Four Roles of a Mentor according to Ken Robinson and My Own Experience of Being Mentored

indian hat IN A FEW WORDS: Mentorship can be life changing for both the mentor and the person who is being mentored. In this post, I link four roles of a mentor, identified by Ken Robinson, with my own experience.

Last week I wrote about why I wanted to get a mentor again and today I am sharing Ken Robinson’s ideas on mentorship and the four roles of a mentor from his book The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything.

I am certain that good mentors can truly be life changing and having one is a huge privilege – at least this has been the case with me. I decided to share my experience of being mentored, hoping that it would inspire you to become a mentor or be mentored.

  1. Recognition

Mentors recognise the spark of interest or delight and can help individuals drill down to the specific components of the discipline that match the individual’s needs, capacity and passion.

MY EXPERIENCE: I remember sending my first play to a famous theatre director. He called me back two days later and I was invited to go over to his office for a cup of tea. I was trembling but I went. Our conversation was life changing and led to years of mentorship. He identified my strengths and weaknesses as a writer and sent me to seminars and meetings with people to hone my skills.


  1. Encouragement

Mentors lead us to believe that we can achieve something that seemed improbable or impossible to us before we met them. They don’t allow us to succumb to self-doubt for too long, or the notion that our dreams are too large for us. They stand by to remind us of the skills we already possess and what we can achieve if we continue to work hard.

MY EXPERIENCE: My other mentor, then an attaché to Lithuania in a Scandinavian country, took me under he wing when I was just graduating from high school. She was extremely reassuring of my wanting to study in England and compiled a list of universities I should apply to. Once I got into my first choice university, she even allocated a small stipend for me, so I could move to the UK.


  1. Facilitatingmentor, bridge, creative blog

Mentors can help lead us toward our Element by offering us advice and techniques, paving the way for us, and even allowing us to falter a bit while standing by to help us recover and learn from our mistakes. 

MY EXPERIENCE: Many years after meeting the theatre director mentioned above, he hired me to direct a show at his theatre. I didn’t do too well, to say the least: I didn’t get on with the actors and was still lacking experience. The director was strict but patient – a week before the opening he came in and guided me as to how to improve the show.


  1. Stretching

Effective mentors push us past what we see as our limits. Much as they don’t allow us to succumb to self-doubt, they also prevent us from doing less with our lives than we can. A true mentor reminds us that our goal should never be to be ‘average’ at our pursuits.

MY EXPERIENCE: All of my mentors – writers, cultural workers, directors and businessmen –  challenged my way of thinking and inspired me to think bigger. I am still growing and refining my Element – the activities where I feel most at home – but thanks to my mentors I have creative confidence and trust that I am strong enough to succeed.

Do you feel like you could do with a mentor or some guidance in your own life? Check out my Creative Life Coaching.

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