Community Revive

A tornado over a mile and a half wide with winds of 205 mph touches down in rural Kansas, staying on the ground for 22 miles. It destroys the small town of Greensburg, leveling 95% of all structures and severely damaging the rest. A tiny town in western Pennsylvania—population just over 100—is flattened by a tornado in late summer. Yet before winter sets in, every home is rebuilt. No, this article is not about tornadoes or nature’s destructiveness. It’s about one of the things that can happen in the aftermath of a town being destroyed: community gets rebuilt.

The population of Greensburg, Kansas had been dropping steadily since 2000. After it was physically destroyed, the town council decided that all government buildings would be built to LEED platinum standards. In other words, they would all be green. Power is now supplied to the town from ten 1.25 MW wind-turbines with carbon offsets sold to various companies including Ben & Jerry’s, Clif Bar and Green Mountain Coffee Roasters. As of 2010 one hundred private homes had been rebuilt to 40% above code. According to the mayor, new businesses that want to locate in a green community are looking into this small town with a new identity. In the case of Adamsville, Pennsylvania, the entire town was rebuilt with the assistance of the town’s Amish community, with its culture of coming to the aid of anyone in the community who needs help. Bringing a group of people together with a common purpose creates a community.

The Human Psyche Needs to Belong

The need for community seems to be hard-wired into the human psyche. The sense of on-going connection is probably a major reason why the human species has survived as long as it has. Common goals and desires such as successfully creating safety and protection, especially for the young, were more likely to be realized in cooperative groups than alone. Knowledge could easily be passed from generation to generation in a community environment. Mentoring is an integral part of a cooperative dynamic.

In the past century the sense of community, of belonging and contributing, has broken down in the United States. People left farms and small towns for cities. They left their communities for the anonymity of the city. Accessible transportation helped create a society that moved from state to state for a better job or across the country for better weather. Families scattered. The natural communities that had grown out of rural areas were dissipated. Yet the desire for on-going connection to other people remained.

The break-down of community in the US has been blamed for a number of social ills, not the least of which is teenage gangs. Young people want to belong and where no mechanism exists for that sense to be nurtured, they create one. Unfortunately, the kind of mentoring that occurs in the gang community is destructive to any other kind of community.

New Models for Community

The intentional creation of community through mentoring to develop empowered individuals lies at the foundation of humans’ ability to continue to exist and thrive. Where community used to arise as a natural part of how people lived, now effort must be put into creating intentional community with specific purposes or missions. The results are well worth the effort.

Community through Time Banking

For example, consider time banking, a concept developed by law professor Edgar Cahn. This system involves people trading services—each hour of one member’s service is equivalent to another’s. Take two hours of time to transport a neighbor to a doctor’s appointment and later redeem those two hours for the services of a plumber. With about 270 time banks throughout the United States, members can improve the quality of their lives by being of service to others. The talents of time bank members of all ages are honored and valued. The sense of community that grows out of involvement in and commitment to the time bank system grows exponentially.

Community through Microloans

Many churches and synagogues have community building as part of their mission. Crowd funding sites now invite individuals to contribute to another individual’s or sometimes a group’s project. This creates a type of community with the benefits of involvement, empowerment and the feel good state associated with giving. For as little as $25 an individual in this country can feel a part of a family on the opposite side of the globe by participating in a microloan program. Everyone benefits from feeling valued, appreciated for his or her unique talents and connected to other people—in other words, from being part of a community.

Community through Cooperatives

One of the most remarkable efforts at community building has proven to be nothing short of amazing. In 1952 in the small town of Mondragon in the Basque region of Spain, a priest developed and implemented his ideas for strengthening the people of the region. As a result, the Mondragon Cooperatives are now the largest in the world with no unemployment and that provide continual support of education, especially in the Basque culture and language, a strong banking system and tremendous pride.

Could Community Be the Antidote for Depression?

With depression at epidemic levels in this country, community is the perfect antidote to the isolation that can both result from depression and contribute to it. When empowerment-based mentoring forms the foundation for building conscious community, a powerful force is formed. This is an energy that can assist individuals in fulfilling their potential whether they are the mentor or the mentee. Communities built with this structure can form strong alliances with each other, nationally and internationally. They can help make this a healthier, more peaceful world for everyone.

