Last night, I spoke with Ken, one of my mentors.
Ken has been a presence in my life for at least 25 years, best I can remember. He has seen me through the trials and travails of owning and operating my first business, divorcing my business-partner—husband, closing that business, and working to redefine my work and personal life.
He has listened to me lament and laugh, wonder and wail. He has been a faithful presence.
Through it all, he has seen me. And he has seen me whole.
What does that mean? To see me whole?
It means Ken sees my good, my bad, my goals, my short-sightedness, my arrogance, my fear, my insight, my anger, my joys—the many facets of being a whole, healthy human being. He calls out my gifts, strengths, and competencies, while acknowledging opportunities for my growth. And he accomplishes all of this through a lens of grace, acceptance, and wisdom.
I remember bringing Ken into our business for a consult. In a session with the entire staff, he asked people about their mentors. Several in our group mentioned that they didn’t have any mentors. They had never had a person in their life who took an interest in them, who cared about their development, or who listened and gave perspective on what was foremost on their mind.
I was shocked. The thought that someone would not have a guide ahead of them, shining light against possible pitfalls, seeing truths about them that they could not see themselves, was inconceivable to me.
I remember the first time Ken said, “You have good wisdom.” I had never thought that before. Really?
I remember the first time Ken said, “Well done. Write that down so you don’t forget it.”
I remember the first time Ken put into words the kind of leader he saw me to be.
These were words of life. Of hope. Of grace. Of truth.
I want to carry on Ken’s legacy. I want to be someone’s Ken someday.
Not just a consultant. Not just a resource. But a guide. To individuals and to organizations.
Our work systems are suffering. People’s souls are getting sucked right out of them, as they work in roles that don’t fit them anymore, as they react instead of respond to uncertainty and complexity, as they try to meet ever-increasing demands, solve wicked problems, and navigate convoluted processes all amidst a desire for personal growth and fulfillment.
Our work systems need more than change management. Among other things, they need mentors. They need people who can come alongside and witness the fullness of the organization—the good, the bad, the goals, the short-sightedness, the arrogance, the fear, the insight, the anger, the joys.
And, they need leaders who want—and honor—the role of a mentor. For what good is it to hear the truth—yet not act on it?
Our organizations are living systems, and while organizational behaviors and responsibilities may look different at larger, more complex levels than they do for individuals, the need for affirmation, development, and truth-telling on a collective level is no less real.
This requires us to see organizations whole. It requires us to see the whole structure, the whole being, the whole entity, not just the parts. It requires us to look at interior and exterior interconnectedness—how our organization links to the environment, our vendors, our customers, our families.
O, what could be realized with new perspective, lenses, and light.