An anchor; a guide in our journey, professional or personal, most often helps us stay rooted to our goals.
A mentor is that anchor, and that compass in our lives that we need to get our ship to the shores of our choice.
In my career of several years, mentoring has played an important role. I have been a protégé and in more recent times, a mentor. Mentoring is a personal way of sharing knowledge and ideas, combining perspectives in new, motivating ways, with your juniors and peers. It is a developmental partnership. One that for me has even got me to do the most basic of habits, of polishing my shoes!
A mentor is someone we speak to, our sounding board, a mirror, maybe even our microscope or telescope, a compass and an anchor. He/she is someone who helps us create a space for reflection through a few simple questions that help lead to the path of self discovery of our potential.
Creating self awareness in the mind of the protégé: ‘Who am I? Where am I?’
- Building a vision in the mind of the protégé: ‘Where do I want to go?’
- Change to be brought about: ‘What do I need to change to get where I want to be?’
- ‘What do I do to get ahead in my goal?’
These simple questions are the crux of every mentor-protégé relationship. The way these questions might be put across and embedded in your professional and personal journey is what makes every mentor-protégé relationship unique and exciting.
Over the years I have been lucky to have numerous colleagues and seniors as mentors. Many of them are the ones I still turn to for advice and guidance. One of the first mentors’ experience in my professional life that I will never forget, was the one I shared with my first boss. I was working as a management trainee. He had this knack of noticing the good in people more than their faults! I for one did not lose a moment to point out a fault. My boss noticed this in me, and could have easily called me out on it, but he didn’t. I used to have a habit of not polishing my shoes. Almost every day, my shoes were unpolished and muddied, walking through the narrow road I took to work. But again, my boss never said anything about this to me. A few months later, the rainy season began, and my shoes were clean, walking in the rain. My boss looked at me and said, “Nathan, your shoes are polished, well done!” A little embarrassed but only because I knew he had noticed the earlier times when they weren’t shiny, I mumbled thanks and walked out of the room.
The next day onwards, what do you think was the one thing I did before I set out to work? - polish my shoes! He caught me off guard, but at a time when something I did was right, as opposed to pointing out something wrong that I was repeatedly doing. This has been a memorable lesson, one that got me to notice people doing something right and point it out. I realized early in my career, positive affirmations are more powerful than negative comments and helps change behavior. A mantra that has been extremely helpful in my relationships as a professional.
You can have a mentor for different aspects of your life. You can have a mentor for helping you with your finance, or a spiritual mentor, a technology mentor or a mentor for your career. Choose your mentor well. Someone who you look up to, and has the time and the patience to help you. Someone you can rely on to keep you honest when you falter. And, when you see someone who meets your threshold, all you need to do is to reach out and ask that person. Over time I have found a need to choose new mentors and that is equally important. So go on, find a mentor if you don’t have one already, and work towards building a meaningful and successful association. Shine your shoes, shine your life.
We also need to be ‘coached’ to be better professionals and that is another story... so stay tuned.