 

For more information about microloans, start with www.kiva.org.
For more information about the Mondragon Cooperatives, visit www.resilience.org/stories/2013-05-08/lessons-from-basque-country.
For more information about time banking, go to www.timebanks.org.
Cahn, Edgar. Time Dollars. Rodale Press, 1992.
Cahn, Edgar. No More Throw-Away People, 2nd ed. Essential Books Ltd, 2004.

 

 


C Diane Ealy holds a Ph.D. in behavioral science. This playful, fun, guide specializes in the creative process and devotes her life to facilitating personal growth and empowerment. She is the visionary author of five books including The Woman’s Book of CreativityThe Complete Idiot’s Guide to Spirituality in the WorkplaceOur Money Ourselves and her latest book, Your Creative Soul, is available exclusively at www.gatherinsight.com.
As writer, speaker, teacher and healer, Diane communicates her knowledge and life passion through writing, speeches, workshops, and personalized sessions. — See more at: http://www.cdianeealy.com

Mentoring Matters

Mentoring Benefits Mentoring Matters
Mentoring benefits everyone involved. It is an ancient form of one-on-one education. Yet, for many Americans, the concept is relatively new. Wikipedia reveals that while mentoring has existed in Europe at least since ancient Greek times, it came to the United States in the ‘70s as “an innovation in American management.” Has our tradition of classroom education in this country robbed us of an important teaching and learning method?

Mentoring can take on many different forms, each appropriate to the situation and the individuals involved. Typically, it involves someone with advanced knowledge, experience or skill set imparting that information to another person, one-on-one, over a period of time. It is relationship-based and requires clear communication skills.

The mentor and mentee (or protégée or apprentice) may work together for a short period of time, until an agreed upon skill level has been reached or they may have a longer term involvement such as in a work setting where one person’s learning builds on previous learning with multiple skills, both tangible and intangible, involved.

The Mentee Benefits

Mentoring benefits to the mentee are obvious and include:

  • Acquiring the practical application of theories studied in classrooms
  • Receiving supportive feedback so that mistakes become meaningful learning experiences
  • Understanding of the nuances of communication within the corporate culture
  • Uncovering sometimes undiscovered talents because of the nurturing and encouragement of the mentor
  • Becoming an individual who is empowered by the validation from someone with more experience

And the Mentor Benefits

The mentor benefits as well. She or he gets to pass along years of accumulated wisdom derived from work experience in particular and life experience in general. Mentors know they are expanding their profession by imparting their knowledge to (usually) younger people. They have the opportunity to nurture new talent and to watch that talent blossom into an exceptional leader, manager or journeyman who is also learning how to be a mentor when that time comes. The mentor is creating a legacy.

Mentoring benefits can be measured but program success depends on many factors, including the training of mentors and the commitment of the organization to the success of the endeavor. The mentor and mentee have to match and to click in order to maximize the relationship. They should have clear, measurable goals that they discuss and agree upon from the beginning and that are attainable. The amount of time they maintain the mentoring relationship has to be known at the start. Mismatched expectations can wreak havoc while shared ones make for an effective bond.

Research: Evidence of the Effectiveness of Mentoring

Measuring the effectiveness and efficacy of mentoring programs has given rise to numerous studies. While some research provides statistics and percentages in clean, quantifiable results, these findings may or may not be getting at the lasting meaning of a mentoring experience for the individuals involved. Mentoring benefits are based on the relationship between two people which can be effectively measured qualitatively, by observing how the mentoring experience affects both individuals. The University of Massachusetts at Boston hosts The Center for Evidence-Based Mentoring with the stated goal of “creating the open and efficient exchange of research and ideas for the advancement of youth mentoring practice and policy.” (www.umbmentoring.org)  The National Mentoring Partnership focuses on youth from the ages of 6 to 18. (www.mentoring.org) The latter group focuses on providing tools, programs and support to groups developing mentoring programs for underprivileged youth while the Center focuses on tracking research in the field.

