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Mentoring, Consulting and Learning

Brad Respess has two compelling posts on mentoring and consulting.  In the first - Mentor Lost, Mentor Gained? - he celebrates the work of a consultant, Bas Hofland, as “possibly the most brilliant mind and best critical thinker in the industry.”  High praise, indeed. 

Every consultant would love to have a client as celebratory as Brad.  Of course, every client would love to have a consultant the quality of Bas.  It is great to see the perfect marriage of client need and consultant expertise. 

In the second posting - Mentoring Ain't Easy - he writes about the importance of mentoring.  He describes the difference between the Greek and Hebrew learning models as he learned in a Sunday school class.  While I am supportive of the point Brad is making, the distinctions made by his Sunday school teacher are historically inaccurate. 

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The Greek learning style as describe is focused on The "Classroom", with an academic, passive and theoretical emphasis is more in keeping with the learning style of the European Enlightenment, not the Greek academy of Plato and Aristotle. The learning style was conversational, exploratory and rooted in action. The methodology was that of discussion in order to discover insight.

The Enlightenment model that all Western education systems are derived from is the standard lecture by an informed teacher. Learning is measured by the mastery of facts. The Greek model of learning, however, is the mastery of life. A learned Greek is one who has attained excellence, arête. The quality of excellence is the joining together of personal character and competence.

The Classical world of Greece and Rome has more in common with the Hebraic learning model than does our modern/post-modern learning styles. Both function in the context of the student learning in the context of community. Modern learning forms are individualist and for the most part disconnected from the real world contexts or communities of the student. This is why the gap between modern academic learning and practical experience is so wide. The Hebrew model of learning was less about mastering abstract concepts and more about concrete experience. The Greek worldview was scientific and rational. The Hebrew worldview was holistic and religious. The two combined to form the foundation of Western culture that has thrived for two millennia.

The shift from the Classical and Medieval world to the world of the Enlightenment was huge. Learning also shifted from learning within the traditions that formed the foundation of communities and cultures, to learning for the primary purpose of self-advancement. We are now in a further shift, often called post-modernism. In many respects, this shift is a looking back to the classical/medieval, Greek/Hebrew worlds. It is focused more on integrating the abstract concepts with practice, with the individual as a member of a communal world and of experience as opposed to rationalism.

What does all this have to do with mentoring and consultancy? Believe it or not, it has everything to do with it.

I love the two commercials that feature consultants. One the two consultants finish their report, and the client says "Good. Now do it!" The two flumoxed consultants say, "Oh, we don't do it." The second is one for IBM consultancy where the medieval advisor tosses a bag on the table stating that throwing money at the problem is the right course of action.

The wisest mentors and consultants don't try to fit you into their box. They look at your unique situation and walk your through - mentor - through a development process. Consultants are mentors, coaches, cheerleaders and resource librarians. The best are what I call "intimate outsiders." They bring arete - excellence - character and competence - to the challlenges and opportunities of their clients. What they know is not primarily found in a book. They embody ideas in action.

Brad suggests and step-by-step process for mentoring.

Learning Steps in the Mentoring Model:    
1. I do, you watch    
2. I do, you assist    
3. You do, I assist    
4. You do, I watch    
5. You do it alone

And I'd add a #6, Start over, do it again. He also presents the reasons for getting a mentor from his Sunday school teacher, James Saxon.

1.  Personal Nurture and Growth    
2. Skill Development    
3. Supportive Accountability    
4. Personal Clarity and Validation    
5. Direction and Decision Making

And I would add one more level to these schemes, and that is become a mentor. When you do, you learn more than the student, and you make yourself better prepared to benefit from your own mentoring experience. Become your mentor by mentoring others to become you. More than anything presented above, this is the Hebraic model of learning. Learn and pass it on.

(HT- Bill Kinnon's comment.)

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