August 23, 2009

Gathering some Jedi Masters >> the magic of mentorship

Charged with creating a strong support system for one of the most progressive programmes that UCT’s Graduate School of Business offers, I’ve gathered some of the brightest, biggest-hearted people I know, to offer back their battlescars and brilliance to a small band of artists going on a powerful learning journey.


26 Mentors have stepped up to contribute to this special programme, and I’ll introduce them as the as the journey progresses, because they deserve to be recognised. Each chosen for their particular approach to bridging business and creativity.


For the reason that I don’t think too many of us get the opportunity to create a mentorship program ((Yes, I have been watching Star Wars again in celebration of some of the most famed sequences of masters and apprentices (or padawan). We have very few powerful formal institutions or guilds left that require the mentor/apprentice model that demands that we face a great trial (no, end of year exams don’t qualify) to prove our mastery before entering our profession ..and maybe we’re collectively paying the price for that (but mercifully, I’ll save that discussion for another day!) )), I’ll share some of my thoughts, maybe it’ll spark interest about creating one for your organisation/class/local good cause/ ..or yourself.


8 Ideas on Modern Mentorship:

As a mentor:

    1. You don’t have all the answers. There was a time when it was feasible that we could predict (with fair accuracy) how the world will operate in the years to come. That time is not now. Share skills, show the hidden paths you’ve discovered – but know that we aren’t in the certainty of our parent’s world. Our job is to inspire greatness.

Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity -General Patton

  1. Stories are the best way to learn from someone else’s experience. It’s a quirk of the human brain – music and stories have the sticky stuff. We remember and pass on case-studies, parables, gossip, jingles. Embed big lessons (softly) in captivating true tales of luck, calamity, humour ..and let it unpack later as an aha! Be a great storyteller (the once and future king of all leadership skills)
  2. Monoculture is bad, and not just in agriculture. Leave the cloning to the gene-splicing engineers, mentorship is not about sculpting someone into your likeness. Our job is to spot what makes our charge special, draw out what was dumbed down to ‘fit in’. Genius is rarely safe and orderly.

As a mentee (horrible word, but it gets the consensual nod over apprentice):

    1. ASK. Most of us far too polite to ask for anything that may inconvenience anyone else (PLEASE do yourself a favour and refresh yourself on Stanley Milgram’s subway experiment). Oh yes, also grab a copy of Dan Ariely’s Predictably Irrational ((there’s an audio extract at the bottom of this page link if you’re living 3 weeks from a bookstore)), and read the chapter on social norms vs market norms. It WILL do your head in about what we assume about money and work.
    2. That said, the kryptonite to a mentoring relationship is.. asking too much. Take a quick peek at Tim Ferriss’ post on getting this contact right. Entitlement is creepy. Demanding meetings to discuss the Next Big Thing ( still in idea.ware format and prefaced with the ubiquitous NDA), the assault of thick book manuscripts, lifeless CV’s and half.baked business plans to be analysed is something many people in high-profile positions get pelted with daily – witness any Branson gig! Stand out, offer something that would be of value to your mentor (not the great opportunity to buy in now!)
    3. You’re never too old or too successful to get a mentor. Brain plasticity ((your brain isn’t just doomed to entropy with the best wasted on your youth – IF you exercise it. Challenging learning = new neural connections, fresh brain cells and a cranked up IQ whatever your age)) is an invitation to free.choice learning. Go borrow someone else’s brilliance >>

I think you should profit from the mistakes of others. You don’t live long enough to make them all yourself.” – Lowell Ferguson

As a mentorship curator:

  1. This isn’t your average mentorsheep program, so I needed to hunt for mentors who can look around the corner, not just behind them to point paths to success. Many high profile mentors who have forged their success in the world as it was. Globalization, the web, mobile, resource-strain – have rapidly forced us into new work for a new kind of world.. and so we need new kinds of guides.
  2. Use fresh tools. It wouldn’t be much of a pioneering program if we didn’t experiment with the different channels that make up our blended.reality ((Our digital home base will be a custom social network from which we’ll begin the journey tomorrow night.. I’ll report back on what works)). Challenge the idea that mentorship should be bound to 1 hour coffee meetings. The web is teeming with wonderful tools to enhance communication and inspire creativity (struck with tech.terror? ..hunt a mentor to help you learn, of course).

not your average mentorsheep

August 23, 2009