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By Ian Chisholm

This month we are proudly reposting a recent article published in the University of Alberta 2020 Annual Report for its ThresholdImpact Venture Mentoring Service (VMS). Read the entire report here.


Several years ago, Ted Kouri of Incite Strategy put Seth Godin’s book, Tribes, on my desk.

It was a punchy little work (as Godin is prone to write) asserting that with the dawn of social media, people who share a passion, a cause or a concern can find each other more easily and begin to coordinate a response.

Around the same time he handed me this book, Ted also introduced me to Ashlyn Bernier and Ray Muzyka at UAlberta’s VMS, on the off chance that Roy Group might be able to support the development of a remarkable group of leaders united by the desire to earn the word ‘Mentor’ in the lives of others.

The opportunity to work with a group of like-minded people with shared values and a common purpose to deepen its culture of mutual support and efficacy sounded great. We were a venti YES.

In his book, Godin explains a few concepts that are embedded into what has been built in the VMS community. This involves three key ingredients:

  • A noble promise: The uniting why, the reason for being and belonging, the conceptual spark that this group protects together—even if that requires time, effort and sacrifice.
  • Community leaders: Wise members of a community who embody the noble promise at a cellular level. You only ever need to spend a few minutes with these folks, and suddenly you understand the promise at a much deeper level. In addition to taking action when required, these special individuals provide an example of conduct for future generations.
  • Tools and rituals: These allow members of the community to have any conversation they need to have to keep the promise together, and to tackle more than one could do alone. By taking part in these rituals, participants experience a glimpse of a greater order and become part of a bigger narrative. These tools and rituals align us. The great paradox is that it is within these conversations with others that we discover who we are.

I hadn’t thought about this book in years when Lazina Mckenzie approached Roy Group to engage in a special summer collaboration called “Refinding the Future: Exploring the Role of Mentors in Emergence”. This collaboration would be in addition to the Mentor Orientation Training that we run several times throughout the year, and would specifically focus on the tools and approaches that Roy Group is using with entrepreneurs in light of the level of uncertainty that 2020 has presented.

It was only when 70 people entered the virtual “room” that I experienced the true nature of VMS. I realized then that so much of the momentum Ashlyn Bernier and Arden Tse have created since 2014, and the momentum that Lazina and the current team have been able to keep—and build, even —in the face of adversity comes from the fact that people feel a sense of belonging to this service. It is a community they represent, everywhere they go.

Your VMS is a group where each and every member has the chance to discover their unique gifts in the midst of real-world endeavours. You ask nothing more than that a person be themselves and remain open to all they can become. Here, they are given opportunities to develop their gifts and share them. Being a part of this community influences their livelihood, how they partner with the gifts of others, the way they parent, and what kind of neighbour and volunteer they are. It changes the kind of citizen they show up as—and the way they, in turn, show up for others.

It changes the world.

And at the heart of this community, a wise collection of Mentors: people who, in addition to leading their own endeavours, focus time and effort on honing their ability to see others, know others, support others, challenge others and invite the best from others.

Roy Group could not be more proud to be a part of your efforts, and a guest at the VMS table.

 


Ian Chisholm is a founding partner of Roy Group.