Opinion: Ventoring

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A civic board on which I have some responsibility for planning an annual retreat decided this year to invite a professional moderator to facilitate the discussion with the goal of making what is always an expensive day (in both terms of time and treasure) realize a sufficient return on its investment to be justified. Added to considerable use of staff time and even more from the 15 trustees, many of whose hourly rate would be staggering if so measured, the fixed costs of food and sundries will be the fee of the facilitator. We have selected wisely and expectations are high that the organization will benefit enormously from an organized review.

The business of coaching, mentoring, advising, consulting and facilitating generates billions in fee revenue annually. Ostensibly the billions are turned into trillions in benefit to the folks mentored and the companies who employ them. As with any maturing industry, competition brings the best performers to the top and drives contenders to distinguish themselves in the marketplace. The worst rely on platitudes, truisms and catch phrases to sell books, videos and all manner of claptrap. The best deploy carefully developed assessment tools and advanced emotional intelligence to find what’s great in us and bring it forward.

But what makes us think we are qualified to mentor any other human – for pay or not? Is their asking enough? Assuming the role requires something significant. What are the traits of one who listens, evaluates and then mentors? Where are the failings of one who talks, dismisses and then ventors? If we vent our own self-perceived wisdom on the mentee, have we really helped them or simply reinforced our own insecurities? The upside to a solid mentoring relationship is significant – even worth the occasional ventoring episode – so, invest in one.

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