The Strengths Blog


November 19th, 2014

The Strengths Companion: L is for The Learner Learns What The Learner Wants To Learn

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There are many philosophies about how people learn. A key principle that underlines most approaches, however, is that:

The learner learns what the learner wants to learn.

Looking back at your own life, can you think of a time when you deliberately set out to learn something? You may have wanted to learn how to drive, touch type, master a skill, solve a problem, lead a team or whatever.

If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to do the following things.

Describe a specific time in the past when you set out to learn something.

Describe the specific things you did then – the steps you took – to learn it.

Describe the specific benefits of learning it.

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Peter Senge believes that people love to learn. Writing in The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organisation, he explained:

Real learning gets to the heart of what it means to be human. Through learning we re-create ourselves.

Through learning we become able to do something we never were able to do. Through learning we reperceive the world and our relationship to it.

Through learning we extend our capacity to create, to be part of the generative process of life. There is within each of us a deep hunger for this type of learning.

Peter believes that an organisation’s ability to develop calls for creating an environment that encourages its people to learn. Why? This is its only chance to thrive in an increasingly complex world.


People want to learn things that are relevant and rewarding. Let’s explore some examples of where this holds true.

The first stems from New Zealand in the middle of the 20th Century. The second applies to people learning how to develop in today’s fast moving world.

Reaching Out To learn

Sylvia Ashton-Warner was a gifted but complex teacher who worked with Māori children in New Zealand from the 1940s onwards.

Experts flocked to study her methods for helping children to learn to read and write. She produced excellent results, but had the reputation of being somewhat difficult. So what was the secret of her success?

Sylvia believed in organic reading and writing. Learning must be real. It must start from a person’s experience and relate to their world.

Children were then able to learn quickly and, in the process, develop their inner strength. Let’s explore how this worked in practice, starting with an example from her book Teacher.

Bringing learning to life

Sylvia calls the children to attention each morning by playing the first eight notes of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony.

She asks the class to tackle their work, then invites each child to her in turn. Gay is the first child to come to her desk.

Sylvia asks: “What word do you want today?”

Gay replies: “House.”

Sylvia writes the word on a piece of cardboard. She then asks Gay to trace the word with her finger and say it out loud. Gay ‘owns’ the word, it comes from her guts.

Sylvia makes sure that Gay says the word, sees the word and feels it in her body. She gives Gay the cardboard and asks her to keep her ‘word’ for the day.

Sylvia repeats the process with each child. When the class finishes, she collects all the words on the separate pieces of cardboard.

The next morning Sylvia starts the class by tipping the cardboard words onto the floor. She tells the children:

“Find your word.”

Gay leaps from the chair and rummages in the pile.

“House,” she shouts, “I have found my word.”


Children have two visions, an inner vision and an outer vision, said Sylvia, and it is the inner vision that burns brightest. Gay grasps the word that she spoke from her inner vision.

Sylvia would then ask each child to choose a partner, speak their words and hear their partner’s words. While the children taught each other, she repeated the process of inviting each child to choose their word for the day. They built up what Sylvia called their Key Vocabulary.

What happened if Gay failed to find her word? Sylvia ripped up the piece of cardboard. The word has failed the ‘one look’ test and could not have any great meaning for Gay.

In those days the classrooms often displayed Jack and Jill illustrations to introduce the reading vocabulary to five-year-olds, says Sylvia, but it was a vocabulary chosen by educationalists in Auckland or London.

Gay could only own those words that came from deep within herself. She was more likely to love these words and want to write them on paper.

Shouldn’t these Māori children be learning Oxbridge English? Once they knew the joy of creating their own words, said Sylvia, they would reach out longingly to learn about other cultures. She believed that:

Reaching out for a book must become an organic action.

The same rule applies to many kinds of learning. You can learn more about Sylvia’s life and work via the following link.

The New 3Rs in Education

Today some people talk about the new 3Rs regarding education. Students are more likely to learn if the following conditions are in place.


The learner needs to feel safe and have a good relationship with the educator. They are then more able to be open, take risks and dare to try new things.


The learner needs to see the relevance of what they are going to learn.


The learner can then develop the rigour and resilience that is required to learn new things. It can also be useful to build in time to reflect on the learning and see results.

