Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Mentor-Mentee Relationships: Value in Gurukul way of teaching

I was watching Karate Kid movie. In it, Jackie Chan as tutor would advice the kid to do a repetitive act for months together. And he chose the act based on the kids bad behaviour observed casually in the kids default habitat. When the kid gets fed up and decides to leave that he is not learning anything new and feels there is no karate lessons in it, the master opens up the Karate lessons. Teaching the kid that the basic good act and discipline to do them is the first lesson.

This is how Indian mythological stories talk about gurukul students doing lots of daily chores and helping the master and their family before they are inducted to main stream teaching. It serves as a filter for the teachers to decide the dedication, respect and above all the implicit confidence and obedience in the wards before they attain the worthiness for being taught.  This process of induction takes years for a ward to attain studentship rights. The conditions of learning are tough and the acclimatization to the toughness and rigor of daily discipline is the first lesson for wards to master before proceeding further. 

In corporate mentor-mentee, this is a crucial lesson. The lessons, I come to value in this system is that in any mentee, ego, attitude and prior experiences needs to be broken apart first. The way the mentees take this first step decides the investment that mentors wish to allocate to the mentees. Many a times mentees will feel that they are being abused in the model and decide to leave. Mentor and Menteeship is build on relationship of trust and implicit obedience. So filtering out in first step is an essential way to allow for the correct combination of Mentors with Mentees.

This is not to say that there could be mentors who would misappropriate and misuse the system and mentees mental state. Good mentors like good teachers are rare. It is to spend time in evaluating the quality of mentorship in the individual and investing reasonable time is the only way to evaluate and find the right mentor. The true quality of a mentee is to search for a right mentor and then place their trust and obedience in doing exactly what the mentors decide and want you to do. Even in gurukul system, wards move from one teacher to another to seek out special skills that they wish to learn and gain from different experience.

Real learning is self-inflicted and happens in silence. What mentors traditionally do is to allow for conditioning the mind, heart and attitude to be tuned for learning from the surroundings. That is also the way gurukul teaching is structured. It is always the ward who completes their study and question the teacher for clarifying the doubts. In effect, the mentees should seek out the mentor and not wait for the mentor to keep a check on the progress.

Egos, Attitudes, Misplaced self notions, Peer and Self conceived importance that block the mental state of learning are all what corporate culture provides to an individual. True and great mentors take the burden to break them down and make mentees humble enough so that learnings can seep through them. The osmosis of learning is what teachers and mentors expand and clean up for a mentee. Rest is self-discovery and getting required exposure that Mentors seek to provide to their mentees to test out their hypothesis in real life.

 I am lucky for getting Mentors early in my career. One sign of a true mentor that I had was they used to gift and initiate with a book. This shows the caring and the attitude to take me under their stewardship to groom me further.  I still look up their tweets and blogs to learn and assimilate their thoughts.  Process of seeking mentor is itself a great experience. Start out on the path for a great learning and career.

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