Friday, September 3, 2010

Look Closer…He's a Manager, not a mentor!!!

Today's world expects managers to play a mentoring role to all of their team members. But this expectation seems fundamentally flawed. It is actually very difficult for a manager to be an "effective" mentor to his team members. Why? Why? If you are really interested in my opinion, please read-on.

1) Difference in Priorities
A manager's priority would be the company's good health. A mentor's priority would be your good health. An example is -- your manager would never ever advise you to quit your job to reach your goal, your mentor would!!! Basic difference in Priorities is the 1st hurdle for a manager to be a mentor.

2) Interests Vs Loyalties & Following your Dreams
When your interests and corporate interests clash, a manager would advise you to do what's beneficial to the company. A mentor would nudge you towards what'd be beneficial to yourself.

For example, if you are a very good black box tester in a manual testing company, with an aspiration towards networks, a manager would show you a nice career path in the direction of black box testing, while your mentor would ask you to follow your dreams. A mentor would most probably say --- "Use this job for sustenance, do a course in networking and join Cisco"!!!

3) Favoritism towards top performers
Managers are bounded by loyalties towards old-timers, loyalists & top performers. The manager does not invest time in a weak performer. But Mentors don't let down a weak performer. You would want a mentor, who would not let you down, don't you?

4) Are you his Competitor?
When your mentor becomes your manager, the following question might creep into your mind --- "Is my career not progressing because he thinks I am his competition?” Somewhere down, your mentor, your manager, becomes your dreaded enemy and sadly, a rival!!!

5) And the Credit Crunch...
When your mentor becomes your manager, who do you think gets credit for a successful launch, and who do you think gets blamed for failures? Work becomes more difficult when this question takes root into your head. As we all know, a mentor would always take the blame for failure and credit you for success.

6) Confessing your faults...
It's very difficult to confess your weaknesses and faults to your manager. You would have the belief that it'd come back to haunt you during your "appraisal time". But, you would never have this fear confessing this to your mentor!!!

Those are some blockers that I could think of... as to why managers should not try their hand at mentoring... They are called Managers... and should strictly stick to Managing!!!

And no, I am not even hinting at asking you to get through life without a mentor... That borders on insanity!!! You always need a mentor to guide you in the right direction.... The results can potentially be hazardous when your manager becomes your mentor... or vice-versa!!! And below is my suggestion to solve this.

The Internet has shrunk the size of our world. That means it's possible for you to reach out to anyone you want who resides at another corner of the world. So, please reach out... scan the entire world to identify your mentor. If you are looking at your manager to do it, then...keep in mind, he's a Manager first...then a mentor!!!


  1. Good post and good blog so far!

    I think it depends on the organization as to where you can be somewhat of a mentor or not. Having been a manager, I could never fully be a mentor to any of my employees. I have given advice and tried to encourage junior people if this was their first testing job as I know they may not want to test forever and that is ok.

    I often think Senior people are the most overlooked. I can't recall anymore ever being my mentor when I was a senior tester. They would send all the junior testers to classes etc. but never the old timers. I have wanted to learn automated testing for a long time but it never happened because I was too valuable to have me take the time off for a course and too swamped with work to have the luxury of trying it out.

    I recall needing some performance testing done on one of my projects and I had the audacity to ask if they could show me some of what they are doing and the guy looked at me like I had 3 heads. I have found others seldom want to share any information on how they do something. I guess they call it job security.

    I still would like to have a mentor. Wish I could figure out how to get one.

    I may have to create a profile called grouchy old tester instead of anon ;)

  2. @Grouchy Old Tester ---> Thank you for your kind note. Your mentors need not be older than you. Maybe you should look down instead of looking up :)!!! Why can a junior person not be the mentor of a senior person in the team? Does age matter?