This post was published last year as a guest entry on Tanveer Naseer’s excellent blog. While you may have read it there, on the off chance you didn’t, here it is. Hope you enjoy it.
“Only one man in a thousand is a leader of men — the other nine hundred and ninety nine follow women.”
I bumped into this quote while surfing the Internet and just kept it for a while feeling that there might be something I needed to say about it. In the end, I guess I just found it amusing in a wry sort of way. And it reminded me of Mary.
Mary was my first HR boss. Before working with her, I was a clerk, an efficient yet uninspired one.
Mary was looking for a Personnel Assistant at the time and having rifled through the roster of internal candidates that might fit her bill, she chose me.
Initially, I was very flattered until I learned Mary’s selection criteria. It was less than scientific. Specifically, Mary gave me the job because I could type; I was presentable; and I hadn’t ticked anyone off…yet.
Nonetheless, it was a step up for me into an area where I felt an affinity, so despite the questionable selection standards, I was happy to be there. And, as it turned out, Mary was to be more than a boss to me. She was a mentor who taught me something about surviving in a male-dominated, traditional organization.
Her mentorship was less about what she said and more about what she did. And, not all she did was good.
Mary had a wicked temper and while she was the sole of restraint when dealing with me, with her colleagues she tended to be less disciplined once being overheard to tell one of her male counterparts “Oh, go pee in your hat and pull it down over your ears!”
Mentorships are not meant to be about perfect relationships. At least I don’t think so. What they are about is having someone to learn with and learn from, even if it’s from mistakes one or the other might make. Yes, one person in the relationship generally has more experience but in the long run, it’s more about having a place to go where empathy lives and judgment doesn’t.
Mary was my sounding board. Through her example, I learned that always looking my best was not just a nice to do. I learned to stand up for myself. I learned the importance of controlling my emotions and the negative impact on me, and others, when I don’t.
Whenever I think about Mary now, I also think about some of the ways in which she shaped me, as a professional and as a human being. And that’s a big deal.
What do mentorships mean to you?
How would you encourage mentorships in your organization?
Who do you think of when you hear the word Mentor?
What influence did this person have on your life?