The Wizards behind the Curtain
Why the Best Mentors are the most Vulnerable
I remember attending a gruelling week long training and initiation when I was becoming a management consultant in South Africa. The company I was with put myself and the other new employees under such intense pressure; giving us mock assignments and tough mock clients, all with the intention of moulding us into competent consultants with stamina, grit and perseverance.
We worked till the early hours of the morning, often starting assignments only after midnight. It was not easy. But it prepared us for the real client interactions and vigorous work-environments ahead. I felt like Dorothy in Oz: confused, overwhelmed and lost in a strange world of uncertainty and weariness. In my immense fatigue, I remember asking myself: who were the architects of this company? Who were the Wizards behind the curtain?
At the end of that week we had an awards ceremony and finally got to meet the CEO and other executives. As inspiring as it was to engage with them, I knew there was another layer in the fold.
Where was the oligarchy; the puppet masters pulling the strings of the executives all the way to us newly initiated?
I finally got my opportunity to meet the masters, as I was informed the shareholders were coming to give a talk. My excitement grew; the makers were revealing themselves…
But this was not the case. Although the shareholders were talking to us; encouraging and motivating; I still was not convinced they were revealing all that there was about them. I wanted to know who they were and how they got to the position of owner of an institution. It was the mechanics of thought and action that happened behind the scenes I was keen to grasp.
It was not enough for me to hear the expected rhetoric of how great the company was and how excited they were for us to work for them. I wanted to know what stimulated them, what they believed, what books they read and the failures that got them into their current position. I wanted to know the essence of their thought process so I could emulate, critique, dispute and adapt it for my own.
So I did what any young man who had a strong desire to know more would do: I asked a question. I approached the shareholder who I connected with the most, stuck my hand out, introduced myself and firmly asked: “ Sir would you please me my mentor?” The answer was an equally firm ‘yes’ and the journey of having my first mentor began.
I’m not going to go into detail about how my new mentor opened doors and exposed me to his network; or how through him I made connections I never could have due to his influence. He expanded the definition of what an entrepreneur was and revealed to me the unwritten rules of business. But it was not only the business insight that I got that I benefited from, it was when he shared his personal values and how they impacted his businesses that elevated my perspective.
A good mentor shows vulnerability and is unafraid to share personal values and how they are integrated into life.
There is something that happens; a shift in the psyche that occurs when someone more experienced than you shows an interest in your personal and business development. Even more so when that person comes down from his/her pedistal and meets you at your level.This is invaluable.
A good mentor get’s off their high horse and walks along side you for a bit of your journey.
I realise this even more now that I mentor a few people myself. I remind myself of the difference one person made in my life, when they took the time out to better me and I apply that same effort in my mentees. It is in realising that the mentor-mentee relationship is two way: both benefit from it!
A thriving mentor-mentee relationship is one where both parties grow, are challenged and accept each others’ perspectives.
Now I have far less knowledge and experience than my mentors but what I do have is a distinct set of experiences that only I have gone through. It is through the honest introspection of these experiences that I base my mentorship from. It is from my vulnerabilities and acceptance that I do not know it all that my relationships with mentees is formed. Because to the young people I mentor, I am now the Wizard, and they are awaiting for me to come form outside the curtain and reveal my authentic self.
Do you want to be more Authentic? Good! Cause the world will be better for it! Here are 3 quick and easy ways to get you on your path:
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It’t that simple: all the links are below! Thanks for reading and remember: