good question. The response, individually, is, what is one seeking from their mentoring moments? However, there is an olde adage that too many cooks spoil the broth…so, my opinion, more than two or three intentional mentors may get confusing as one lives through their life.
One final thought is important here. There are some leaders I’ve been mentoring for years, even decades, now. With some dynamic others there will be a shorter “life span” to the intentional mentoring. That is way OK. As whole-life mentors we are fully there for the mentoree, they are not there for us, even though special friendships can emerge, like I enjoyed with my grad school mentor.
Those I’ve the sacred privilege of intentionally mentoring know they are free to stay…and when they need to go, they are free to go. I welcome sending them off into their lives with both grace and blessing.