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Bringing Forth Your Inner Yoda: Lessons in Mentoring

In the modern working world, employees are expected to do more, sooner, and with less resources.  That’s why having a mentor, someone to offer guidance and advice, is essential to career success. Personally, I know the professional milestones I have achieved are due in no small part to the encouragement and support I received from my mentor. But mentoring is a good experience for the advice-giver, too. A research study by Sun Microsystems reported that both mentors and mentees get promoted faster, and enjoy more salary increases.

As I had such a positive experience being mentored myself, now that I have been asked to serve as a mentor to someone else I am eager to do it right, and “pay it forward” by sharing my knowledge, expertise and experience. That said, however, playing this new role is more than a little daunting. So naturally, I plan to turn to one of the greatest mentors on the silver screen for a little help. That of course, would be Yoda from the Star Wars trilogy.

Yoda was the driving “force” behind the success of Luke Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi, but he was more interested in their accomplishments than he was in his own. That’s because, like all good leaders, Yoda was focused on the future. He took great comfort in seeing his protégés succeed, and so from Yoda, I can see that the role of a mentor is more than the transfer of advice and insights; it’s a relationship that’s focused on the future: the future of the mentoree, the future of the business, and the future of the profession we are part of.

So how else can I (and how could you) learn from Yoda to become a good mentor?

  • Be accessible and genuinely want to help. Even “retired” and living in a swamp on a deserted planet, Yoda was willing to invest energy and time to impart his knowledge.
  • Be positive. The result of giving positive feedback is that the mentee feels gains confidence. Under Yoda’s guidance, Luke begins to trust himself and comes to feel like a Jedi Knight.
  • Be honest. Yoda shared his feelings and concerns openly. He did not try to sugarcoat problems he saw in his young trainee. He talked directly about the things that concerned him.
  • Be challenging. Offer challenges to create an environment of learning. Yoda sets out one challenge after another for Luke to help hone his skills.
  • Be a visionary. Provide vision that helps the mentee catch a glimpse of his or her own possible future. Yoda helps Luke believe in his own abilities to conquer the Dark side.

I guess in the end though, it doesn’t matter if it’s Yoda or your high school gym teacher you draw inspiration from. It’s most important when mentoring to be yourself. Share your experiences as well as your failures. The more you are yourself, the stronger of a relationship you will build with your mentee, and the more you both will gain.