Good educators create encouraging environments in which people learn how to learn. The students often develop this skill by learning things they find relevant. This also helps them to make good decisions and manage complexity in a fast changing world.

Today there are many educational projects that focus on helping young people to develop what are called 21st Century Skills.

These are often termed as Critical Thinking, Creativity, Collaboration and Communication. These are the skills that employers say they want the people to learn.

Some governments, however, want to force through schooling programmes that emphasise rigour and learn by rote. They forget about the importance of relationships and relevance.

Here is a link to more about 21st Century Skills.


Learning At Work

You will, of course, apply this approach in your own way. Looking at my own work, I have spent much of my life mentoring and running workshops.

The times when this has worked well have often been because I was able to tap into people’s learning agendas. The times when I have hit trouble have been when I did not take this step.

People sometimes do choose to learn certain skills, however, even if they do not feel immediately attracted to doing so. Why? They see the big picture.

They see how learning the skill is relevant to enabling them to reach certain goals. People therefore choose to learn the skill in order to achieve future success.

During my twenties, for example, I decided to learn to touch type. This meant a two hour round trip into London every day for half hour lessons over a period of two weeks.

Looking ahead, I aimed to spend much of my life writing. Watching the moving light go from key to key was not great. I chose to do it, however, because the long term benefits would be rewarding.

This approach can be worth bearing in mind when running workshops for people in organisations. People may prefer to be somewhere else, other than on the workshop.

So it is important to position the benefits for people. They can then actively choose to give their best on the session.

How to make this happen? Imagine you are running such a workshop. You will probably meet with the key stakeholders ahead of time and ask some of the following questions.

What are the goals of the session? What are the key themes it would be useful to focus on?

What are the concrete things that you and other people would like to take away from the session? What are the real results you want to achieve? What is the picture of success?

Who are the people who will be coming to the session? What is happening in their world? What are some of the challenges they face? What are the specific results they want to deliver – or must deliver – in their work?

What are their strengths? What are the specific areas in which people deliver As, rather than Bs or Cs? How can they build on these strengths? What are the things they need to learn to manage the consequences of any weaknesses?

What are the kinds of examples they will be able to relate to? What are their learning styles? What are the overall Dos and Don’ts for relating to these people?

What are the actual words you want people to be saying after the session? What do you want them to be thinking, feeling and then doing? What for you – and for them – will make it a successful session?

Bearing their answers in mind, play back your understanding regarding the goals for the session. Make sure everybody is agreed on the desired outcomes. You will aim to make the workshop relevant and rewarding for the participants.

When starting the actual session, it will be important to make clear working contracts with people. You may say something like:

Welcome to the session.

Today the aim is to provide practical tools you can use to continue to achieve success.

Bearing in mind the overall organisation’s goals – and the challenges you face in your work – some of the topics we aim to explore today are:

How to …

How to …

How to …

My role is to provide an encouraging environment and practical tools that work. The role I would like you to take is to encourage each other and also apply the tools in your own way.

Bearing in mind what I have outlined, are there any other topics you would like us to explore?

If appropriate, you can also add other topics that will contribute towards people achieving success. People often say, however:

“That sounds enough to be going on with. If we do those things, then we will be well on our way.”

Good educators make sure that the learning relates to people’s personal or professional goals. They ensure that people make a conscious decision to choose to learn the topic during the session.

Let’s return to your own life and work. Looking to the future, are there any things you want to learn?

If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to do the following things.

Describe a specific thing that you would like to learn in the future.

Describe the specific things you can do – the steps you can take – to learn it.

Describe the specific benefits of learning this thing.

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November 18th, 2014

The Strengths Companion: P is for Your Prime Times


When are your prime times? What are the times of the day when you have most energy? When do you feel most creative? Let’s explore how you can make the most use of such times.

Clarifying Your
Prime Times

Energy is life. Sometimes we have lots of energy, sometimes we feel drained. Sometimes we need to rest and recover in order to become revitalised.

Are you at your best in the morning, the afternoon, the evening or a combination of these times?

Rollo May, the psychologist, believed people could become more effective by identifying and making good use of such times.

Writing in the first edition of The Ageless Spirit, he explained his own schedule for a day.

“I stay in my studio each day for four hours, but the last hour and a half isn’t worth very much.

