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Andy Grove: How to Be a Mentor

If you turn teaching into a routine, 'you screw it up'

Corporate mentoring programs are a charade. The intent behind them is good, but like everything the professionals get a hold of, they turn it into an incredibly complex and counterproductive routine. I suspect the reason these programs exist is so HR can beat you up and have something they can brag about. The moment someone says “mentor” or “mentee,” I get waves of nausea.

My problem is this: As a manager you are supposed to be a resource. The principal job of somebody in management is to be a resource to the people who work for you. That means setting direction for them. It means kicking their asses if they lag. But the most important thing is to teach them how to deal with increasingly complex assignments, by letting them do the work and watching them. There is also role-modeling, critiquing, and on and on, all ending in —ing. All that is teaching. Some stuff in companies can be made routine and machine-like. But teaching? You routinize it, you screw it up.