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The Poetry of Mentoring

Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote, “In my walks, every man I meet is my superior in some way, and in that I learn from him.”

There is a part of me that is constantly on the hunt to apply the works of poets to the business life.  I think Emerson’s quote is one of the most directly applicable ones I have ever come across.  Sure, I could always stretch-to-fit something from my personal favorites go-to-guys, W.B. Yeats or Emily Dickenson, but I found this to be of particular interest, especially in the matter of mentoring.  I have been asked many times about my own approach to mentoring and managing others.  When I reflect on it, though, I have found that in almost every case I have invariably gained knowledge from interacting from colleagues across levels and departments.  I like to think that I was able to bestow some insights to each of them as well.

Lately, I have been reading about this notion of the worth of the individual and have found it has support from such historically opposing sources as psychotherapy and religion.  In Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT), psychologists strengthen the patient’s self-esteem by stressing that they incorporate positive feelings of his/her own self-worth. Both of the comparative concepts of inferiority and superiority can be harmful to one’s s psyche.  In religion,  Judaism stresses Man’s equality under God, and Christianity emphasizes that all human beings are lovable in the eyes of God.  Buddhism actually goes beyond this idea of equality to state that the concept of “self” is mythical.

I will quickly cross over to the secular side of the street here to avoid becoming dangerously close to sounding too pious.  My point is, however, to be conscious of how you interact with co-workers from any level.  Coming off as superior could not only damage their self esteem, but you may also miss an opportunity to learn something.  It could also be bad for your Karma.