Paths are where they are because someone walked there before. Mentorship helps you walk on those paths.
That sounds cool, doesn’t it?
Actually, it’s an original saying. I created it when I started writing this piece. It makes clear sense, the realization that there’s a road somewhere because someone has walked there before. What does that imply?
In his 1988 autobiography, Moonwalk, Michael Jackson stresses the need for research; the need for study. He mentions how there are thousands of books on every subject; that people have all they need to excel because whatever it is they want to do, someone has done it before.
This brings me to my thought for today: mentoring and mentorship.
Mentorship is a guide, a process via which a professional or expert in a particular field grooms or prepares or guides or impacts a protégé with the knowledge and wisdom required to make the protégé an expert in that particular field. Or it is largely defined as the process by which an older person (mentor) imparts random or specific knowledge to a younger person (mentee) to help the younger person succeed.
Why is mentorship necessary?
Mentoring is one of the most important tools for personal and corporate development. Business mentorship is important for the success of an entrepreneur. Summarily, the mentee gains insights and guides to solving real world problems and the organization or team which the individual is part of profits from his improved skills.
I personally think that great care should be taken, though, so it does not become a case of one person trying to duplicate the exact success of another person or a situation in which somebody is trying to download his DNA on somebody else. In such instances, I think to myself: isn’t that what childbearing is for?
I have people I’ve naturally come to look up to, admire and whose work ethics I try to emulate. In addition, I support, guide and advice several others.
Mentorship or mentoring is done in almost every field of life – secular, spiritual, religious, entertainment, educational. It cuts across all spheres of humanity. It’s more or less ‘the old making way for the new,’ in a manner of speaking, except it isn’t a competition. The mentor doesn’t necessarily move aside for the mentee to take over. It is rather a preparation for the mentee to walk in his own (mentee’s) shoes. Some organisations have mentorship programs in place.
People have a tendency to name-drop great people (like Obama, Steve Jobs, Oprah, etc) when asked who their mentors/role models are (I guess that creates a level of significance or gives a sense of motivation to work harder). Mentorship as I understand it is supposed to be a personal thing; not something you do to impress other people in your field or around you. And that’s just one of the drawbacks of mentoring. Teaching people to not misunderstand the intent of mentorship is the way forward.
Again, the process has to be tailored so the mentee does not over-depend on the mentor to the point where a decision cannot be made till the mentor is consulted. This stunts the growth of the mentee as it gives no room for self-development – the purpose of mentorship in the first place. Also mentee spends considerable time with mentor, giving rise to the tendency to begin absorbing personality traits of mentor. Things like hairstyle, manner of dressing, hand gestures and so on are copied on a subconscious level which can be counterproductive.
As mentioned earlier, when mentoring is done well, the mentee gets the benefit of experience and age of mentor, and insights and wisdom – both conventional and personal – are shared and imbibed. This helps speed the mentee’s learning and awareness processes; it helps give self-confidence, learns how to clearly articulate thoughts and ideas, and how to communicate same clearly. The mentor also learns leadership traits in the process. Also, because it’s a personal relationship, feedback is almost instantaneous. Mentor is actively involved in the process.
Both mentor and mentee have an increased sense of self-value; mentor, because he is sharing knowledge and experience, and mentee, because he is gaining same without making unnecessary mistakes. He has the benefit of ‘future sight’ while still living in the present. He gains more control of his chosen career path.
So, mentoring happens across all walks of life and it is useful for all people across all walks of life. An employee can find a senior colleague in the same department to learn from, the same way an entrepreneur can look to another entrepreneur for leadership. There are gains for all involved, as long as things are kept professional in the relationship. The purpose of mentorship again, for the sake of stressing the point, is to provide someone the benefit of experience; the courage necessary to become his own person without making unnecessary mistakes.
‘Balance is required in everything; moderation is necessary.’
Yes, I just quoted myself.
Have you ever had a mentor or mentored someone? What are your experiences like? Do share in the comments!