Management and Mentoring with Unconditional Positive Regard

Management and Mentoring with Unconditional Positive Regard

This article is the first of a series of three covering the core conditions model developed by Carl Rogers and its application to Management and Mentoring. These core conditions were developed for use in Person Centred Counselling Psychotherapy and from my experience have great relevance to Management in general and my Mentoring practice in particular.

I was stimulated to write this particular article following a discussion at a Networking breakfast e were discussing how at times people tend to view those they deal with negatively looking for the other person to “prove” themselves to be worthy of consideration. To his credit the guy I was talking to stated that he had come to the conclusion it was better to view everyone positively from the start, scoring them 10/10 unless and until they show that they are worthy of a lesser score. A very creditable view in my opinion and said so at the time.

Carl Rogers’ view was that everyone should be judged positively no matter what (and I mean no matter who they are or what they have done). Rogers described it as “Unconditional Positive Regard” or UPR for short. The Rogerian view is that everyone is born with a positive approach but held back by externally imposed “Conditions of Worth”. The key as he saw it was to approach the client with

v A non judgemental UPR

v Empathy - an ability to look at life as though you were in their shoes

v Congruence - an ability to understand the effect of the person on you and to be truly yourself and thus allowing the client to be them self too

So how does having UPR apply in management and mentoring? In management we see many examples where teams seem to be underperforming and everyone says how bad the teams are, yet the teams are transformed by a new boss or management regime. I am reminded of my own “Mentor” Robert Townsend who I have written about before. As you may remember he wrote the seminal book “Up The Organisation” based on his experiences as head of Avis (he came up with the slogan “We try harder”). Let me quote

“When I became head of Avis I was assured that no one at HQ was any good and that my first job was to recruit a whole new team. Three years later a visiting President of the owning group stated “I’ve never seen such depth of management”. You guessed it, same people; I only brought in two new people, a lawyer and an accountant.”

Townsend demonstrates that on the whole everyone can; we just create our own barriers that stop others from doing things. He approached his team unconditionally positive and gave them the chance to make things happen.

And in my mentoring practice having UPR for my clients or potential clients is critical. My initial no-obligation meeting is designed to see where the client lies in satisfaction with their current situation and in their ability/desire to move from one state to another. My experience is that most people become engaged with me when they feel they are in one place, stuck for whatever reason and really want to be in another. The underlying level of dissatisfaction with the situation or “the pain they are feeling” as I sometimes describe it is the driver for my retention as a Business Mentor.

Whatever results from this initial meeting, I as the Mentor have to accept the situation unconditionally and be fully positive in giving assistance. If I harbour doubts or more worryingly am judgemental about the client and so tempted to impose my own ways of doing things on the client then the process will fail.

It is important to understand that I am professionally supervised, meeting with my Supervisor once a month. Part of the requirement for this professional supervision is to ensure that I am not trying to live my objectives and desires through someone else. Approaching it with UPR is a process that reminds me that it is always the client’s choice in terms of direction. Empowering the client to make the decision that is right for them and trusting the client to do that for their reasons not externally imposed ones. That is not to say that I am always in full agreement with the client’s direction but as long as the alternatives have been considered then it is always the client’s choice.

Mentors like me and Managers like the guy I was talking to are in accord in always scoring people as 10/10. What I endeavour to do as a Mentor is to focus with the client on the issues that may lead others to reduce that score and also affect the results they are endeavouring to achieve. But I can only do that by being Empathic and truly Congruent. I will write more about those conditions in subsequent articles.


Nicholas Fraser is seasoned Sales and Marketing professional who has worked with Multi Nationals including IBM as well as Medium and Small businesses. He has been an MD of a number of businesses and has been practising as a professionally supervised Business Mentor for the past 5 years.

He is currently splitting his time with running a new software startup Newera Controls - an exciting Energy Management and Control application and is in the process of raising Venture Capital to launc...

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