Mentoring Adults

Evidence so far tells us that companies that have formal mentoring programs have a higher appeal to young college graduates than those that do not offer mentoring. These graduates seem to be aware that individuals who are mentored are more likely to succeed to higher levels in their chosen profession than those who are not mentored. Mentees have more loyalty and commitment to the organization. Mentoring programs help build the corporate culture as well as profits. Wouldn’t the same be true of community-based mentoring programs and their effect on the whole community?

The Key Effect: Empowerment for Mentors and Mentees

One word that seems to be underused on web sites devoted to mentoring is “empowerment.” Yet this is a key effect of mentoring. The mentees become empowered as their skill levels rise, their decision-making becomes fine-tuned, their communication skills improve, and their confidence in all aspects increases. Mentors become empowered with the knowing that they are making a significant difference in the life of another person. (More on empowerment in the next article.)

Since antiquity, mentoring has mattered in the advancement of cultures. Now mentoring matters even more. We need a system that can help spread advanced skills and life knowledge beyond our traditional educational system to create community for all age groups in all social statuses and to encourage life-long learning. Mentoring simply matters; it answers these needs.

 

For more information on some of the research into different aspects of mentoring, check the following:

C Diane Ealy holds a Ph.D. in behavioral science. She specializes in the creative process and devotes her life to facilitating personal growth and empowerment. She is the author of five books including The Woman’s Book of CreativityThe Complete Idiot’s Guide to Spirituality in the WorkplaceOur Money Ourselves and Your Creative Soul.

Envisioning Community

Would you like to join the Mortimer Mouse Club? Sound exciting? Probably not. The name just doesn’t have a ring to it. Mickey Mouse, on the other hand, rolls off the tongue. It says, “Look at me; I’m cute and fun!”

Even great visionaries like Walt Disney needed some mentoring. In this case, when Disney showed his wife, Lillian, a drawing he had created of a mouse he had named Mortimer, she told him the name was too pompous and he ought to call him Mickey. Twenty-seven years later, in 1955, Disney had established a filmmaking empire. Going against all advice and risking everything he had built up to that point, he bought orange groves in southern California and turned them into an amusement park. In the middle of nowhere, California, he built Disney Land. Later, in the middle of nowhere, Florida, he built Disney World. Virtually everyone knows the extensive world community Disney created. Taking philosophical stories and making them available to and fun for children, he became a remarkable mentor to and cultural influence on children everywhere. He built community.

Defining Community

Community and mentoring create a sense of connectedness and serve a vital role. The Champion for Success project is devoted to building community through empowerment-based mentoring. What might such a community be like? Here are some possibilities.

Everyone in this community has a purpose that is an extension of who she really is. Her natural talents and gifts are nurtured by one or more mentors whose purpose is to bring out an individual’s abilities and to empower that person to express those capabilities in the community. Imagine every community member living to their fullest—creatively, intellectually, and spiritually. As a person is mentored through life, gaining both experience and knowledge, she becomes a mentor to others.

CONNECTEDNESS   

This group has an on-going sense of connectedness to each other that spreads to all living things. Out of this deep sense of relatedness arises compassion and empathy. Everyone has a vested interest in everyone else living to their highest potential. Creativity abounds in this environment, giving rise to remarkable solutions to problems, inspiring works of art that can elevate the entire community and developing new businesses and ways to earn a living. This community is peaceful, wanting to avoid wasting individual and/or collective energy on discord and disconnection. Enthusiasm (the word comes from the Greek “en theos” meaning “with God”) and motivation are easy to come by in this environment.

WELL-BEING 

The over-all health of the community members can be expected to be high since happiness, fulfillment and a sense of contributing to the well-being of others all positively influence well-being. Creativity and innovation applied to health issues results in treatments for illnesses that address the core issue of “dis-ease” in the individual. Physical and mental illness as they are now known and experienced would be wiped out.

