Mentoring Schmentoring


“Mentoring Schmentoring, it’s all the same. A bunch of people who think they know what the rest of us should do.”

This came from a member of a client’s staff. She was a senior executive, head of marketing, and she had a reputation for being almost cruel in her directness. She wasn’t the first person to make derogatory comments about the profession, nor would she be the last.

Being entirely truthful, I do get it. For a long time I refused to even consider mentoring or coaching as my work because it seemed too …soft. I was a numbers guru, worked on Wall Street, passed the CPA, even had a few record breaking deals under my cap! Psychology? Counseling? Nope.

Obviously I changed my mind. You already know a part of that story - that while I was at Columbia I had this strange moment, somewhere between curiosity and astonishment. Is there a class to learn how to work well with others, at work? The part you don’t know has to do with being in mergers and acquisitions; that was my field of expertise, helping companies buy or divest. I remember noticing how some deals were easy irrespective of the numbers, sometimes in spite of them. Taking a closer look, I realized that it was the people involved that made it so. Two owners would meet for the first time, and they’d click. That deal was easy. And then another two owners would meet and something was off. That deal was hard. It made me wonder:

Was there a way to tilt the odds in favor of easy?

Of course, and that’s what I do now. It’s particularly sweet when I get to do this work with someone who is, well, let’s just say, not a fan. The woman mentioned above took the enneagram and when she got her results, she pulled me aside, and with tears in her eyes, she said, “I have a lot of learning to do, don’t I?”

Reading about her own style made her realize that her harsh judgments of others often caused rifts and the resulting stress bubbled just under the surface. Her particular enneagram type offered her employer many outstanding contributions, and it also clarified a few areas for adjustment.

Mentors don’t tell people what they should be doing. I think mothers have cornered the market on that job! :)

Mentors do point out other options, different choices, and occasionally blind spots all in the service of the larger goal: Working Well Together.