“It was hard for me to accept, but what can I do? All I can do is make the most of the creative time I’ve got.

“So for two and a half hours I’m moving marvellously; the rest of the time I’m simply fiddling around.

“But I find joy in fiddling too. I have to accept the fact that I’m not a God. I have to accept my destiny.

“I have to accept the fact that I can only do creative work for a few hours a day, but that does not diminish one iota the joy I get from those two hours.”

Rollo believed it was important to ‘catch the wave’, otherwise it was gone forever.

If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites to you describe your prime times during a day.



Capitalising On
Your Prime Times

The first step is to clarify when you have most energy. The second is to clarify how you can make the best use of those times.

How to make this happen? One person I worked with did the exercise called My Perfect Working Day.

Starting by focusing on the prime times, they then sketched out how things would look on such a day.


“I began by identifying my peaks and troughs during the day,” they said. “My best time is between 8.00 and 11.30 in the morning. I dip during the afternoon, but then come alive again at 9.00 pm.

“Previously I used to berate myself for having low energy during those downtimes. But then I learned to follow these natural rhythms.

“I became very protective of those times, but I faced a dilemma. My desk is located in an open plan office and it is difficult to concentrate with so many interruptions.

“So now I get into the office at 7.30 am and leave a note about my whereabouts in case of emergency. Then I spend the first hour by myself doing creative work in a place where I can concentrate. Sometimes I am interrupted by urgent requests, but frequently it is my most productive part of the day.

If you wish try tackling the exercise on this theme. Describe the specific things you can do to make the best use of your prime times.



Continuing To Perform
During Your Prime Times

How can you continue to protect your prime times and catch the waves? One approach is to learn from peak performers.

Looking ahead, they plot when they will have most energy. This can be during a day, a week, a month or a year. So their schedule may look something like the following.


You will do this in your own way, but it can be helpful to do the following things.


Peak performers often plan ahead and try to protect their prime times. They also arrange their time in blocks. They are then able to be fully present when performing activities.


Peak performers rehearse everything before embarking on their chosen activity. They sometimes pursue the following guidelines.

They clarify the picture of success.

They rehearse pursuing the key strategies for achieving the picture of success.

They rehearse solving any potential problems on the road to achieve the picture of success.

They relax, re-centre and refocus on the picture of success.


Peak performers click into alert mode when embarking upon the actual work. They then give everything to do their best to achieve the picture of success.

If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to describe how you can plan ahead, prepare for and perform during your prime times. Taking these steps can increase the chances of producing peak performances.



November 17th, 2014

The Strengths Companion: P is for A Sense of Peace

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When do you enjoy a sense of peace? Here are some answers given by other people.

I enjoy a sense of peace

When I have done my best … When I do work that helps others … When I breathe properly … When listen to beautiful music … When I am gardening.

When I write an article that may inspire people … When I find the solution to a particular problem … When I do things where I enjoy the journey as much as reaching the goal.

Different people pursue different paths towards experiencing this feeling. They may focus on encouraging others, building loving relationships, expressing their talents, achieving certain goals, caring for the planet or whatever.

Here are quotes from three people who have worked on enabling people to experience fulfilment and inner peace. These come from Thich Nhat Hanh, the Zen philosopher, John Wooden, the basketball coach, and Virginia Satir, the family therapist.

If in our daily life we can smile, if we can be peaceful and happy, not only we, but everyone will profit from it.

This is the most basic kind of peace work.

Thich Nhat Hanh

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.

John Wooden

As a therapist, I am a companion. I try to help people tune into their own wisdom.

Over the years I have developed a picture of what a human being living humanely is like.

She is a person who understands, values and develops her body, finding it beautiful and useful; a person who is real and is willing to take risks, to be creative, to manifest competence, to change when the situation calls for it, and to find ways to accommodate to what is new and different, keeping that part of the old that is still useful and discarding what is not.

Virginia Satir

Let’s explore how it may be possible to experience a sense of peace in your daily life, work and time on the planet.

Peace In
Your Daily Life

“Many people appreciate life more after a brush with death,” said one person.

“But I didn’t understand this fully until being diagnosed with a severe illness.

“Going through the classic change curve was surreal, because I had taught it to many people. Now it was happening to me. After awhile I did what many people do.