ECONOMICS 

The economic system in this community is based on the same principles of mentoring and empowerment that built the rest of the community. Business exists as a manifestation of individual and group talents. Companies are places for people to express their abilities for the betterment of themselves and everyone else. People work in thriving, sustainable organizations that are continually reinvented to meet market needs. Compensation for this type of work is at a level such that the individual can continue exploring and expanding her abilities throughout her life. Every business person has one or more mentors to guide her development. Each organization’s goals include empowering each individual within that group, creating a smaller community within the larger one. Thriving in all ways is an integral part of the economics of this community.

COMMUNITY VALUES 

Certain concepts, belief systems and ways of being common in today’s world become irrelevant in an empowered community and therefore disappear as they are replaced by beliefs and behaviors arising from this new environment. For example, connectedness replaces separation which currently breeds violence and destructive behaviors toward self, others and nature. Compassion replaces judgment which now reinforces feelings of separateness. Kindness replaces projecting unwanted aspects of individual behavior, like anger or jealousy, onto others. Joy replaces depression as people are nurtured from birth to live true to their unique selves. Purpose replaces squandered energy and abilities that also feeds depression.

Mentoring + Empowerment = Community

Some readers may be dismissing these ideas as nirvana-esque ruminations incapable of being made manifest. Enough evidence comes from human understanding of psychology and sociology to know that mentoring based on empowerment can and will create this type of community. Enough evidence comes from current societal conditions to know that such a community is a must if humans are to live fulfilled lives.

C Diane Ealy holds a Ph.D. in behavioral science. She specializes in the creative process and devotes her life to facilitating personal growth and empowerment. She is the author of five books including The Woman’s Book of CreativityThe Complete Idiot’s Guide to Spirituality in the WorkplaceOur Money Ourselves and Your Creative Soul.

Entitlement or Empowerment

Entitlement or Empowerment

Suppose the company you own could improve productivity, reduce employee turnover to less than 5% and become a place where people wanted to come to work. Your organization would become known for its innovation, attracting amazing new talent. All you have to do is implement one program to create this turnaround. Would you do it? Sure. Right? Here’s the “however.” Like virtually all major change, the culture in which the change occurs would be radically altered. Status quo within your company along with many of the reward systems, standards and hierarchies you put in place would be replaced with the new culture’s values. Do you still want to recreate and improve your organization? What is that one program you would have to implement? Mentoring all employees with an emphasis on the attainment of individual empowerment.

Living in an empowered state is natural. People are hard-wired for empowerment at birth. That means each person is designed to

  • have power over him or herself,
  • never be a victim,
  • avoid exerting power over anyone else,
  • express creativity,
  • question,
  • challenge routine,
  • empower everyone else.

Unfortunately, everyone is exposed to familial and societal enculturation that often runs contrary to being empowered. The original wiring gets frayed and broken by internalized messages that turn into invalid beliefs that can dominate a person’s self-image. Individuals who exist in a depowered state cannot realize their potential or fully contribute to organizations or society. This condition deprives individuals and the community at large of benefits that emerge from their unique skills, gifts and creativity.

As an adult, one message sent out by many American businesses that creates a huge stumbling block to empowerment is the belief in entitlement. Decades ago companies developed financial compensation programs that rewarded loyalty. Stay with the company for one year and get a raise. Then get an annual increase every year after that. Get two weeks of paid time off every year. Stay with the company for five years and be entitled to three weeks of PTO. This kind of compensation rewards loyalty and longevity while creating a sense of entitlement among employees. As long as the individual maintains an average work standard-the “gentleman’s C”-the raises are automatic. So is the feeling of being entitled to those raises and to being depowered. Meanwhile, upper management may also be feeling entitled to their seven or eight figure annual bonuses simply because they occupy an elevated position.

A sense of entitlement at any level leaves no motivation for improvement in performance. It tells someone, “You don’t have to stretch yourself or exercise your special talents or even bother to find out what those abilities are. You have no power to change your compensation by excelling, so don’t bother. You’re entitled to receive a salary increase each year.” In this corporate dynamic, too often the people who get rewarded with a promotion are the ones who perform consistently and adequately and who do not challenge status quo. Innovation that can arise from empowered employees suffers greatly under an entitlement system.

