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In our culture transformation process for adopting a responsibility-based culture, a key concept is ongoing monthly mentoring to develop staff at every level, no exceptions.

“Your most important task as a leader is to teach people how to think and ask the right questions so that the world doesn’t go to hell if you take a day off” 

Jeffrey Pfeffer

Here’s questions from one new mentor as she was learning about our mentoring guidelines.

Client: I’m struggling with fully understanding why it is recommended that we do NOT allow a person to share their personal stories during a mentoring session. What if there’s a key part of their history, told in a story that would help us better understand so we can show them how to overcome something, but we shut down stories?

Me: Part of your reasoning is the idea that a mentor is supposed to understand and show them how to overcome their problems. Our mentoring has an opposite intention; it’s you asking them questions so they gain self-discovery; they recognize and act to manage their challenges. In your approach, you function as a counselor or advisor. We do NOT recommend this as it opposes our primary goal in our mentoring: transferring responsibility to the one being mentored.

In asking questions as laid out in our templates, you facilitate the other person’s awareness and their application of how they will resolve their issues and accomplish their goals. Transfer of responsibility encourages the one mentored to master picking up responsibility and solving his or her own challenges. This is called task ownershipfull engagement and self-directedness. Only then do you provide support without undue influence, guidance and counsel.  You teach then to fish rather than feeding them fish!

Client: As a person who has a deep history in why I am who I am, I could see that shutting me and my stories down would hurt. How do we avoid this?

Me: You encourage people to share their stories, but NOT during mentoring sessions as we have designed them. On a psychological front, our mentoring represents the difference between a Freudian approach (talk therapy + analysis) vs. an Adlerian approach (personal power + purposeful intention). Both methods are helpful. Ours is focused on training people and helping them recognize their individual choices and how to apply the use of their power with intention and skill.

When a person being mentored realizes the purposes and pitfalls of our mentoring, they won’t expect sessions that provide them with talk therapy, advice or counsel. Most importantly, when a person is in a mentoring session, telling their story frequently delays his or her ability to respond (response-ability). It prevents people from quickly seeing both where they are challenged and how to move into management of themselves, their relationships, their productivity, etc. without unnecessary delays and unconscious avoidance.

In our mentoring, using simple questions and specific structures helps a person recognize what they need to identify for resolution or improvement, including their life and work tasks; they learn how to self-assess and then manage their life and work challenges, goals and relationships. In our approach, self and social awareness; two of four emotional intelligence competencies, are brought to light with Socratic questions.

Client: Don’t people just need to vent sometimes?

Me: We acknowledge in our culture model that people DO need to vent and we have a healthy process for them to use for that too outside of mentoring. Most people however “vent” by gossiping or blaming others which are both toxic responses that keep them from resolving challenges because these encourages them in “feeling like a victim” or thinking they are “doing something constructive” when they have not committed to resolving anything. Management of one’s self and interpersonal relationships are the other two of four emotional intelligence competencies above.

Developing your people requires that you educate them and provide them with opportunities to apply multiple, specific emotional intelligence tools, then supporting them in using them confidently. Mentoring is just one way you help your staff develop into people who feel empowered, lovable, connected and contributing. Through mentoring this way, you develop not only amazing individuals in your business. but a mature and caring workforce.

This article is published in St. Louis Small Business Monthly in the column The Extraordinary Workplace, January 2021.

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Why People Hire LifeWork Systems

Business owners and executives, community leaders, parents, educators and individuals hire LifeWork Systems because they know that effective conditions and conversations make all the difference in building trusting relationships, achieving dreams, and creating solutions and innovations for our evolving world. When people are happy and responsible, emotionally and socially intelligent, confident, and appropriately seen, heard, and supported, they always exceed expectations. We help instill into every person common concepts, terms, tools, and processes that result in healthy, happy, caring and contributing individuals, teams and organizations. Our mission is to create a world in which all people love their lives!

We appreciate you being here on our website and encourage you to reach out to us directly at or  314.239.4727. May something we offered in this article and website help you love YOUR life ~ because YOU matter!

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