How to be a Mentor According to the Black Company


Goblin – Crazy old wizard. Apparently also a mentor.

Glen Cook’s series about The Black Company are some of my favorite books. In addition to the well-rounded characters, good world building, and unique narrative style, there are also many lessons to be learned if you’re paying attention. SPOILER ALERT: I will be talking about event that happen toward the end of the series.


Toward the end of The Black Company anthology, we see one of the Company wizards, known as Goblin, mentoring the son of one of the Company’s leader’s, Tobo. Tobo is a teenage boy who has a latent talent for magic in a world where such talent is rare. Goblin and the Company’s other wizard, One-Eye, take him under their wing to make sure that his talents do not destroy him...or anyone on their side.


As you can probably imagine, mentoring a teenager who thinks they are right all the time is a challenge. However, Gobin and One-Eye take the approach of letting Tobo learn from mistakes that won’t kill him. In a few situations, they hold the Company leadership at bay so Tobo can try whatever approach he feels fits the situation. While things don’t necessarily turn out exactly the way the person in charge wanted, the job gets done – often in certain better ways. Over time Tobo learns that he is not the smartest person in the world, rather he is part of a group that depends on one another.


In large part due to Gobin and One-Eye letting him come to his own conclusions within safe bounds.


How you approach mentorship will have a direct impact on whoever your mentees are. Throughout my career I have had the honor of being a mentor to a variety of people; officially and unofficially. High school and college students as well as a spectrum of professionals have had conversations with me in the interest of learning. I have also been a mentee myself and have sought knowledge and insight from others.


Mentorship, regardless of which “side” you happen to be on, is an extremely powerful thing.


The first time I ever sought out a mentor was when I hired my first business coach. My business at the time was floundering and, being an inexperienced entrepreneur, I had no idea what to do. I approached this coach without any kind of plan or intent. Fortunately he had plenty of experience helping others figure those things out through his prior experience as an executive at a Fortune 500 tech company. To this day, that experience is the foundation of my faith in good coaches as well as my desire to continue becoming a better coach.


As the situation from the beginning details, your approach makes all the difference. People have the ability to sense your intentions and emotions to a greater degree than you think. Whether you are the mentor or the mentee, your intent and outlook matter a ton. Make sure you spend time thinking about what you really want and note some ways to get there. Not only does this exercise allow you to have some options going into the conversation, it also builds your confidence because you have spent the time to think about things.


As a coach and frequent mentor I find that often my role is to get people to slow down and actually think about something from other angles. We live in a society that rewards speed at the cost of sanity (and often other things). Keep an open mind and ask questions so both parties can come to understand the problem better. This will lead to better solutions that are wins for everyone involved.


We are all seeking the best solution. Why not work with a mentor to help ease the journey to the goal?


If you are looking for a mentor we here at Protagonist can help you. Contact us for a free consultation today! Or check out our collaborative podcast on the leadership styles of your favorite characters at Leadership Legion.


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