Who needs a mentor? You do (whether you know it or not)

So do I (even though I’m now in my 50’s)

I’ve been lucky in my life and career.  I have had very little given to me, but I have somehow managed to take advantage of many of the opportunities that crossed my path.  One of the most useful types of opportunity that I have benefitted from is a Mentor.  In some cases I didn’t even identify them as a Mentor until the relationship was already in place.  In many cases, they didn’t intend to Mentor me, but their words and actions taught me things – useful things.

My first Mentor as I was entering the big world of adulthood and employment, was a stranger who picked up a couple of us who were hitching home for a weekend pass. During the 2 hour drive, we chatted about all sorts, but particularly about what was next for us youngsters when we finished our National Service in a couple of months.  He knew someone who, he said, might be able to give me a job and put me through tertiary education at the same time.  Well that was the best news I’d had since my Dad had died and my hopes of further education had died with him.

He was my mentor for only 2 hours but he has had a HUGE impact on the last 30 years of my life – and I don’t even know his name.

If you stay interested in what and who is around you, you will find someone who is willing to share their knowledge and experience with you.  When you find that person, be grateful for their willingness to share.  If they also GUIDE you, then you have a wonderful opportunity that you should respect and cherish, even if it is a painful experience.

Case in point: – On one of my projects, one of my sub-contractor’s planners (let’s call him Bob) was just not up to the job he had to do.  I rode him hard.  I shredded his work.  At our first formal meeting I told him straight to his face in front of everyone that in the hour that was to follow, I would embarrass him and show where his work was worth less than toilet paper.  Out of pure desperation because of the very tight timelines we were working with, I asked Bob and the other subcontractor planners to come to my office to get some pointers on how to do better.

It took a few weeks, and more than one session where I cr@pped on Bob from a dizzy height, but his work improved.  He stopped making rookie mistakes, or at least they reduced in number and frequency.  Some while after our first showdown, he came to me to clarify a couple of things he was have problems with.  When we finished that session, he took a deep breath, screwed up all his courage, and thanked me for being willing to give him time and help even though I was clearly angry.  He told me that there were many times that he just wanted to leave the project because he was unable to meet expectations.  The reason he stuck it out was that he knew that what I was teaching him would improve his skills and that would benefit his family.  Although I regularly rejected his work (only the one time in public), I never rejected the person.  I still greeted him when we saw each other and we chatted about normal stuff when we were off duty.  I never found HIM unacceptable, just his work.

I did not intend to Mentor him, I was just trying to get my project working better.  I’m glad he took the guidance, harsh though it was.  He will make a fine planner one day – he is well on his way already.