Like the young Kung Fu Panda, I was a bumbling rookie, trying to find my way in an organisation filled with folks who already knew what to do and how to do it. There was no use for a rookie. And then I met the unfortunate Shifu, who was assigned to be my mentor.
He must have had plenty to say, not that I heard any of it. He simply had me shadow him to every conference, meeting, discussion group … you name it, I attended it. Everything I wrote, he checked. Everything I had to present, he checked. Some might say he micromanaged or was bossy or had some sort of negative intention.
All I felt was grateful for a Department Head who bothered to explain things, from how to use the inhouse templates to how not to irritate the clerk so she wouldn’t put your folder at the bottom. He critiqued and found fault. He approved and gave credit. He squabbled over points and lost his temper. He went to bat for something I believed in. We figured out how to work together.
Seven years later, the unimaginable happened. I was promoted to – in a situation of epic tragi-comic proportions – a position that included being Shifu’s supervisor.
And this is where his true colours shone. We had a talk about how to manage this: he saw no reason for either of us to transfer, and assured me he had no issues with me bossing him. Well, I had plenty of issues with that! How was I supposed to tell Shifu what to do? What if I totally disagreed with a decision he’d made? How was I supposed to do his appraisal report, which was inevitable? This was horrible!
I did not train you to be me. I trained you and guided you so that you would be better than me one day. Now get out there, be professional, be objective, be you and do your job.
Today, Shifu is happily retired. We met for lunch two months ago, and will be meeting again soon.
DAILY PROMPT ~ MENTOR