The Tao of Mentorship
7 Lessons I Learnt as A Mentor and as a Mentee
There is an old corporate adage- 'nobody is irreplaceable'. Well, I dispute that. If your work is your worship and you occupy a place in people's hearts, you are truly irreplaceable. So, to every mentee I say, occupy and maintain a place in people's hearts.
An email from Human Resources (HR) today reminded me of the incredible value of mentors and provoked me to write about my experience both as a mentor and as a mentee.
I have been fortunate enough to find formal and informal mentors that have inspired, coached and guided me. I have also learnt from my mentees just as I hope they learnt from me.
This is my chance to share a few personal lessons learnt.
What this Article is and What it is Not
First, this article is not 'preaching' and these principles can most certainly not be labeled 'industry best practices'.
Second, this article is an attempt at sharing actual and personal experiences as a Mentor.
Third, this is not a collection of mushy advice but rather lessons learnt in the school of life.
Lastly, by no means do I claim to be an expert mentor or for that matter an expert Mentee. While others have undertaken extensive research on mentorship, my tenets are centered around my experience and reflect personal opinions.
Therefore, the following tenets are motivated by a desire to share my experience in the hope that it adds value to other mentor-mentee relationship.
Why do we call a mentor a mentor?
The word 'Mentor' refers to a character in Homers Odyssey. When Odysseus was busy fighting the Trojan war, he enlisted Mentor to guide his son Telemachus. Mentor was the son of Alcimus who in turn was a companion to Achilles. Because Mentor was a rather old man, the goddess Athena took his form to guide young Telemachus.
Under Hinduism, the ultimate liberation, contentment, freedom in the form of moksha and inner perfection is considered achievable by two means: with the help of a Guru (a teacher and a mentor), and with evolution through the process of karma including rebirth in some schools of Hindu philosophy.
Personal Lessons - For Mentors & Mentees
Although it is hard to summarize key lessons (there are many), I attempted to pick the ones that have been common throughout my work life:
1. Credibility is Hard to Build but Easy to Destroy
Ethics and integrity can never be compromised. Doing right by the client takes precedence over all else. Delegation is a function of trust and trust is a function of credibility. A strong character is the single most important quality.
2. Understand That You Don't Have All the Answers
Mentorship is a two-way street. At times, a mentor can also learn from his mentee. As a mentor, if you don't have the answers, be honest and say so, attempt to find them, and return to the mentee with the potential solutions you have discovered to close the loop.
3. Lead by Example
Be the change you want to see. If you don't walk the talk, it's almost a cinch your words will have no weight.
4. Cultivate Vision and Risk Taking
Vision is the ability to see what others (including at times your superiors) cannot see. Encourage mentees to never lose sight of the bigger picture. Focus on big data to reveal trends & patterns that others cannot see.
Choose at least one assignment where the goal is to turn around a failing business or to salvage a situation considered hopeless. Adversity can be a great teacher.
5. Complacency is Dangerous
A very famous Indian poem 'Agnipath' by Harivanshrai Bachchan reminds us not to seek shelter but rather seek to toil under the harshest suns.
Do not seek shelter, seek the harsh sun. Never be satisfied with the status quo. Hunger to learn is the single biggest advantage any mentee can possess. Even if you are not the smartest person in the room, try to be the hungriest.
7. Always Leave a Place Better Than You Found it
Don't just do your job, think about doing right by your colleagues even though it is not called for. Give back to the community without expectation and encourage silent charity.
Striving to Create the Best Mentor-Mentee Relationship
Mentorship is an art that I practice frequently. As I learn more, I intend to share learnings along the way and love to learn from others.
Finally, don't pursue perfection, pursue excellence. I am not saying that the pursuit of perfection is futile but what I am saying is that everyone should have just the right amount of wrong.
Abhishek Kothari is a Banker at Citi as well as a Skydiver and Budding Fixed Wing Pilot. His interests range from sports to entrepreneurship and politics. He is a new member of the Ye! Coaching Community and available to answer all of your most pressing entrepreneurship questions.