There is no greater joy, for me, than helping others achieve their career potentials. I’ve few things that really make me happy; mentoring is right there at the top. Followed by beans cooked in red oil. And then èbà with èfó rirò.
Just like my mentees, the mentoring journey has taught me quite a number of interesting things which I think would be nice to share with others who may want to annoy their younger friends and colleagues in the name of mentoring.
The joy of coaching others doesn’t mean it comes easy to me and those I mentor. In fact I could be very exasperating while trying to help others: I’ve heard phrases like “Na by force?”, “Na fight?”, “E don do!”
I’ve made a gazillion mistakes helping others achieve their dreams but the following 5 stand out remarkably.
My aspiration is not yours
When I was younger I wanted to be everything – from piloting a plane, to going to the moon and every random career in between. I finally found myself studying engineering in the university, which I barely excelled at, and eventually ended up a banker.
Guess what? I wanted all my mentees to work in banks. I extolled how banking is a nice career, how you could move up and own half of Banana Island.
Luckily I learned quickly that as a mentor, my job is to help my mentees achieve or exceed their life’s goals and aspirations. Instead of shoehorning my own myopic career ideas into their already jaded brains, I started listening to them, discussing their ambitions and helping them move towards that.
Professional career is everything
I used to look down on people who wanted to do things that don’t fit into my narrow view of professional careers. How stupid I was!
Luckily nobody has been hurt yet as I never had the chance to force people talented in non-professional inclination into suits and ties. Imagine the damage I could have done to Usain Bolt if his mum was my cousin? He would probably be slaving his backside at some law firm now.
I’ve since understood that success comes in different flavors and at the beginning those who don’t want to be professionals may look different from me but it doesn’t mean they don’t know what they want to do.
Careers and family are zero sum
A colleague told a friend of mine that she thought I was cold to her because she wanted to get married. That wasn’t the reason but it showed how bad my view about family and career used to be.
To have an outstanding career, something has to give, but mine was on the extreme side.
It took a long time for me to come around to the fact that you can have a good family life and an outstanding career. It is going to be tough but tough things are what successful people do.
Competing with mentees
Sometimes I set goals for my mentees and I to achieve and most times I beat them hands down. It never had the right effect.
Mentees look up to me for strength not as competition and when they lose it had demoralizing effect on them.
I’ve since learned to coach, support, encourage and sometimes give a little kick to the back side but I would never again compete with my mentees. Next time I should take on competition of my own size.
Giving up easily
There is nothing as annoying as giving your time and effort to move a mentee ahead and he’s not measuring up: He’s taking time to slack off or doesn’t appreciate the effort. The natural thing for me was to think they weren’t serious or deserving of my time so I promptly bumped them off.
How wrong of me! Yes, it is still annoying but I’ve since learned that Rome wasn’t built in a day. No kid growing up has ever stopped walking just because of occasional tumbles. So I’ve learned to chill a bit and give as many second chances as I can muster. After all I used to be annoying too and others took second bets on me.
The upside to mistakes
Knowing nobody is perfect is the biggest step towards Nirvana and this has helped me more in life than anything else. Instead of killing myself from doing the wrong thing, I simply learned from it and moved on.
Making the same mistakes over and over again is a different story entirely – you may need a trip to Yaba Left to find out why your gear is stuck at 2. Like my old boss, Joshy, would say – mistakes are allowed, errors are unforgivable – whatever that means!