Mentoring is the highest form of self-actualization in the hierarchy of needs of executives. Especially for those of us who have failed to earn our glory through our guts, or stripes through our sweat. But alas, we confuse mentoring with advising (Our English teachers, dictionaries and Roget’s thesaurus have to share the responsibility of this heinous crime, but we will not mix issues here)
So most of the time, we believe the easiest path for us to be part of a success story (if not script it or be the protagonist) is by strewing unsolicited advice to whoever crosses our path. We can then take vicarious pleasure, once they succeed, in telling the world, that “I told her to take that assignment” or “I advised him not to…”. You know.
Though the strategy is sound, it is not fool-proof. Since most of us are unable to distinguish between calamity and opportunity, more often than not we end up with a biff in our face and a flea in our ear. From those we seek out to advice.
Lot of times, we end up rushing to advice those who are under severe mental and physical stress (Working late hours, missed out on promotion, no invite to boss’s house warming party, ….). Not advisable. The reasons are not far behind to see.
Unsolicited advice delivered post-facto, is the unkindest cut of all the worthy words that ever cross the lips of self-appointed, supposedly well meaning well-wishers. It thrives on misery. It is the proverbial salt rubbed on one’s wounds; the grating sandpaper scrubbed into their sensitive soul.
Most of the hapless parties are so deep into their own desolation at the time that it is shoveled into their ears; they fail to recognize the goodness in the advice. Anger and the loss of whatever it is they lost clouds their discerning power.
And to worsen the matters, they may even feel (mistakenly so, for you and I know the truth) the adviser (you, or me) is invariably a peer who has reaped the benefits from that which they have lost. Or we have a safety-net or a mighty big nest-egg. And we may be inwardly laughing at their state of affairs safe in our cozy comfort.
Whatever be the reason, they sport a hurt-look. They show one finger or the mighty fist and storm out of our presence. Sometimes they may even stay put and condescend to counter advice on the likely nooks and crannies we can shove our advice in.
I used to be a Flash Gordon, wearing my mantle of a mentor, in rushing to the rescue of such colleagues in bereavement earlier. Now I play Houdini. Why, you ask? Read on.
One rainy day a primate, all wet and shivering, took shelter under a tree waiting for the shower to stop so that it can go about its monkey business.
The tree was a safe-haven to many a chirping bird who have built their nests and stored their customary nuts and fruits just for such a day. They nestled in their warm beds, feeding their kids, kissing their mates or having a go at a nutritious seed with their sharp beaks. Most of the birds cast a lazy or disdainful look towards the simian, but none stirred from their respective places to extend a helping hand. Save one sparrow.
The lowliest of the creatures seizing the chance to do its bit of good deed, looked at the quivering monkey and proceeded to offer its words of wisdom thus.
Sparrow In Nest (SIN): “Hey, how are you feeling?”
Wet and shivering primate (WASP): “What do you think?” (Baring its teeth)
SIN: “Just asking. You know, you should have built a nest or something like the rest of us”
SIN: “I mean, you know it rains every year. You can see that don’t you? You could have saved yourself on this rainy day, and many such in future”
WASP: “GRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR” (gesticulating wildly)
SIN: “I have lot of fruits and nuts stored in my nest. I sweated, flew far and wide, gathered from this tree and that. You can climb trees can’t you? You could have done it too”
WASP: “YES. And here I come”
SIN: “kkkkkkkeeeeeeeeechhhhhhh..Hey what the….eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee” (furious flutter of wings. A bit of a struggle)
Thud (Sound of a limp body hitting the ground)
Scrunch. Scrunch. Scrunch. (Sound of sharp teeth digging into scrumptious and juicy fruits)
If you sin by rushing into giving unsolicited advice, you get stung. Fatally so.
So listen all you mentors in the making. Take my advice and desist from advising. Kapish?