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When faced with an ethical dilemma, seek advice and counsel from others.

Put aside your pride and ego and ask others for help. By doing this, you receive a fresh point of view and also a different perspective on the situation. Insular, isolated decision-making often leads to bad results. Consider the many possibilities of persons whom you can turn to – your supervisor, a colleague or associate, a company lawyer or compliance officer, your best friend, your parents, or your spouse. The best advice to give to young professionals or new employees is that they seek and find mentors. A mentor should not only be someone you can emulate, but also someone you trust will give you sound advice and wise counsel based on experience and seasoned judgment.

When I joined the Jesuit order at the age of 24, I was immediately given a kind of mentor – what Jesuits call a spiritual director. His task was to help me develop my spiritual life by listening to my story and sharing his experience and wisdom with me. I found this relationship invaluable for my early days and continue to value this ministry to this day. The directors have changed over the years – both men and women – but the importance of the gift of spiritual direction has not. It has been both an affirming and challenging experience.

A mentor is someone who has walked a path before you, has some experience and mastery in a place you want to travel, has the ability to pass on his or her wisdom and skills, cares enough to invest in your life, and is committed to supporting you by sharing their values. Mentors help us to know ourselves better – our strengths and our weaknesses. Their task is to help us to know our value, our worth, and our contribution to making our company and the world a better place for all. (Becoming Real: Journey to Authenticity, by David Irvine; Chapter Two)

The mentoring relationship is a very special human connection because it is built on trust. Sometimes mentors see what their protégé is capable of even before the protégé does. Such was the case in my life when I met the late Jesuit Fr. Richard Vaughan. He was my religious superior. Soon after I was ordained a priest I was assigned to be one of his assistants. He had the ability to see the potential in others and to encourage its unfolding; I came to a whole new appreciation of my gifts under his leadership.

Two words of caution on the mentoring relationship: first, make sure you choose your mentor wisely. Hank Shea relates that one former executive he prosecuted followed his mentor from corporation to corporation, but also followed the mentor’s example of cheating on expense accounts and using corporate funds for personal purposes – now both are felons! Second, David Irvine notes that mentors can pull us off our authentic path if we give up our own voice in the relationship. Mentors are here to help us find our own truth, not for us to rely on them for answers. They cannot take the authentic journey for us.

We can have mentors in more than one area of our lives. In addition to our career, there are marital issues, health concerns, and our spiritual life, to name a few. A final note: don’t let fear keep you from asking people to mentor you. When you are intentional and ready, someone right for you will appear.

(May 2012 Newsletter)

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