Is a mentor a mentor if you don’t specifically ask them to be? I have three adult children, two out in the world of work while a third is in college. They are all my reverse mentors. They come to me to talk about what’s going on, and I ask them questions. A lot of questions.
There are a number of things that I always felt I had to know about. And I had to know more than they do about those things. Cars, technology, money issues, what are the keys to success at work, how to buy a house. The list could go on and on.
But in reality, I raised them to follow their interests and there are lots of things they know far more about than I do. But mostly they know about their peers, the growing population I work with. That helps me a lot. They translate for me sometimes, and they help me realize that as a parent, I am partially responsible for this achieving group. That’s what we wanted for our children, right? To be ready for challenges, face them head on, and there’s no reason they can’t be successful sooner than later. It’s not impatience, its raw capability and desire.
I recently overheard a 30-ish employee complaining about one of the leaders she was having to work with. She was wondering how she would sell her idea to this guy, because he was “old school”. She didn’t say old, which I would have called her on, she said old school. I looked over the edge of my bifocals and said “Excuse me? Old School?”
“Yep,” she said. “Old school. Can’t seem to imagine changing the way we do this. Has to do what he has been doing for the last 5 years.”
Five years, it seems, is no longer shelf life for anything in the business world. Things change. And it’s not so much keeping up with the changes, it’s taking advantage of what the changes can do. Innovating.
It’s gratifying to be a mentor to someone. But it’s equally smart to be mentored by the same folks you are trying to guide.