African Business School — Mentor with a difference. 3 keys to open hearts and minds.

“Live life in such a way that you won’t need a tombstone” Fatima, my late mother would never tire of saying. If you live life right there will not be enough space to write your epitaph. True leaders do not seek power, but seek to empower through mentorship. This is a relationship in which a more experienced or knowledgeable person guides another in an area of expertise so that they are able to navigate their way through life’s trials and tribulations.

In a traditional African context mentorship is all about teaching young people how to read a compass so that they can find their way. Jimmy Dean said “I cannot change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination.” With the right guidance a mentee is shown how to do this so that they remain on track and achieve their pre-determined goals and aspirations in life.

Mentorship is not a sprint, but a relay, which the most important part is passing the baton stick from one runner to the other. The race is won when the baton is successfully transferred and the last runner successfully crosses the finish line with the baton in his hand. It is important that you have a plethora of different mentors from whom you can draw different experiences from. Circumstances change and just like the music the dance must also change. People whom you revered and looked up to growing up and not the same as you age and develop opinions and perspectives of your own.

The ultimate goal of true leadership is not to maintain followers, but to produce leaders who will replace you making you redundant. This becomes your legacy, the art of making people greater than yourself so that they forever reference your teachings and knowledge long after you have left this life. This is why you should mentor with a difference and this is how you do it.

1. Build Trust. Without it your legacy is simply a one-night stand and will be forgotten as quickly as it started. In order to build trust a mentor needs to open themselves up for the mentee and share life experiences. This is especially true when working with the opposite sex or where the generation gap is wide. Trust is built brick by brick and there are no short cuts. More often than not is will being a shared experience which will break the ice and allow the mentor to reach deep into heart and mind of the mentee. Often, I use examples with my children and family to make a point or share. The more real you are the more impact and value add you will have as a mentor. The ultimate goal is when a mentee facing a situation or task asks “What would Fatima do in a situation like this?” ‘What would she do differently from what I would normally do?” The mentee then goes through a mental process of digesting the situation and devising alternative solutions on how best to address the situation. When this occurs, you know you have built trust and a long-standing relationship which will withstand the test of time.

2. Balance the Wheel of life[1]. At the center of the wheel is you and there are 6 spokes and each needs to be in sync with other so that the wheel runs true and does not wobble or shake hopelessly out of control. It is fundamentally import that a 360-degree approach to mentoring is adopted to produce a well-rounded individual who become assets to society. Let’s touch on these spokes;

a. Financial and career. More often than not this becomes a dominant spoke and a lot of time is spent guiding in this field. After all you spend 9 hours plus every weekday pursuing and chasing goals in this area. Because it tends to be objective and easily quantifiable it usually takes center stage in any mentorship relationship.

b. Mental and educational. Is key for young people making choices that will impact on their future. When you get this wrong it impacts on career and financial goals and can often be the major cause of distress with the mentee. The guiding principle here is to pursue that which makes the mentee happy. Personal satisfaction about their choices is key.

c. Physical and health. Is so often neglected that you pay the price dearly in later life. When overweight, heart disease, diabetes and a whole plethora of ailments associated with physical neglect or abuse visit you in later life, it dilutes the gains and satisfaction attained in financial and career or other spokes.

d. Social and cultural. What good are you to society if you don’t blend in and make a meaningful difference. Your gains in other spokes of life are of no good if the people around you suffer most. You do well by doing good and the reverse is also true.

e. Spiritual and ethical. When you are in your parent’s home this is laid out for you and it is the “law”. As you become more independent your relationship with the spiritual side wanes. More often than not you need to dust this part up and polish it a little for the moral good of society.

f. Family and home. What good is all the success you achieve in all the other spokes if there is nobody to share it with or celebrate with. How lonely can life be after toiling long hours and meeting all your goals and objectives to come back to home void of laughter. This is the corner stone around which life revolves.

Always mentor around the spokes so that a healthy balance is maintained. To focus on some and not all leads to an unbalanced wheel and mentee. Fatima would say “The mistakes of doctors are in the grave, the mistakes of lawyers are in prison, and the mistakes of mentors are roaming the streets for everybody to see” Make sure you don’t make too many mistakes.

3. Appoint a Personal Board of Directors. Its free and they are readily available at a click of a button. You can hire and fire as many as you like. Use and abuse as often as you like. Better still you don’t even need their permission and need to consult them on the same. As crazy as the idea may seem it is probably the best and most effective mentorship relationship. The majority of my Board members are dead and hire and fire according to the need at the time. Some have permanent seats but most are temporary and are appointed as and when the need arises.

This is how I go about it. If I have a challenge in resolve and determination I consult the father of the modern-day Singapore, the late Lee Kuan Yew. His actions in the face adversity and the way he dealt with the challenges in establishing the city state of Singapore are legendary. From books about him and of course a google search, a wealth of information and guidance is available. If the challenge were in innovation and ideas I consult none other than Steve Jobs, and ask the proverbial question “What would Steve Jobs do?” Then simply adapt, adopt, modify and adjust to suit the conditions I find myself in. The list goes on and includes Muhammad Ali, Michael Jordan, John Wooden, Estee lauder, Sun Tzu, Rumi, Paulo Coelho, Khalil Gibran, Anthony Robbins and more. Like all boards you can establish sub committees. My subcommittee on physical and health consists of Muhammad Ali, John Wooden, Michael Jordan and Sir Alex Ferguson. The only qualification you require to become a board member is you must have left a legacy to become a legend.

Use this Board as your guide in each of the spokes in the wheel of life and you will become not only a better mentor but turn out better mentees.

Mentoring is a gift which you pass down from one generation to another. It’s like a honey bee that goes from flower to flower pollinating each so that the seeds of the future are secure. Mentor for impact and make a difference!

Please feel free to follow me on Twitter Fayaz King or visit my webpage

[1] The Meyer Resource Group Inc.