“Gathering the facts about my illness, I explored the possible treatments. But I also counted my blessings and the things that made life worthwhile.

“Mobilising these forces, I embarked upon my treatment. At the same time, I focused on enjoying small things each day.

“The small pleasures included watching visitors to the bird table, eating hot buttered toast and spending time with loved ones.

“I also learned to breathe properly. That sounds odd but, amidst the rush of my daily work, it was something I had meant to do for years.

“Breathing properly helped to deal with the crises. But it also taught me more. It is something I continue to do, because it helps me to feel at peace.”

Imagine you want to enjoy a sense of peace during parts of your daily life. Different people do this in different ways.

They may do things they love, encourage other people, walk with their dog, listen to music, reflect on their assets or take time out while the world is turning.

If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. Describe the specific things you can do to give yourself a sense of peace in your daily life.

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Peace In Your
Daily Work

People choose different routes in their work. Each choice does, of course, have consequences.

Some people take the fulfilling road and don’t worry about funding. Some take the Faustian road and aim to make money. They hope that one day this will free them to do what they want. Some take the fulfilling road and are good at getting funding.

People spend much of their lives at work. Many feel more at peace when playing to their strengths and doing significant work, rather than doing poor work or stagnating. They enjoy the feeling of a job well done and taking a pride in their work.

When do you get the feeling of being alive and doing your best at work? You may enjoy stimulating work that is stretching and where you stand a reasonable chance of success.

What do you feel after doing such work? The work may be hard, but accomplishing it can lead to a sense of peace.

If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. Describe the specific things you can do to give yourself a sense of peace in your daily life.

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Peace During Your
Time On The Planet

Today many people refer to Mark Twain’s quote that:

“The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.”

People want to have a sense of purpose. Individuals may do this by asking some of the following questions.

What do I want to do in my life? What do I want to give to other people? What will be the benefits of doing those things – both for myself and other people?

What are the things that give me positive energy? How can I translate these into a clear purpose?

How can I do something towards this each day? How can I make my best contribution to people and the planet?

There are many exercises that people use to explore this path. Some people start by doing some variation of the following exercise.

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You may prefer to clarify your life goals in another way. Whatever approach you take, however, clarifying these goals can act as a compass.

You can bear in mind these aims when making decisions. When given the opportunity to take a new job, for example, you can ask yourself:

“Will taking this step help me to achieve my longer term picture of success?”

Different people choose different ways to achieve their personal aims. During the past 30 years there have been many studies that have focused on wellbeing and happiness.

These have highlighted some common patterns demonstrated by people who enjoy happy lives.

They are grateful and positive. They feel encouraged and loved. They feel alive and creative.

They are true to themselves and have a sense of purpose. They aim to be the best they can be, rather than compare themselves with others.

You will have your own way of clarifying your purpose and personal goals. People who do something towards these each day are more likely to enjoy a sense of peace.

If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. Describe the specific things you can do to give yourself a sense of peace during your time on the planet.

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November 16th, 2014

The Strengths Companion: G is for Getting Work By Going Out and Helping People To Succeed

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The old saying goes:

Some people make things happen, some watch while things happen and some wonder ‘What happened?’

Certainly this was true during the recession. Some people who lost their jobs tried to figure out what had happened and looked for somebody to blame. Others adopted different strategies when pursuing their job search.

“I am going to spend time polishing my CV and registering with recruitment agencies,” said one person.

“Then I am going to reconnect with people I know. That is something I should have done before, but I am not good at promoting myself.”

Another person said:

“I know my strengths and there are lots of jobs out there where I can help people.

“You can’t tell me that every project and every piece of work in the country is on time, on budget and on course to reach its goals.

“Somewhere there are bound to be unsatisfied customer needs. So I am going to get out there and help other people to succeed.”

Imagine that you face the prospect of an empty calendar. Let’s explore how you can find work in the future.

You can clarify your strengths

Several years ago I worked with a dynamic business that educated its people to take charge of their careers. Eventually the business was sold and then dissolved. The buyers initially told them:

“We want to buy your profitability, market and know how. Most of all, we want to buy your culture.

“The people in your business have energy. We want them to spread this attitude through our company, which has become stale.”

Fine words. But within a year most people in the previously dynamic business became disillusioned.

