He thought he was my boss, but he just needed a mentor (I volunteered without his permission, I cared too much)
The young Director walked me through my new role within the company. Desk, pigeon hole, board room and resources to start producing, the sky was the limit if I adhered to the company culture they set..
The young Director, proud of his position and the company he represented, all suited up and surrounded by the trappings of success and pomp.
Typical me, hungry to learn, I engaged everyone that was open within the company. I crossed over to every department, shouting colleagues coffee or a bite to eat, eager to absorb knowledge, connect and open to experience everything positive.
You’ve got to be shameless if you want to grow, by asking questions, connecting and observing people the way they occupy time.
Before long the cracks appeared, facts surfaced, misinformation became evident, all things weren’t what they appeared. I shared my concerns which were derived from simple observation, research and open relationships.
The young Director struggled to comprehend this raw material of facts, my blatant openness, honesty and resolve. I could see he was unsettled and confused by my not negotiable attitude when it comes to authenticity. His face went red, I hit a nerve, an unsettling nerve in his hierarchy world and false sense of control.
He quickly retorted to good old fashioned bullying. (A bully instantly reveals their innate nature when they can’t have everything they want.) Politeness goes out the door, decorum is exchanged with coercion. Truth has very little relevance to the bully’s mindset.
The young Director looked me in the eyes and spelled it out clearly “You are a xyz company man now”. My observations and facts were irrelevant.
I looked the young man in the eyes and spelled it out clearly to him, outlining what happens to a life that lives a lie and I invited him to lunch to explain myself. “I am not a product and nor are you and our ability to produce is only part of the equation and we would be far more productive if we have a greater sense of self..”
I left that company after 90 days, unable to reconcile superficial success in exchange for my soul. The young Director acknowledged my concern for him and I found out that he also resigned few weeks after me. He started rethinking what a future might be like living a life free from coercion and manipulation.
The young man was far from a bully when I met him some time later, free from the culture where he was being groomed, free from the culture he hoped I would’ve embrace at one time.
Be it a religious group, corporate enterprise, trade union, government body or a community based not for profit, they all have the potential to suck your soul dry if their mode of operation is to rob you of being authentic. The above experience is not unique to me and grooming happens all to often in the name of mentoring.
The difference between the two is as far as north is to the south. Groomers enslave, mentors set you free. Groomers entrap, mentors release you. Groomers keep you in the dark, mentors enlighten you. Groomers make you feel indebted to them, mentors make themselves indebted to you.
An ancient saying “Those that are greatest among you, let them be your servants” ~ Jesus
The world needs more mentors, servant leaders.
The culture of any organisation is only as good as individuals growing to their full potential which contributes naturally to the whole.
Written at 3am at Melbourne airport on my way to surprise my daughter for her birthday in New Zealand. I am very happy to get this thought off my chest in the hope of agitating you to mentor someone in need of guidance and encouragement, you will be richer for it.