18 Dec Mentors
Original Spanish version published in El Comercio newspaper (Peru)on February 18, 2014
My mentors have been vital to my career and my life. They have guided me, counseled me, made me see possibilities, given me excellent advice and, sometimes, a stern rebuke. My mentors have been my allies, have helped me to grow, and many times have made all the difference between my success or failure in matters of great importance to me, my company, and even my family. They are men and women from various parts of my life who believe in me and to whom I owe much of what I am. They have my eternal gratitude!
I have consulted my mentors when something was worrying me. When I couldn’t see the way out of a problem or when I was about to react to something that needed more reflection. And, above all, when I needed to make important decisions knowing that I needed their knowledge, perspective, and experience. My mentors have lit the way for me, and with their prudence and advice have saved me from making errors that would have complicated my life. My 11 mentors have been so important to me that, when people tell me that they don’t have any mentors, I can’t stop myself from telling them to find some immediately!
I know that 11 sounds like a lot of mentors, but I was lucky enough to read about the importance of having them very early in my career. And since my own experience very soon showed me the benefits of having them, I have taken care to maintain my relationships with them for all this time.
Today many organizations are knowledgeably implementing mentoring programs. But if I could make just one suggestion to them, it would be to focus on ensuring that the “mentorees” validate and value the relationship with their mentor, laying out some key concepts of that relationship. For example, the “mentoree” is the one who must seek out the mentor with a clear learning agenda, the one who must manage the relationship, and try to keep it active over time. The mentoree is also the one who, while not abusing the mentor’s time or patience, must also not leave the mentor out of the important events in his or her life. Otherwise, it becomes “I only contact you when I need you”: a utilitarian relationship that isn’t worth the time, commitment, and even care that the mentor invests in each interaction.
The “mentoree” must also try to give value to his or her mentor and to give as well as receive: the “law of reciprocity.” A good example is adding value to the mentor with an independent network of contacts or making sure to always make the mentor look good, in addition to being loyal to him or her always.
In programs where mentors are “assigned” or where this early training hasn’t been provided, I’ve seen cases where there was no affinity between the mentors and “mentorees” or where the mentor was never consulted. Others who felt invaded by the mentor’s interest in them or who were not open enough to accept honest and constructive feedback. I’ve also personally experienced cases in which my “mentorees” contacted me almost weekly, without understanding the limits of this type of relationship. But I’ve also had many “mentorees” who gave me moments of great satisfaction. I’ve had the honor of accompanying them in their careers and have seen them grow, develop, and shine. And some have had the richness of spirit and generosity to make me feel that I was part of their success. They don’t know how great that feels!
My mentors have lit the way for me, and with their prudence and advice have saved me from making errors that would have complicated my life.
While not abusing the mentor’s time or patience, you must also not leave the mentor out of the important events in your life.