The large company ran things by committees and, despite saying it wanted to change, ground every new idea to dust.

Some time later I met with several of the former employees. They had all moved on to fulfilling work and had stood out from the crowd at interviews. As one person said:

“The education we got regarding taking charge of our careers stood us in good stead.

“Several interviewers gave positive feedback regarding how we described the contribution we wanted to make to their company.

“Other candidates used the interviews to find out more about the jobs. But we had done our homework and were ready to hit the ground running.”

During their time at the dynamic business the employers had been encouraged to focus on the following messages.

Everybody wants to do satisfying work. If you want to get paid for doing what you love, however, you may want to consider taking the following steps.

Start by doing your internal work. It is useful:

To clarify your strengths – where you deliver As.

To clarify your potential sponsors – the potential customers and employers – and the challenges they face.

To clarify how you can use your strengths to help them to achieve success.

Being crystal clear on what you offer, you can then do the external work.

Focus on your sponsors, show you understand their world and describe what you can deliver to help them to reach their goals.

If appropriate, make clear working contracts. You can then do superb work, get some quick wins and deliver success.

If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. Imagine that you want to find work or simply help other people. The exercise invites you to do the following things.

Describe your strengths – the specific activities in which you deliver As, rather than Bs or Cs.

Try to give specific examples of when you have used these strengths to deliver success.

Describe the potential sponsors – the potential customers or employers – who you can help and the challenges they face.

Describe how you could use your strengths to help these people to achieve success.

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You can go out and do work that
helps other people to succeed

“The recession taught me a lot,” said one person.

“Like many people, my first reaction was to worry about maintaining an income.

“My second reaction was more interesting. I reframed the situation as an opportunity to help people.

“Over the years I have built a business as a mentor, but that suddenly became a luxury purchase. Despite funds being cut, I offered my time to meet clients five days a week.

“Mentoring is often about helping people to make good decisions. So my clients and I explored the tough choices they needed to make regarding shaping their future businesses.

“On the practical side, the first aim was to cover my weekly costs, which proved possible.

“After a month or so several clients asked me to do various project work. This included helping teams to complete internal projects, improve customer service and develop new business.

“These projects were funded from the technology and marketing budgets. Previously my work had been paid for by Human Resources.

“Nowadays my diary is full. But I am concerned about the next possible dip in the market.

“So it is time to go out and give to people again.”

“That sounds fine, but rather idealistic,” somebody may say. “What if you have to earn money quickly?”

You then follow the golden rule:

You can make getting a job a full time job

Successful job seekers follow this path. They cram their days with activities most likely to get them in front of people.

Then comes the thorny part. Many people still say: “I am no good at promoting myself.” But they forget the real point.

Real networking is about
helping other people to succeed

Sounds crazy? Perhaps. But it is the most effective way I know of getting work.

People buy people. Whilst CVs may look good, most buyers in the market want somebody who they can trust, somebody who they know can deliver. One person said:

“Every job I have had over the past 20 years has come from my network.

“Twice during that time the company I was employed by got taken over and my job disappeared. So it was then time to reconnect with people who knew what I could deliver.

“The hard part was getting started. I spent masses of time visiting people.

“A long time ago I learned that the conversation should be about them and their company, not about me.

“Every visit I followed up with an email framing possible ideas they could use to tackle specific challenges.

“Several times this led to contract work and somebody saying: ‘How can we take this further?’

“This is how I have got my last two jobs. I started by doing pieces of project work, then moved into full-time employment.”

How can you give to people? It is important to follow your natural style, rather than force yourself to do cold calling.

Do things that put a spring in your step. You might want to recommend books, offer to provide a pair of hands or connect like-minded people by putting them in touch with each other.

Like an actor, it’s vital to keep working. Do something every day to reach people in your network, but be patient. It can take time before the right opportunity appears.

If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to do the following things.

Draw a map of your network. Write the names of potential sponsors, customers, colleagues, friends and other people.

Describe the specific challenges that each person faces.

Describe the specific things you can do to give to each person and help them to succeed.

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You can continue to get work
by being generous and
helping other people to succeed

Alec Dickson, one of my mentors, founded Voluntary Service Overseas and Community Service Volunteers.

