The Howells Group Blog

Show Up


A few years ago I was leading an organization that identified abused kids and worked to provide a safe space and community for them. Provide visionary and effective leadership for the organization AND be a meaningful relationship to kids who had survived the inconceivable. No big deal right? Be a leader and a mentor. How hard can that be?

In a moment of insecurity about how to work with these kids, how to meet them where they were, how to not be a disconnected and nerdy adult and say the wrong thing, I found help from a surprising source. I had invited an adult survivor to help us design our programming and guide us to provide what the survivors might actually need and want. She was almost half my age and had a much different view of the world. I mentioned my concerns about “saying the wrong thing” to this colleague. How should I mentor them? How do I know I won’t say the wrong thing and cause more harm?

She grinned and said “what have you been doing for the past hour? What have you been doing the whole time I have known you?” She pointed out what was so obvious to her about our relationship but I had missed. “The way to form a relationship with a survivor, a kid, or anyone, is to show up” she said. “To show up and then show up and then show up again. Always show up when you say you will and bring the best you have. You’re a natural!” She went on to tell me how meaningful it was to her that even though I was the person in charge, the one who was educated and experienced, I came to her for wisdom and counsel. She pointed out to me how my vulnerability in asking questions, my desire to be in relationship with her and my willingness to be real was exactly the way to develop a meaningful mentoring relationship. She told me that “people have to earn the right to speak into each-others’ lives.” I’d accidentally been doing it right all along.

We went on to create a vibrant mentoring program based on these principles. Built on the idea that trust is established in both the giving and the receiving and the teaching and the learning. Show up and bring what you have.   There is a time and place for a formalized mentoring system. I’ve seen those bring great benefit but I also now know that mentoring and relationship building can happen anywhere, anytime we show up with the desire to meet people where they are and let them see where we are.

“vulnerability is our most accurate measure of courage” ~ Brene’ Brown

-by Tanya Young Stump, Senior Consultant


One Comment

  1. Richard
    Posted June 29, 2016 at 1:24 am | Permalink

    Terrific story!. Thank you so much,Tanya.

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