The inspiration on this article on friendship and Mentorship came from my great friend, colleague and mentor Woody Zobel, whom I affectionately call “Master Woody”, a professional in the field of international removals who announced his withdrawal after 46 years of activity.
My best wishes to him and his beautiful family for a new phase of a life rich with satisfaction, travels, health, wellness, love and much more!
First, I think that Woody is a true friend. Always ready to give me good advices when I needed them, in the most diverse areas of my life, without asking anything in return.
Whether at work, at home, during travels or in the private sphere … notwithstanding the difference of our ages, I can state that Woody is one the most extraordinary persons I have ever met. A fresh, open, young and active mind who, from the very first moment, impressed and attracted me. To think that only a few years ago, despite being hit by a flu virus, he stood by my side and danced in a disco club until dawn. He is a myth.
I dedicate this preamble to you, my friend. Because during each working trip that we shared, you contributed to enrich my life with an immeasurable value. You have always had words of pure and honest praise for me, helping me to open doors and create possibilities that I would have never been able to handle by myself, and never asked anything in return.
I am so lucky to know you, Master Woody, and have you in my life as a friend. Each advice you give me is worth a lot to me. I hope you enjoy this new phase of your life, so rich of successes and exciting stories. Forever friends.
Growing personally and professionally.
The rule is to have the right persons next to us
Friendship has always been one of the most important values in the life of individuals. Each culture associates different characteristics to this term but, overall, there are always some common patterns. We can, therefore, agree that
friendship is an interpersonal relationship based on respect, sincerity, altruism, esteem, and availability.
This thesis is all the more substantiated in those working contexts such as the one in which I have been operating for many years: the Global Mobility sector. “Global Mobility” means specifically the international transfer of families, corporate personnel and their pets (International removals, International transfer of pets, Relocation and Immigration services).
The impact of this world is not a simple one. It is governed by many dynamics, laws to be complied with, documents, customs and government requirements from every country of the world, information flows that can give a headache even to experts.
Indeed, things were not at all easy for me when I started. Despite the previous experience my family had in this field, I had to roll up my sleeves, study, listen and do some work-shadowing next to a more experienced person.
“Work-shadowing”. How many times have you heard a person older than you repeat this phrase?
The real meaning of this expression is a very simple concept: people who are more experienced can teach you, just by working next to you, quite a number of unimaginable things! It is up to you to understand and apply what you learn from them.
Then, if this relationship transforms itself into a true and sincere friendship, well you can repay back what you learned with interest. It is exactly here that real magic starts!
A healthy friendship at work, user instructions
If you have been following me for some time, you must know that in each edition I always gave you useful advices for both your personal life and your professional one. Something that you can apply immediately in order to improve yourself and those around you. All these advices are my own, and they come from experiences I personally had and transmitted to you without anything in return, from one friend to another.
So, all the above leads to a question: what are the characteristics that make a friendship between two professionals, whether close or at a distance, “healthy”?
Over time, I cultivated and nurtured many professional relationships with people who were completely different from one another, due to distance, age or culture. Each of these relationships was characterized by common traits.
Here below is a summary of them:
Friendship means giving-receiving
This is undoubtedly true in every sphere of life. At all levels, there will always be something that you can give or receive from different people with different experiences. The important thing is to be able to listen sincerely to the other and give our contribution when, instead, it is the other one having to receive indications. As Adam Grant also says in his book “Give and Take”, the persons who are innately Givers, that is to say, that tend to give before expecting something in return, generally, receive back much more than what they gave due to a natural form of reciprocity and respect. The opposite occurs for those who are “Takers”, namely those who expect something in return even before moving a finger.
What can I do to improve people’s lives?
Being able to read the contexts and being able to give the best help possible to people, by trying to leave them with something, i.e. enriching them. This is my objective. Sometimes, all we need is a comforting call or a smile, while other times what we do need is a frank and constructive criticism. It depends on the contexts, it is up to us to read them and offer that add-plus that elevates your relationship to a sincere friendship. A dear friend of mine once told me: “Francesco, you have a gift that very few have. You instill trust in a natural way.
This is not a bad thing, but rather a positive virtue. You instill trust and people can only loose it. Most people reason in an opposite way: they do not instill trust. You have to earn it”. Well, my approach towards trust has often paid back. In those cases in which it did not pay back, I just ended the relationship that was no longer worth nurturing.
Do not do for the sake of receiving something in return, but act spontaneously
All the things that you do depend on the will, interest and happiness that drive you to do them. This is not something that has been thought about but a will to offer yourself to help another, in exchange for nothing.
Be an anti-model for others
We live in a world full of “models” that are imposed upon us, fake myths that are pre-fabricated and alleged professionals. Be authentic, be yourselves.
How to intercept only the best incentives? There are persons who through their professionality, their sense of work and their relationship with others are able to arouse esteem and appreciation in others. This is what you must achieve, you must become an anti-model that others may imitate and appreciate.
Mentoring on the job
All the characteristics identified and dealt with previously are inherent to the figure of the “Mentor”, whom we may define as:
a sort of trusted advisor, a wise guide, a positive model without, however, any hierarchical links with the Mentee (the person interfacing with the mentor).
Such a current word in the modern scenario with such antique roots…The etymology of the word mentoring actually dates back to Omer’s Odyssey.
Ulysses, the main character of the epic poem, before leaving for Troy, asked his trusted friend, called Mentor, to take care of his son Telemachus and teach him in a wise manner the rules for succeeding him to the throne, in case he should not return.
In a business environment, the Mentor places himself next to the Mentee in order to facilitate his orientation within the company’s organizational processes for the purpose of gathering more rapidly the information needed in order to accomplish one’s objectives.
This figure is particularly developed among the entrepreneurs of the same sector. Older people have a pool of knowledge that they can transfer to us. Mistakes made previously, experiences gained, life advices that can only enrich us and make us better persons.
The Mentoring activity among entrepreneurs is based on four cornerstone dimensions:
- Professional dimension (helps to better understand the aspects of one’s business, one’s specific job)
- Mental dimension (how to manage one’s time, how to organize one’s agenda or entrepreneurial activities);
- Relational dimension: with the company stakeholders and with our collaborators;
- Emotional dimension: which is actually the most important one. Sincere support and understanding. Lucid and vivid advice.
I hope that it is clear that a healthy Mentoring relationship basis itself primarily on friendship. We can imagine a red thread that inextricably links these two terms, where the thread is represented by all the values on which this relationship is based. You can see them here below.