He believed that, in the act of giving, the giver often receives more than the receiver. Alec supported Albert Schweitzer’s idea that:

The ones among you who will be really happy are
those who have sought and found how to serve

Generous people are, by and large, happier than greedy people. Those who use their strengths to help others to succeed can sometimes find heaven on earth.

Imagine that you need to find work. As Ruth Stafford Peale put it: “Find a need and fill it.” Or, as Martin Luther King said:

“Everyone can be great because everyone can serve.

“You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve.

“You don’t need to know about Plato and Aristotle to serve.

“You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love. And you can be that servant.”

After finding a job a person can sometimes stop reaching out. Some of the lessons they learned about helping others – and helping themselves – tend to fade.

The best time for a person to really network is when they are successful, rather than when they want something. They then have even greater strength to give to others. Paradoxically, they may find that even more opportunities come their way.

There are many models for finding work. One approach is to polish the CV and place it in the hands of others. Another is to get out there and help other people to succeed. The second approach is more likely to find work.

If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. Describe how you can continue giving to people. Then do something every day to help others to succeed.

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November 16th, 2014

The Strengths Companion: M is for Mentoring

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There are many ways to encourage people. One approach is to act as a mentor and pass on knowledge that helps people to succeed.

Mentoring is a huge subject. So let’s start by considering some of the frequently asked questions about mentoring and coaching.

What do mentors do?

Mentors are wise and trusted advisors. They share knowledge in a way that helps the mentee to achieve their personal or professional goals.

Many successful people use mentors. Why? They sometimes like to meet with a third party who helps them to get an overview of a situation. They can then explore their possible options, make decisions and chart their route forwards.

The word mentor comes from Homer’s epic poem The Iliad. When Odysseus left to do battle in Troy, he asked a man called Mentor to take care of his son, Telemachus.

Rumour has it that Mentor was not always up to the task. The Goddess Athena therefore assumed his form and made him strong and wise.

Several years ago I wrote a book on The Art of Mentoring. This was based on the experience of introducing mentoring programmes into organisations. It also highlights ways of applying the classic mentoring model in action.


Why do organisations
use mentoring?

Mentoring plays a key role in nurturing talent.

The benefits for the organisations include passing on wisdom and helping people to make good quality decisions.

The benefits for the mentee are that it provides an opportunity to expand their repertoire of knowledge and tools they can use to achieve success.

What is the difference between
mentoring and coaching?

Different organisations have different definitions. There are also different definitions in different parts of the world.

Here is one approach that is taken in some organisations. This does not mean it is right or wrong, because it is possible to have long discussions about the semantics.

The main thing is for everybody to be clear on the differences between mentoring and coaching in their own organisation.

They then know how to get the best from the session.

Mentors help people to take a helicopter view and focus on their strategy. Coaches then help people to master the skills required to achieve success.

Mentoring works best when the mentee chooses mentor, preferably somebody outside the line. Coaching often takes place within the line from the team leader. Here is an overview of the differences.

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What are the responsibilities
of the mentor and the mentee?

The mentor’s responsibility is, first and foremost, to make sure they really want to be a mentor. Mentoring is rewarding, but doing it properly can also be time consuming.

After familiarising themselves with the organisation’s approach to mentoring, it is to facilitate the sessions and pass on their knowledge in a way that the mentee can use to achieve success.

The mentee’s responsibility is to be proactive in setting-up the sessions, prepare properly and make the best use of their session with the mentor.

Here is a link to a more in depth piece that outlines how mentees can make good use of a session.

How do you choose a mentor?

There are obviously many ways to choose a mentor. Here are some suggestions.

Choose somebody who has credibility in your eyes.

They must be somebody you respect. They must also have knowledge that you believe can help you to achieve your picture of success.

Choose somebody who has similar values.

Look for a mentor who expresses the values you believe in and seems able to express these successfully at a high level. Values fit is crucial.

Choose somebody who has the qualities you want in a mentor.

If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to describe the qualities you want in such a person.

You may want them to be a good listener, creative or whatever. Then try to find somebody with these qualities.

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How do you facilitate
a mentoring session?

Imagine you are a mentor. There are obviously many ways to facilitate a mentoring session. Many of these approaches are based on sitting alongside a person and doing some creative problem solving.

The mentor starts by creating a stimulating sanctuary. They make the person feel welcome and clarify the topics the person wants to explore. They then make clear working contracts and agree on the goals for the session.

