Leadership Articles: TALKING LEADERSHIP


A Feature Article from Gaynor Consulting Inc.
January 2016   |   By Dan Gaynor

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Mentoring in the Moment

Mentor: An experienced and trusted advisor and guide

Mentoring receives a lot of attention these days and rightly so. Good mentors inspire us to reach for our potential. They encourage us when we need it and guide us along the path, passing on what they have learned in going there before us. Mentors build relationships that are often remembered fondly for many years.

Like so many other good practices though, we have over the years systematized mentoring in ways that have created onerous expectations and made it less appealing. Chief among these is the expectation that good mentoring must be regularly scheduled. My experience with mentoring runs contrary to this. The best mentoring is much more an organic exercise.

I would say that I have benefited from two mentoring relationships over the course of my professional life. Neither was systematic or forced. Both would be best described as mentoring in the moment. In both cases there were not all that many mentoring moments, however both individuals contributed in valuable and memorable ways to my development as a leader. Both met my criteria for mentoring. We had a warm relationship that became a friendship. They enjoyed teaching; I enjoyed learning from them. Both were trusted advisors, and when we did meet, we enjoyed our time together.

I remember well the day I went to Don Babick (then publisher at the Edmonton Journal) to present my work in redesigning our sales territories. I’d put a lot of work into the project, coming up with three progressive levels of sales positions: entry, intermediate and expert. I had developed a more complicated solution than was necessary. Don listened then offered his thoughts, “Dan I think you are making this more complicated than it needs to be. I think you should just make sure you know what a good sales rep has to be able to do and make sure they can all do it.” Then he added, “Most people think the ability to handle complexity is a sign of intelligence. The really smart people take what’s complex and make it simple.”

It was a mentoring moment that has remained with me over the years and shaped my approach to thinking and problem solving. Over the years there were other encounters and other lessons. Every now and then I find myself quoting something Don said to me, passing on what he gave me to the leaders coming after me - this is classic mentoring. We had no formally arranged systematic approach and we didn’t meet in a formal mentoring program. Our mentoring was infrequent and yet still important. It was natural. Today, many years and lessons later, I am more often in the role of mentor. Many of the best relationships I have enjoyed have been this way, more mentoring in the moment. Sometimes with people I no longer work directly with, years pass between moments. With others the encounters are closer together. Always there is a relationship.

It seems to me that systematized mentoring often misses the mark. Forcing relationships and timetables doesn’t work. We discourage potential mentors and disappoint everyone involved. Instead, let’s encourage a more natural approach. My bet is we’ll have a more more successful and satisfying experience.

Want to go deeper on leadership? Check out my book, The Heart and Hands of Leadership: The Twelve Timeless Practices of Effective Leaders, available in soft cover and in all major e-book formats. Or check out the half-day workshops and keynote speeches I offer.

Discussion questions:

  1. How many mentors have you benefited from over the years?
  2. How did the relationship begin and evolve?
  3. What were the most memorable lessons learned from the relationship?

To go deeper on leadership call or write about a half day workshop or a keynote address.

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A Feature Article from Gaynor Consulting Inc.
January 2016   |   By Dan Gaynor


Has this article sparked some thinking?
Join our blog Talking Leadership here to share it with other readers.


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Download our articles below:

Lead Like Scrooge, December 2017

Follow Well To Lead Well, October 2017

Fundamentals First, September 2017

Leadership from Supervisor to CEO, August 2017

Job Fit and Performance, May 2017

Thinking "Corporate", February 2017

Authenticity and Vulnerability?, November 2016

The Pain Problem, October 2016

The Big Question, September 2016

Risky Business, March 2016

Mentoring in the Moment, January 2016

Sacrificial Leadership, December 2015

5 Tactics For Better Meetings, November 2015

Leader as Follower, October 2015

Dynamic Balance, September 2015

Fearless Humility, August 2015

Fear and Accountability, July 2015

Building a Feedback Culture, June 2015

Fostering Accountability, May 2015

Confront or Avoid?, Apr. 2015

The Heart of Accountability, Mar. 2015

Powerful Ambition, Feb. 2015

Inspiring Possibilities, Jan. 2015

Ralphie and the Strategic Approach, Dec. 2014

Disagree Well, Nov. 2014

Culture and People, Oct. 2014


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