Numerous studies have been conducted during the past decade to investigate the link between empowerment and job satisfaction. They have consistently shown that employees who have the power to make decisions about their work, including the speed at which they work, rank job satisfaction much higher than workers who are not so empowered. They also have greater levels of productivity and lower levels of stress. Commitment to the organization goes up while turnover goes down.

Writing in 1999, Thomas Potterfield called empowerment “. . . one of the most important and popular management concepts of our time.” Empowerment buzzed through many large companies in the ‘90s. Yet those same organizations often discovered that implementing true empowerment as part of the corporate culture was difficult. It meant change. Old hierarchies based on the entitlement model were shown to conflict with the new paradigm. Sometimes companies attempted to implement empowerment practices at the lower and mid-levels while retaining the hierarchical model at the upper level. Top management wanted status quo to remain intact. Employees quickly understood the split created by this double standard. Empowered workers have the perception that their bosses respect them and are fair in their management. Yet when those managers have bosses who fail to implement empowerment, the duplicity becomes too great. Hence, for many employees at many levels, the word “empowerment” inspired cynicism and derision.

That response to unsuccessful empowerment programs is understandable and unfortunate. Once an individual experiences empowerment, often as a result of mentoring, that person does not want to go back to an entitlement mentality. Nor does s/he have any desire to return to the old corporate system.

Empowerment is all about teaching someone how to fish. Imagine what would happen if all entitlement programs, both corporate and government, would transition into mentoring based programs that empowered individuals. The American addiction to “I’m entitled . . .” would be dealt a severe blow.

Successful mentoring accelerates the empowerment process. An effective mentor is empowered and has a desire to nurture that same state in others. While focusing on a task with the mentee, the mentor can draw out, validate and nurture latent skills and talents, encourage creative problem solving, and continually build self-esteem. These activities are all integral to the empowerment of another individual. The crutch of entitlement collapses when this state is reached. The empowered individual is free to make innovations, to take risks, to be creative and to continually stretch his or her limits. Entitlement stagnates while empowerment facilitates growth. The person, the employer and the community all benefit from a culture of empowerment.

For more information on empowerment, go to 
http://www.ehow.com/search.html?s=empowerment&skin=corporate&t=all
http://jobs.aol.com/articles/2011/11/23/empowerment-in-the-workplace/
Ciulla, Joanne. “Leadership and the Problem of Bogus Empowerment” in Ethics: The Heart of Leadership, 2nd edition. Greenwood Publishing Group, 2004.
Potterfield, Thomas. The Business of Employee Empowerment: Democracy and Ideology in the Workplace. Quorum Books, 1999.


C Diane Ealy holds a Ph.D. in behavioral science. This playful, fun, guide specializes in the creative process and devotes her life to facilitating personal growth and empowerment. She is the visionary author of five books including The Woman’s Book of CreativityThe Complete Idiot’s Guide to Spirituality in the WorkplaceOur Money Ourselves and her latest book, Your Creative Soul, is available exclusively at www.gatherinsight.com.
As writer, speaker, teacher and healer, Diane communicates her knowledge and life passion through writing, speeches, workshops, and personalized sessions. — See more at: http://www.cdianeealy.com

Healthy Mentor-Mentee Relationships

Effective mentoring is both an art and a skill that is sometimes confused with other types of relationships where the well-being of another person is the main focus. People who wish to become mentors generally have good intentions; however, if they are unaware of the key elements of mentoring, even good intentions can inadvertently provide the pavement for the pathway to hell. Mentors sometimes find themselves in situations where they confuse their roles with teachers, healers or even enablers. Knowing the distinctions among these roles is paramount to successful mentoring.

The Mentor

Like so many words in the English language, the word “mentor” has its origins in Greek mythology. It refers to an individual who communicates his or her expertise and wisdom with a less knowledgeable, and usually younger, colleague. The mentor—mentee relationship lasts until the latter masters a particular skill set, so the two may work together for a few months or a year or more. Their relationship is based on empowerment with the mentor acting as a guide and overseer, encouraging and allowing the mentee to take on an ever-larger role in practicing the skills she or he is mastering. The tone is friendly and supportive. Because the two are often peers, they may socialize but intimacy is not appropriate. The mentor is successful when the mentee no longer needs that guidance. The mentee then becomes part of the legacy the mentor is leaving to his or her profession.