Different mentors use different models to help a person to explore these themes. Here is one approach called the Classic Mentoring Model. The mentor focuses on the 5Cs.

They encourage the person to explore their Challenges, Choices, Consequences, Creative Solutions and Conclusions. The aim is to enable the person to take away practical tools they can use to achieve ongoing success.

Here are some questions the mentor may ask the person at each stage of the model.

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What are the topics you would like to explore? What for you would make it a successful session?

Looking at these various themes, which is the first challenge you would like to tackle? Can you give some background and explain what is happening at the moment?

Looking at the challenge, what are the real results you want to achieve? If there are several results you want to achieve, let’s put these in order of priority.

Looking at the situation, what are the controllables? How can you build on what you can control and manage what you can’t?

Let’s summarise the things we have covered? What are your specific goals? What are the real results you want to achieve? What is your picture of success?

Let’s be crystal-clear on the ‘What’ before moving onto the ‘How’.

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Choices and

Let’s consider the possible choices you have for tackling this challenge.

What do you see as Option A?

What is Option B?

What is Option C?

What strategies have you tried before? Are there any other possible options?

Let’s consider the consequences of each option. What are the pluses and minuses involved in pursuing Option A, Option B, Option C and the other options?

We will soon be exploring any other potential creative solutions, but first let’s check your gut feeling for each of the possibilities.

Rate the attractiveness of each option. Do this on a scale 0—10.

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Creative Solutions

This is the point where mentors earn their corn. They ask if it okay to share ideas for reaching the goal.

They then pass on knowledge, tools and models the mentee can use to achieve success. So they may say something like the following.

Let’s move onto the other possible creative solutions. First, let’s re-establish your goals. What are the real results you want to achieve?

Looking at the different options you have outlined: Is it possible to take the best parts from each option and create a new road?

Looking at the goals you want to achieve, here are some other possibilities you may wish to consider. For example, it could possible:

To …

To …

To …

Looking at these other possibilities, are there any that resonate with you? If so, let’s explore these in more depth.

Let’s consider your strengths – where you deliver As, rather than Bs or Cs. How can you use your strengths and assets to tackle the challenge? How can you complement your strengths by getting other kinds of support?

Let’s learn from your positive history. Have you ever been in a similar situation in the past and managed it successfully? What did you do right? How can you follow these principles again in the future?

What can we learn from other people who have tackled similar challenges successfully? What did they do right to achieve their goals? How can you follow some of these principles in your own way?

Let’s return to the results you want to achieve. What are the three key things you can do to give yourself the greatest chance of success?

Looking at the challenge, are there any other possible creative solutions?

During this stage the mentor will often go through the creative process of opening up and then closing down. They will sit alongside the person, explore many ideas and see which resonate.

After a while, they will close down by inviting the person to settle on the ideas they would like to explore further. Pursuing this theme further, they may then again go through the process of opening up and closing down.

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Good mentors pass on knowledge in a way the person can accept. The key is to clarify which ideas resonate with the person.

This is easier to see with extroverts. When working with introverts, however, the mentor keeps saying something like:

Looking at the ideas we have explored, which ones resonate? Which would you like to explore further? Which might be useful in this situation?

Each mentor will do this in their own way and continue until the mentee is ready to move onto the next stage.

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There is often a natural rhythm to a mentoring session. The mentor will encourage the mentee to explore the first challenge, choices and consequences.

After considering the potential creative solutions, the mentee reflects and then, at a certain point, will be ready to move on to the final stage – their conclusions.

The person can settle on their plan for tackling the challenge. When it feels appropriate, the mentor enables them to take this step by using some of the following questions.

Looking at the different options we have discussed, which route – or combination of routes – do you want to follow?

What will be the pluses and minuses of pursuing this option? How can you build on the pluses and minimise the minuses? Are you prepared to accept the whole package?

Let’s move on to your action plan. What steps must you take to reach your goals? How can you make this happen?

How can you encourage yourself on the journey? How can you get an early success?

What is the next challenge you want to tackle?

There are many models for facilitating a mentoring session. The 5C model is one approach.

Whichever approach is used, the aim is to enable the mentee to achieve their personal or professional goals. You will, of course, do this in your own way.

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