At Big Brothers Big Sisters, we believe every child should have the opportunity to reach his or her full potential – both as individuals and citizens. We believe that by changing the course of young lives we can in turn be changing the course of a community’s future.
Start Talking is a place where we want to raise awareness of key issues that face today’s youth. We will sometimes advocate, sometimes educate, sometimes inform, sometimes ask questions and always invite discussion about the pressing concerns that involve the younger generations of today.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

A Toboggan Ride to Leadership Development

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Canada welcomes guest blogger Jim Cargrae!

About Jim Carfrae

I have been privileged to be a big brother for six years, lead a three year corporate sponsorship with big brothers big sisters (BBBS) and be on the BBBS alumni committee. I am also a co-founder and animateur of the Leading Better roundtable series, and have worked at a number of successful companies, currently Santa Maria Foods, a fast-growing deli company.

For many years I have been an active mentor, mentee, leader, follower and observer. I am lucky to have a curious nature that leads me to a wide variety of circumstances and experiences. I wish I could have shared a coffee with Richard Feynman.

How being a Mentor helped me

One amazing and unforgettable day my little brother Adam accidently went tobogganing down the ravine at Bronte Park, without a toboggan, amazingly through the trees and luckily without incident – one time! A conundrum, `mom` would not be happy to hear the story, and yet the thrill could not be stifled, and a request for silence would pretty much guarantee it being told with the lead-in, ``Jim said not to tell …``. Life is filled with accidents, I think I am a bit more understanding with my kids because of the day at the park.

In many ways the greatest benefit of being mentored is the comfort of knowing someone is looking out for you, believes in you and wants to support you. I believe this is massively empowering and provides the courage to experiment, practice and live fully.

When I started as a big brother I worked hard to plan our outings. One day I didn’t plan anything, we just hung out, played some Lego, some space invaders. On the way home he asked “can we do that again?” At first I didn’t understand. So much of life is over-planned; Adam taught me the joy of just enjoying someone’s company, and his was wonderful.

Leading might be defined as creating a vision strong enough for action by others. And leadership could then be the conversations and agreements that led to that action; and the space set up for those interactions to happen in a safe and fruitful way.
As I recollect there are over 30 million cartons of Royale facial tissue sold in Canada every year. For three years the bottom of every Royale carton told the simple message of BBBS:

• Over 18,000 children are mentored, (at the time); and there continues to be a need for `bigs`
• Kids who are mentored are more likely to finish high school and less likely to do drugs

I still remember suggesting this idea to our owner, wondering if it might be asking too much. He was immediately supportive, and now I am never shy to ask, people are welcome to say “no”.

I believe there is great overlap in mentoring and leading, and that great personal leadership development can realized by the practice one gets in being a mentor. It really is hard to imagine that a person who was once a big brother or big sister would not record that experience on their resume or Linked In profile for their entire life. It is equally hard to imagine that a potential hirer would not see that as relevant experience, even if 20 years ago.

It is my belief that the best leaders of tomorrow are already developing and practicing today, many as mentors. On top of the wonderful personal interaction as a big sister or brother, the benefit to the little sister or brother and their community; the many mentor programs offered provide an easy and enjoyable way for personal development.

I invite you to check it out, information is at There are also many alumni who are happy to share their personal experience, almost certainly someone you know, if you ask around.

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