Do you have the teachable spirit?
That is the most important component of a mentor’s relationship with her student. Without it, the relationship becomes little more than a one-way street, a path down which a mentor dictates, never knowing if her message is understood or well received.
I did not benefit from the direction of a mentor. My early career was built on trial and error. It is one of the most painful ways to learn.
That is why I am particularly sensitive to the need for, and benefit of, mentoring.
It is also fortuitous that I work for a bank, as my approach to mentoring is similar to that of the investor—plan for the long term. When I sit down with someone for the first time, I ask that she consider her passion. What do you love to do?
We talk about where she would like to see herself in five years, or ten. Does that align with her passion? If not, why? This is important, since it is easier to get up in the morning and go to work if you love what you do.
If passion and path connect, we back-schedule her career. In other words, we list the skills and experience she will need to gain to achieve her goal. Then we develop a plan to obtain those skills and that experience.
The success of this plan is determined by two factors that must be possessed by both mentor and student: the ability to listen and the teachable spirit.
I advise everyone to develop these skills early and heed them often. As mentors, our first instinct is to talk about ourselves. Do not do it.
Instead, ask questions. Listen for words and phrases that reveal a passion, a frustration or both. Know when your student wants advice and give it. Know when she wants to vent, and let her. This ability will allow you to refine that long-term plan and reach success.
Finally, check your ego at the door. Those we mentor offer us as much education as we give them. Live to learn and learn to live.
Embrace the teachable spirit.