Nurturing the Egg – A quick guide to mentoring

I have been in the software development world for over 20 years and without a doubt at each level of my career I have had aspiring leaders and mentors who guided me and helped me excel. Writing code is a small piece of the software world, it is the leaders that drive great teams and great products.

If I had to pin point one factor of my success as a software professional I would have to give the most credit to the people above me at certain times in my career. While I have a passion for software in general, it was the leadership, mentors, and management who empowered me to be successful in those positions. I have been mentoring junior developers it seems for 20 years, taking the many tactics and practices of my mentors and attempting to do as good as they did for me.

As a leader and a mentor you should take the time to learn the ambitions of your pupil and guide them in accomplishing those ambitions and more. While managers for the most part can handle conflicts within the office they may not always give you the best advice – this is where a mentor can really help. It’s like another set of eyes on your code, you never know what you will learn.

Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.
~Abraham Lincoln

So I could go on and on describing what you should do as a leader but I think listing the things you should not do would be more fun:

  • As a leader, keeping knowledge to yourself and embarrassing people publicly is not a smart thing to do.
  • As a leader, not listening to your pupil is narrow minded. Thinking you know more than them is just ridiculous in this day and age, they might teach you something!
  • As a leader, don’t take the work of the pupil and pass it off as your own. Giving public credit as a mentor is more rewarding than stealing the praise.
  • As a leader, you should work with the pupil when they fail or create “crappy code”, remember, you are in the leadership position for a reason, guide them!
  • As a leader, teaching the pupil and growing the pupil is the greatest thing you can accomplish.

So, if you are a manager and you have “poor leaders” under you that do this kind of stuff then you are at fault as much as the poor leader by leaving them in that position. Having a title or being in a leadership position does not make you a leader. A poor leader is like a virus in an organization, the virus will spread to all those around them. A leader will want their people to excel beyond themselves. The greatest thing a mentor can have is his pupil accomplish their ambitions.

Really, no matter what job you are in, it doesn’t have to be “work”. It is the leaders that make work fun.

A sense of humor is part of the art of leadership, of getting along with people, of getting things done.
~Dwight D. Eisenhower

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