Mentorship… Teaching others the magic at some point should be an infectious disease. I wish it were as simple as sneezing on the intended subject, but unfortunately it is not. Mentorship takes time and the right chemistry between mentor and “mentee”… Partially fine art, partially crafting another human, mentorship should be a beauty regiment / exercise as we move up and along and an investment in others. Mentorship is not about “cookie cutting” and prefab systems. Its an art that involves intuition, trial and error, dynamic evolution, renewal and permanence.
In the past I have seen well intended management task well intended engineers with developing a “system” or a “p-r-o-c-e-s-s” for passing along the institutional knowledge. And with good intentions they developed a “p-r-o-c-e-s-s” based on “teach what you know” that simply was not implementable, but yet they are getting paid to try to force a creative process into a rigid formula. The devil in the details is that we can’t always quantify or qualify the art of the “secret sauce”, nor is everyone receptive to the message, yet we try to force something that is mostly human chemistry, skill and art. Mentorship should be a unique and special relationship where a serious lesson is passed on to a serious candidate (we should develop a “match.com” for mentorship!).
There are experiences and skills that can be taught. Others… can we? – Can “vision” be taught? Can “applied intuition” be taught? How do we harness, bottle and dose game changers/visionaries and unorthodox creative forces? Can it be captured in a “p-r-o-c-e-s-s” (for as much as process oriented professionals are a necessary evil, they can oftentimes be a serious drag). Who is the keeper of the secret sauce? Does the sauce have an expiration date or can it be re-seasoned to match organizational evolution? Once the art and the artist are identified, who is the recipient of the knowledge? How do we pick them?
Just thinking out loud here on some of the elements of Mentorship-Mentee-ship… After all, there has to be something worth teaching, someone teacher worthy and someone student worthy. What I am babbling about is that mentorship is critical – whether it is for the sake of succession because it offers longevity when longevity is relevant, or because it is the necessary circle of giving back.
It gives us the ability to move people and concepts around, keeping the business or enterprise fresh, refreshed and relevant. It builds strength through change and it gives success new meaning. There has to be chemistry between the mentor and the mentee. And the ideal mentee has to possess the same type of skills and qualities as an athlete or singer – mentee either has it or they don’t… Lets face it, some of us, no matter how hard we try, we weren’t born with the pipes to sing – period!
Successful careers are determined by many factors, and lets be honest – We all started some where, and someone gave us a chance. I really believe that it is a privilege and not an entitlement – so if you owe your success to someone who gave you a chance, took the time for you or lead you by example, pass it on to a deserving soul. Let it flow and figure out what will work for the parties involved.
Dont get stuck on the “p-r-o-c-e-s-s” – enjoy the journey, and rejoice in the product. But pass that secret sauce (just make sure the recipient “gets it” and knows what to do with it!) – give someone a chance. For those of you who gave ME a chance (and you know who you are). THANK YOU!