Big Shout out – Mentorship: It takes a Village

My friend Ron Tite asked me if I could write about mentorship in support of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Canada 100th Anniversary. Why not? Sounds great! But then I started thinking.

Who can I give a shout out to? Why have I never written about mentorship before?

Mentorship is something I talk about all the time when it comes to leadership, growth, networking and career development. I have been honoured to have mentored dozens of people over the years directly and hopefully a few more indirectly. Yet, I don’t think I’ve ever done a talk or blog on it.

I’m going to start with some Truth — I honestly can’t think of any single person who has been a dedicated, lifelong and impactful mentor to me. I mean I could say my family has been supportive and my Dad and my big brother are people I admire, but I never saw them in a ‘mentor’ role. It was the same with my teachers. I had some great teachers, but I never sought them outside of class to create the mentorship that so many of my friends talk about. When it came to working in the corporate world, I was one of those unfortunate people who either had a horrible boss or a boss who was a great leader, but just didn’t quite fit with me. Lastly, there have been people who have mentored me, but it was brief or in the moment and we didn’t establish a relationship to help me through the tough times. So there are tons of people who have advised me, supported me, been there for me and have helped or inspired me along my leadership journey, but none I can remember as an official mentor.

I hope you don’t take this the wrong way. I am finding this really weird as I write. I know I have 10 different personal references who I can call on to confirm my ability. I have 100 reference letters on my leadership. I have spent a lifetime developing strong and deep connections, and this network is in the tens of thousands now. How can i build so many relationships but not take on one as an official mentor? So if I feel successful now and I didn’t ‘need’ a mentor, then why do I champion mentorship?

Well there are two things I want to propose.

1)    I did have mentors, but it was the village!

I mentioned in one of my TEDx talks that I have a large network, many of whom are still deep connectors. In other words I have “100 BFF’s”, people who I can talk to about anything and would do anything for and they would be the same with me. Within each moment or experience I find mentorship and I build that relationship. When I was building my musical theatre company, my co-founder Jamie Forsyth and I would go back and forth sharing ideas and offering support. I also asked James Haldenby, a father of one of our cast, for advice. So they both were mentors. When I started my business, Sunjay Nath was doing motivational speaking, he encouraged me to get in the game and every blue moon I would see him and ask a few questions. So he was a mentor too. My closest friends, with whom I shared everything with, would offer support, guidance, and empathy. Isn’t that what you want from a mentor? I had it! The big difference is that I find and leverage mentorship in every moment, every connection and every aspect of my life. So I should give a big shout out to my village! Thank you for your mentorship.

2)    Oh what I could have done with some lifelong mentors!

Maybe the challenge was that I have always been too fiercely independent to seek out and find this lifelong mentor. Or maybe it was because I kept switching different careers and projects. I never really stuck to anything for more than 3 years 10 months until I started my company today. Or maybe I spent so much time mentoring others I found that by playing the part, I had this inner ear always giving me the advice that a mentor might say. But I still would have loved to have a lifelong mentor!

I imagine a lifelong commitment of sound boarding, making them proud, sharing my ups and downs and getting advice or a perspective that I never knew possible. That sounds awesome. I definitely could have benefitted. My past life could have had more focus. My corporate life could have had more opportunities for growth. In every possible way, I can imagine a mentor championing my life to a better result for me. Okay, I’m convinced; I’m going to look for a few mentors like this.

But I still want to give a shout-out. My shout-out is for Ron Tite. I haven’t really seen him that much to tell you the truth, but twice now in the past 5 years I have gone to him for advice and both times, he was responsive, open and honest. I remember first seeing him host a corporate event at Kraft and thinking how fun that was and that I would love to do that sort of thing. Then I saw him at Second City, where we were both performing and I made a connection. Aside from those two times I sought advice, I have seen him at Impact events and the like and when we chat,

2003KraftMktgOffsite 044

I decided to take some pictures of the Kraft Leaders at the Marketing offsite where I met Ron Tite. In this picture though, I felt Fred Schaeffer, Chris Bell and Dan D’Alessandro would have made excellent mentors.

he is very giving with advice, strategy, again very openly. Lastly, his reaching out to me for this project was another reminder of how I need to recognize and show gratitude for mentors and mentorship. So thank you Ron. Seriously, you are good people and that is something I cherish.

Take care and thanks for listening.Perhaps now Ron we can finally go get that coffee? We’ve tried before, but life, as we all know, has a way of getting in the way. The same way it did with my ability to build a longer-term mentorship relationship. But that all changes today. My lifelong mentor has been my village, but I look forward to building deeper connections and mentors with my individual connections.

Bobby