Just for a break, let’s look at and consider one of the oldest learning forms known to Man. I believe it has enormous relevance in a modern day, South Africa.
Let’s check out the trusted Wikipedia for the definition and then unpack it for our and others’ benefit.
Mentorship,, [the art and skill of Mentoring…my words], is a relationship in which a more experienced or more knowledgeable person helps to guide a less experienced or less knowledgeable person. The mentor may be older or younger than the person being mentored, but he or she must have a certain area of expertise. It is a learning and development partnership between someone with vast experience and someone who wants to learn.
You cannot deny that South Africa is loaded with older people who have vast knowledge. Knowledge, often founded upon theoretical qualifications but also, for many years, bolstered by vast levels of experience, both bad [learning by mistakes] but mostly, good [learning success by becoming successful]. And the fields of expertise are enormous – Water, Marriage, Business of Every Kind, Politics Both National and Corporate, Artisanships, Construction of Every Kind, Consultancies [None the Least our own Property Industry[, Finance, Insurance; for Every Resource – Fuel, Water, Sewerage and, in Every Organisation, NPO or Not. Deep and wide lakes of skill and experience stored behind a dam wall of what – laziness, nonchalance, don’t-care-less? What’s your reason not to find a Mentee [as they’re commonly known] and begin to impart your skill?
In the good book, there is sage instruction to us around this very issue, Titus 2:2-3:
The aged women likewise, that they be in [good] behaviour …….be teachers of good things……That they may teach the young women……..
You see, mentoring, even at the more obvious level of motherhood, does not always come naturally to us. We have to be reminded that we have the experience and because we have been blessed with that, the duty, to teach and mentor others. I almost want to say, it is our Civil duty to mentor someone about something.
This argument lends itself to the need to understand how people learn. One of the most well-known researchers in this field is Kolbe, as described in his Experiential Learning Model. According to Kolbe, learning is not just an active, self-directed process but also a process where knowledge is created through the transformation of experience. In essence, his model is:
Concrete experience – learning by Feel or Touch;
Active experimentation – learning by Practice;
Reflective observation – learning by Observing, and;
Abstract conceptualizing – learning by Thinking.
My quick sense is that I use all of these methods to learn something but Kolbe is, as many quadrant models do, referring to a dominant means of learning. Most of us who went to school have had “talk and chalk” learning drummed into us and then we cemented that learning by homework, which equals practice. But what about the bricklayer? Would she be in a classroom or in the field, so to say? Point is, if you are to mentor, the question you can ask is simply, How do you prefer learning a subject or skill – listening or practice or just by watching me at work? The answer informs your mentoring style.
Two things before we conclude with the benefits of mentoring. One is Role-modelling. Watching someone chair a meeting or negotiate a deal is huge learning. The trick is to have the person or persons upon whom you intend to role-model decided upon and in your sight. It’s really difficult to role-model someone you cannot see. On the other hand, TV gives you a good observation platform – take public speaking and President Obama; excellent material for a mentee to learn the art of public speaking. We learn to role-model as a child and watching our parents and siblings has a huge place in our childhood development. How much more, as we grow into Corporates and our own businesses. And remember, learning from the positive and the negative is quite possible if you have the right attitude. You can learn how to putt and how not to putt just by watching the British Open.
Allied to role-modelling is Visualization. It’s told that Gary Player would play the Masters in his imagination while flying to America. Face it, you can go to the beach, love your wife, speak to an audience or write an exam right now just by closing your eyes and focussing, or visualizing if you prefer, on the event. Imagination rules the world, said Albert Einstein. And, how did he not know that, when he posited the famous E = MC2 equation before it was fully proven. Teach your mentee to visualize and you have taught a gift of a lifetime.
Mentoring is not for me, you might think. Well, here are some of the benefits:
- Mentoring is good for business. Call it what you like – feedback, discipline, training or development – mentoring grows your people. You cannot delegate a task to a person not capable of it – mentoring would have prevented that and saved you hours at the office especially on those days where “I should have done it myself in the first place.” Mentoring establishes rapport, that secret ingredient of relationships. You’ll know it as trust or emotional reserve or just “liking my boss”, but it is the stuff that gets people to work when you’re not watching and to care when you’re not there. We relate to people we know and we consider people we see and who see us in the psychological sense. Sharing is indeed, Caring, and nothing beats mentoring, as an element of your leadership style to let people feel and be part of a growing team.
- Mentoring is good for our country. Heaven knows we have a need for skills transfer and for people to do well enough in their endevours to be able to employ other people and continue the virtuous cycle of employment and growth. We often hear the lament that there are no longer any role-models in the townships. If all you woke up to every morning was your Naope-smoking sibling or an abusive, unemployed father, where would you be today? Talk about emulation, you would hardly help yourself but to do what they do and wreck your life in the process of wrecking many others. You and I can sit in our cosy lounges watching TV hoping that Gigaba will sort out social equality in his Medium-Term Budget speech on Wednesday but beware; inequality is becoming the buzzword of the Globe. Mentoring, like the starfish story, may be the best you and I can do to make a difference in a few lives, but it’s worth it. I love the advert on TV where the Indian man has planted 1400 acres of forest in the past 38 years to prevent soil erosion by just planting a few trees one at a time. An amazing story, best understood in the result. None the less, a couple of people testifying that your mentoring made a difference in their lives, is a gift to this beautiful, tortured country.
- Mentoring is good for you. If you have any sense of Purpose, those you mentor may go onto great things knowing you touched their lives along the way. Not a big deal, but loaded with meaning. Starting with your children and moving outwards, people grown under your wing can give you a huge sense of meaning and purpose as the years unfold. Be kind to yourself, consciously go out of your way to mentor someone and watch them grow – it will bless your soul.
In Homeloan Junction, role-models and mentors are aplenty; people who have been there and done that. Grab them and turn them into your role-model or mentor to help you grow and mature as you feel the need to. Willingness abounds so taking the step to go from “I respect you” to “will you please mentor me” is sometimes just a matter of asking. Be or find a mentor today and begin to visualize your success and let your imagination draw you into new worlds and ways that you desire. You deserve it! Yes You!
Yours in Property.