Mentorship: It Grows Both Ways
“I just wanted to check with you about something. My intern today. In the meeting… Was she a little out of order?” My colleague sounds unsure, and wants my confirmation that her intern was acting in a very un-intern-like manner. It’s her job to mentor her, to prepare her to enter this industry that she’s evidently interested in pursuing a career. I tell my colleague honestly that she seemed overly sure of herself and opinionated, assertive enough that had she not been introduced as an intern, I would have guessed she was an executive. “Interns are usually a little more open to learning…,” I hedge.
We ultimately agreed that my colleague will have to balance encouraging her intern’s clear passion and enthusiasm for her position whilst checking her professionalism and, most importantly, teaching her how to learn. The latter is a daunting but critical task.
In a conversation with my brother – with whom I have a penchant for sinking into deep, tangential (and to others pedantic) discussions – we meandered to the conclusion that one of the human abilities that the modern era is slowly eroding is our capacity to learn how to learn. The ability to persist in learning, the willingness to expose yourself to knowledge outside your scope, the determination to organise your learning, your improvement. If there is one universal skill that will do you well regardless of your profession or your industry, it’s that.
With mentorship, this ability is more important than ever, for both parties. Mentorship is a symbiotic relationship. Mentors pass on the wealth of their experience for their mentee to benefit, but the relationship, the impact, goes both ways. It can be as much a legacy to impart for the mentor as an inheritance to receive for the mentee.
QG’s MD David Galukande is definitive in his understanding of the reciprocal nature of a mentorship. “Absolutely, mentors gain a different perspective through that relationship,” he said, “We gain invaluable exposure through seeing the world through their eyes.” David believes the rawness of youth can enrich the wisdom of experience.
The nature of mentorship has changed as the world has changed. Generational differences bring with them different values, which of course colours the way in which we behave and respond and react and interact. “Mentoring now is naturally very different to mentoring 20 years ago, because the most changeable variable in this context is the people.”
People vary. It’s the one constant.
David noted that the characteristics he looks for most in potential mentees are proactivity and passion. “There has to be a foundation, a seed that we can nurture. Do they have a vision? Do they have the passion that will drive them to realise it?” He noted that even the nature of individual goals have shifted drastically, with the younger generation focused on more short-term goals. “That’s something we can cultivate and encourage.” He refutes the suggestion that the younger generation have nothing – or are unwilling – to learn from their predecessors. “There’s value in what we can still impart,” he insists, “but our approach has to change. We have to be flexible enough to meet them halfway, and they have to be willing to do the same.”
Uganda is a predominantly youthful population, and we can’t afford to ignore or neglect our most abundant resource. We need to encourage those in the position to mentor to water our seeds, and to instil in our youth the courage to seek them out, and the willingness to absorb their wisdom. Mentorship is an incubator for progress and innovation, on a micro and macro level. Uganda’s legacy should be greatness. An empire to which we are all heirs.