“It’s All Good” – A Training Tool For Mentors

By Michael Donahue and Brady Rhodes

Note:  BoldLeaders has been training mentors, designing mentoring programs and mentoring young people and adults for 20+ years.  We have developed several tools, contexts and supports to help facilitate relationships and growth for mentor/mentee pairs, including group mentoring.  Check out what we have to offer here, and feel free to contact us to help troubleshoot your program.

A new mentor stopped me at lunch during a training workshop and asked me “Why do you keep telling us to keep in mind ‘It’s all good’?  That seems like a cop-out to me!  I thought you want us to have high expectations!”  My response was to tell him that as a mentor, you have to have a place to stand.  High expectations IS a place to stand, and it will likely help him and his mentee once they get going.  “It’s all good” is another stand – likely a more effective one – especially in the beginning phases of a mentoring relationship.  It will get you through the rough spots and show your mentee that you are there no matter what – a vital key to successful relationships of any kind.

So what is a place to stand and what is effective about “It’s All Good”?   We walk around with expectations all the time.  As a mentor, you started out your mentoring with expectations of how it would go.  You had preconceived notions, anticipations, wants and needs. Maybe these were notions of being ‘that person that made all the difference’, or setting your young person on a course for the Nobel Prize, or perhaps you just anticipated building a great give-and-take relationship with someone.  As you went through your training or preparation, you may have taken off the rosy glasses somewhat, or maybe you knew someone who had been in a challenging relationship and that gave you a bit of pause, but you still had a fairly specific sense of how it would all occur.  What’s important to note about these expectations is that they are largely unconscious and beneath the surface of your thinking self.  They are subtly yet powerfully orienting you to expect your mentoring to go a certain way.  

“It’s all good,” takes these expectations head-on and helps you release the hold they have on you.  When we are in relationships, expectations come into play constantly.  We generally know how to handle different situations, and we know how to act and behave: we expect a certain scenario and respond to that scenario when it (or slight variations) play out.  Often we don’t even think about it – because it fit what we have built as the right response.  Yet when people in our lives deviate from the script or do the opposite of what we expect, certain emotions are certain to come up!  Anger, disappointment, apathy, a sense of betrayal, a sense of loss or real sadness are just some of the emotions that can arise. Note that I am talking about your emotions here. Without something to hold on to (without a place to stand), those emotions can really take the ship off course, sometimes with long-term consequences. 

When you choose to stand for “It’s All Good” in your relationship with your mentee, you are orienting yourself to be okay or ‘good’ with whatever happens.  This is a place of real responsibility and commitment to the relationship, because you are not allowing your reactions to missed expectations deviate your course!  This is a profound gift to others.  Why? Well let’s go back to the expectations thing: when my 12 year old explodes with anger towards me about something I had nothing to do with, he is expecting (unconsciously) his anger to fuel a response from me that then warrants his anger or gives him a place to unload it.  If I have not prepped myself with ‘It’s All Good’, then he might get what he expects: I will get angry at being blamed and off we go! 

Yet if I am standing in a place of ‘It’s All Good’, I am pre-oriented towards allowing him to be however he is being in the moment. He has the ball and he is on the court.  I have distanced myself from reacting.  Yet what I have not done is distanced myself from him.  Quite the opposite:  When you can allow your mentee to be angry, hurt, blameful, or even exuberant and joyous, you give them a gift as a coach to play the game of life.  You provide a space for the young person to know that it is ok for them to be how they are.  And it may be one of the few times anyone has given them that space.

It can be comical how we as humans believe we can control everything that happens.  When we are confronted by the fact this is not the case, we change our language.  We say, “It should have been this way,” or “This is not the way it is supposed to happen.”  When you are a coach and working in the area of helping people transform their lives, being okay with the way things happen gives you the presence to then respond vs. react, and it is in the response that you then have the opportunity to help your mentee interact with the situation, learning from it for the future.   Using “It’s All Good” as a place to stand helps us release our death grip on control.

Your mentee is not you and you are not your mentee.  Our experiences may mirror the youth’s or be the exact opposite.  From our pasts we have developed expectations of human behavior.  We choose to be in relationships that match these expectations and move away from the people that do not share them.  In working with teens, you can overcome this by just saying to yourself “It Is All Good.”  Whatever has just happened, it simply is just that: “All good.”