It all started with a party game…those funny “what if” social games that get sillier with late night exuberance and adult beverages. “What fruit would they be if all pharmacists were a fruit?” asked one guest, a deeply serious pharmacist. “If lawyers were farm animals, which one would they be?” teased another guest, targeting his attorney friend. I popped the obvious question—“If mentoring was a mode of transportation, what would it be?” It yielded a few interesting, yet provocative, answers.

“Mentoring should be a limousine,” one guest commented, “elegantly helping important learners gain the competence they need in the way they need it.” “I think a Jeep,” said another, “since today’s learners have to traverse challenging emotional terrain in a complex, ever-changing work world.” Another said, “A race car, since learners live in a fast-paced work world with the competence they acquire becoming obsolete so quickly.” There were wild suggestions of golf carts, jet planes, and motorcycles. But, the one that prompted the most interesting discussion was the idea that mentoring should be a tank to shield protégés from mentors with bad attitudes, indifference, and emotional distance.

If you asked your protégé to characterize the relationship you help create as a mode of transportation, what would he or she choose? And, what would the choice communicate about how you mentor?