Learn to be a men­tor at work­place

New Straits Times - - Business - The writer is manag­ing con­sul­tant and ex­ec­u­tive lead­er­ship coach at EQTD Con­sult­ing. He is also the au­thor of the na­tional best­seller “So, You Want To Get Pro­moted?”

TEACH­ERS’ Day was cel­e­brated ear­lier this week in Malaysia. The date cho­sen to ob­serve this im­por­tant day varies around the world, but it usu­ally com­mem­o­rates an im­por­tant mile­stone in ed­u­ca­tion or in con­junc­tion with an im­por­tant date as­so­ci­ated with an in­spi­ra­tional per­son.

In In­done­sia, Teach­ers’ Day is on Novem­ber 25 and is ob­served on the same day as the for­ma­tion of the In­done­sian Teach­ers’ As­so­ci­a­tion. And, since 1915, Teach­ers’ Day is cel­e­brated on Septem­ber 11 in Ar­gentina to memo­ri­alise the pass­ing of writer, states­man and sev­enth pres­i­dent Domingo Faustino Sarmiento.

In Malaysia’s case, the Fed­eral Leg­isla­tive Coun­cil of the then Fed­er­a­tion of Malaya ac­cepted the Razak Re­port on May 16, 1956. This re­port has formed the ba­sis of our na­tion’s ed­u­ca­tional pol­icy ever since. Hence, we cel­e­brate Teach­ers’ Day on this date.

Why cel­e­brate Teach­ers’ Day? Your school teach­ers were your first im­por­tant point of con­tact to the world at large, and they made an in­deli­ble im­print in your psy­che. You re­mem­ber your favourite teach­ers, don’t you?

Through their ef­forts and imag­i­na­tion, teach­ers in­spire you to reach out and move be­yond your com­fort zone. Their chal­lenge is to make sure you have knowl­edge and be­come for­ward­look­ing cit­i­zens that are ca­pa­ble of as­sum­ing the man­tle of lead­er­ship in the fu­ture. This is a gar­gan­tuan task, and their ef­forts are lauded through the cel­e­bra­tion of Teach­ers’ Day.

I grew up with teach­ers. My folks were both teach­ers. My mother was a pri­mary school teacher and my fa­ther is still a pro­fes­sor of ed­u­ca­tion.

My wife is a vet­eri­nary sur­geon. Ten years ago, she opted to forego con­ven­tional west­ern medicine for holis­tic medicine, with an em­pha­sis on tra­di­tional Chi­nese vet­eri­nary medicine. You can imag­ine the amount of re-ed­u­ca­tion that is re­quired. The bulk of her time is spent teach­ing.

I stud­ied law at univer­sity, but my first job in Malaysia was teach­ing pre-univer­sity law. Since then, my ca­reer has taken an en­tre­pre­neur­ial slant, but at my core, I am still a teacher. The only dif­fer­ence is that I ply my trade in the cor­po­rate en­vi­ron­ment.

This year, Teach­ers’ Day was very sig­nif­i­cant for me.

Mo­han Gana­p­a­thy is pos­si­bly my old­est friend. I have known him since I was ten. We grew up to­gether. Mo­han’s house was my favourite place to hang out. There was al­ways food in the fridge. And the lat­est tele­vi­sion set and stereo sys­tems were of­ten found in his house first.

The coolest part of be­ing in Mo­han’s house was my in­ter­ac­tions with his fa­ther, Mr. N.G. Gana­p­a­thy. As kids, we were al­ways cau­tious of each other’s par­ents. I found the par­ents of my friends wel­com­ing, but they all main­tained a dis­tance from us. I am sure my folks were seen in the same vein by my pals. But not Un­cle Gana­p­a­thy. He had no is­sues hang­ing out with us kids.

He was a school teacher and had a way with young peo­ple. He was funny with­out in­tend­ing to be, he was kind and warm, but most im­por­tantly, he felt the need to ed­u­cate us, all the time. He would con­stantly be talk­ing about stuff. Any­thing and ev­ery­thing. I al­ways en­joyed his mus­ings.

His in­ter­est in us was so great that once, when our tu­ition teacher was ill and couldn’t take a class, Un­cle Gana­p­a­thy, much to the an­noy­ance of Mo­han, de­cided that he would take over the class. It turned out to be a fun class.

On May 16, Un­cle Gana­p­a­thy passed on. Many cried upon re­ceiv­ing this news. He had touched the lives of so many peo­ple through his kind­ness, warmth and gen­uine in­ter­est in peo­ple. But es­sen­tially, they cried be­cause they had lost their teacher and men­tor. Be­fit­tingly, he passed away on Teach­ers’ Day.

At work, learn to be a men­tor that oth­ers will turn to for guid­ance. If peo­ple come to you, it will be be­cause you have greater knowl­edge and ex­pe­ri­ence than they do. You do not need to do their job for them, but if you can demon­strate a task, guide a col­league through solv­ing a prob­lem, or of­fer con­struc­tive feed­back on their work, that sim­ply at­tests to your high per­sonal value.

When you men­tor a col­league, you will help them feel less iso­lated, and en­cour­age them to in­ter­act with oth­ers in the team. This will cer­tainly con­trib­ute pos­i­tively to the bot­tom line of your com­pany and this, in turn, in­creases your value in the eyes of your bosses.

Aside from this, you will also per­son­ally gain from a men­tor­ing re­la­tion­ship. The op­por­tu­nity to teach oth­ers will in­crease your own con­fi­dence and of­fer you sig­nif­i­cant job sat­is­fac­tion.

When you men­tor a col­league, you will also learn to lis­ten to your mentee, and you will de­velop bet­ter, stronger com­mu­ni­ca­tion skills. And, of course, you in­crease your su­per­vi­sory skills when you start teach­ing.

There­fore, re­mem­ber, even at work, be­ing a teacher will help you grow your rep­u­ta­tion and also add to your value. Ul­ti­mately, be­ing able to add value is the most re­ward­ing pur­suit for any em­ployee.

You do not need to do their job for them, but if you can demon­strate a task, guide a col­league through solv­ing a prob­lem, or of­fer con­struc­tive feed­back on their work, that sim­ply at­tests to your high per­sonal value.

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