Imparting Waffle House Wisdom

Once you have identified the employee who wants to achieve more how do you mentor them?

Just like the concept of ethos, the idea of a mentor also comes from the ancient Greeks. In fact, the word “mentor” comes from the Greek epic poem, Homer’s Odyssey. Originally based off of the character Mentor, the term now refers to an experienced or trusted advisor.

As can only happen in a Waffle House in Atlanta, a mentor once imparted some wisdom that has stuck with me throughout my career: “First year, learn. Second year, yearn. Third year, earn”. He strongly believed that a person entering a new opportunity should take the time to learn the people, the position and the politics. Following this understanding of your environment, begin to aspire, or yearn, to make meaningful changes to the organization. Finally, use your awareness of the organization and drive to make a difference to build impactful contributions. This idea of continually seeking growth and understanding in a way that can influence your ability to give back truly gets at the heart of mentorship.

Over the course of my career, I have had several mentors who have greatly impacted me. Some have entered my life via a common workplace, and have influenced me by encouraging me to further my education (specifically, to earn my MBA) or by providing wisdom that I would eventually pass on to my mentees. Others, I have sought out with intentionality. Each had different advice to offer, and each was present in my life for a different chapter. As years have passed, some of these mentors have remained mentors and others have shifted to a friend or colleague role.

What each of these individuals had in common was this: they were each further along in their careers and fit the cliché of being older, wiser and more experienced. While we shared a similar ethos, the experiences and decisions of these individuals had led them to the same success I aspired to achieve. Said another way, seek advice from those who have what you want in ten years, and who have gotten there using the same values you already possess. Another commonality among these mentors is that they had each personally invested in my success. This was balanced with an ability to be objective, unselfish and impartial with their guidance.

Mentorship is analogous to a “chain”. At every point in your career, it is advisable to seek out a mentor. But as a link in this chain, you will at some point (often earlier than you think) be in a position to be a mentor and pass experiential wisdom along to others.