“Always two there are, no more, no less: a master and an apprentice.” – Grand Master Yoda
The Jedi Order had it all figured out “a long time ago, in a galaxy far far away”. Most trades had also figured it out since in the middle ages. But, it is high time that the Corporate World actively promotes the idea of building a Knight-Padawan relationship to hand down knowledge and skill and build masters and leaders of the future.
Every new employee joins the organization with unlimited potential and a drive to rise to the top. Let’s call this employee Deb. With no mentorship program in place, Deb feels lost about what to do and how to do. A 4 years experienced team member, let’s call him John, lends a helping hand and gets Deb started and trains her. 6 months in, Deb is considered an expert and given independent assignments for which the Johns step in, stays up extra and trains Deb. In return, Deb finishes up low-level work for John. Voila!!! Establishment of Master-Apprentice relationship in the team. What’s sad about this is that John goes completely unrecognized for his leadership and initiative by the “Managers”, but he does it anyway without expecting results.
“Always pass on what you have learnt” – Yoda
Chances are the John who keeps doing this selflessly was someone’s apprentice too and passing on all that they know is the only way he knows it knowledge can be exponentially grown. It’s a chain reaction, which helps grow knowledge and innovation.
Yoda >> Dooku >> Qui-Gon >> Obi-Wan >> Anakin >> Ahsoka
Yoda keeps referring to experienced Jedi masters as “padawans” or “old padawans”, when Deb learnt everything from John, neither John not Deb stop learning from Mike, who is a 10 years experienced architect and Mike from Tom. There is always a Grand Master whose wisdom can be sought after.
Jedi Master Count Dooko, an old padawan of Yoda became an apprentice of Darth Sidius when his goals in life changed.
5 years in, maybe Deb wants to change career paths and get into Management, so she needs a Susan, not Mike as her next master. Susan too needs Deb to pass all knowledge of that role to find her own new master or to retire in peace. Mentors should keep evolving through phases of the career.
“Reckless he is. Matters are worse.” – Yoda
The force was very strong with Anakin and he was gifted. Without a mentor, he would have risen but not to be a leader in 2 wars.
There are some Debs, who are naturally gifted and they find their path even without a mentor. But, when there is a mentor to such talent, they can reach whatever they aim for. Such employees have no reason to leave as long as they do not get stuck in corporate bureaucratic layers and keep getting guidance and support.
Luke could have gone undiscovered forever on Tatooine and a new order would never set up.
The 80% unfortunate Debs, who did not find a John early-on in the corporate career, keep under-performing to their potential. Hence, the common belief that Pareto rule applies to teams… 80% work is done by 20% of the team members. In my experience, these 20% are the employees who were taken in as Padawans by a John early on in the career. A mentor-ship program can prove to increase an organization’s productivity by a leap.
“I cannot teach him. The boy has not patience” – Yoda
The relationship between a mentor and mentee needs to be bred overtime. Their chemistry may not always match and they may not have picked each other, but were forced into each other. Patience and perseverance build a bond and an open relationship of discussing strengths and weaknesses.
“You think Yoda stops teaching, just because his student does not want to hear? A teacher Yoda is. Yoda teaches like drunkards drink, like killers kill.” – Yoda
Corporations need to recognize that a mentorship program needs to be infused in the DNA of the organization starting from senior leadership down to the out-of-school hires. It should come natural to anybody who touches the organization ever. Because teaching and learning do not stop. Not only would attract the best of talents and reduce turnover, but would also improve market image and increase productivity.
The author, Mr. Adi Singla, is an IT strategy leader with many years of experience in consulting and managing IT. He has an education background of MBA and BS (Engineering). This article is also published on Linkedin Pulse.