The Teacher

To some people, this mentor description may sound like a teacher. Not quite. Teachers and mentors share the intention of imparting knowledge to another person, but the relationship and the process are very different. A teacher in a formal setting has undergone advanced, formal education and usually has to be credentialed by a state board. The interaction is generally guided by an approved lesson plan or set curriculum that has specific learning goals. Testing of the pupil determines the level of learning and those results may impact the teacher as well as the student. In the classroom setting, a teacher is responsible for discipline as well as instruction. The tone is defined by distinctive professional boundaries between the teacher and student. The relationship may be friendly but the two do not socialize. They are not peers. Physical intimacy is ethically forbidden. A mentor who begins thinking of himself as someone whose knowledge sets him apart from or puts him above his mentee has slipped into thinking of himself as a teacher.

One Who Seeks to Heal

A third type of role that mentors need to be aware of is that of one who seeks to heal. The healer is usually sought out when an individual needs assistance in recovering from some mental or physical issue. These types of healers are found in a variety of categories with the most common being:

  • Physicians
  • Faith-based or spiritual counselors
  • Psychiatrists, psychologists, therapists or social workers

The relationship between healer and patient may be a one-time visit or on-going and there is often an underlying belief that something in the patient is broken. While a mentor is unlikely to put himself into the role of physician to diagnose or treat a medical condition, he may begin seeing the mentee as having problems that the mentor must fix. If he inappropriately slips into the role of therapist, health or spiritual advisor, the central purpose of the relationship shifts from empowerment to repairing a broken person.

The Enabler

The fourth type of role to be considered in building a healthy mentor-mentee relationship is the enabler. By blaming someone else for an individual’s undesirable conduct, the enabler allows this person to avoid responsibility for his harmful actions. Thus, he can be unaware of the harm caused by his behavior and therefore sees no need to change. Enabling other people robs them of their self-power, the opposite of what a mentor does. While the enabler intends to help, his interactions with others result in perpetuating any problems another person may have. The enabler permits the other person to be unconscious of the effects of his behavior and oblivious to any consequences for that behavior. Enablers typically have poor boundaries and low self-esteem. When a mentor makes excuses for the mentee’s behavior and/or begins doing things for the mentee, he has taken on an enabler role disempowering the mentee.

The Power Dynamic

The area where there is the biggest difference among these four relationships lies with the power dynamic. The affiliation between mentor-mentee is based on empowerment. The mentor is an individual who is familiar and comfortable with exercising self-power and mastery of specific skills. Part of the mentor’s mission is to nurture this same state in the mentee. In the teacher-student relationship, power is held by the teacher because of his advanced learning and role as disciplinarian. While some teachers may have the goal of empowering students, this is not generally part of the curriculum. The healer-patient relationship can vary widely regarding the power aspect. Some healers empower their patients by instructing them in various methods of self-healing. Other healers such as psychiatrists and psychologists naturally assume power over patients because they are trained to diagnose and develop treatment plans for healing. If healers have tendencies toward arrogance, they are especially vulnerable to putting themselves in a judgmental power position over others. Enablers have a dysfunctional relationship with their own power and are incapable of empowering others. They often experience life from the victim end of the power continuum, a perspective that they pass on to others.

The Effective Mentor

Becoming an effective mentor requires awareness of each of these types of relationships in order to be clear about the role and mission of the mentor. One way for the mentor to remain clear about this role is to ask, “Is what I am about to do with my mentee empowering or depowering? Am I handing this person a fish or showing him where to get and how to use the right fishing equipment?” The answer to those questions can keep the relationship on track to being effective and empowering.

Definitions used in this article are derived from Wikipedia.

C Diane Ealy holds a Ph.D. in behavioral science. She specializes in the creative process and devotes her life to facilitating personal growth and empowerment. She is the author of five books including The Woman’s Book of CreativityThe Complete Idiot’s Guide to Spirituality in the WorkplaceOur Money Ourselves and Your Creative Soul.