Mentoring is a Texas Rig

“Give me a fish and I eat for a day; teach me to fish and I eat for a lifetime.”  It is a line we have all heard most of lives.  And, really great fishing lessons…at least in Texas…would always include special instruction on the famous Texas rig.  Anglers with a hankering for bass find it a must-have for their tackle box.

The logic behind the Texas Rig carries a similar logic of effective mentoring.  It starts with a solid grounding.  The Texas rig uses a sinker to ground the lure to a spot underwater where the fish live.  For the mentor grounding is an expertise, a desire to foster insight in another and a set of values that builds protégé trust and bolsters confidence.  It is interesting to note that the angler’s sinker of choice is triangular shaped and made of lead.  Triangle is a widely used spiritual symbol—a key feature in effective mentoring.  The metal Lead is soft and malleable, just like a great mentoring relationship!  Lead’s chemical symbol, Pb, is taken from its Latin name that became the origin of the word “plumb”—a tool that carpenters use to determine true vertical.

It is important the Texas rig have the proper line size to enable it to effectively handle the weight of the hoped for fish.  Most bass anglers use a clear nylon fishing line that can accommodate at least double the weight of the fish they hope to catch. Fish can challenge the line by their strong resistance not just by their weight.  And, power jerking the fishing line when a fish strikes is a guarantee the fish will escape.  The line of mentoring is the confidence of the mentor, conveyed in a fashion that is clear and subtle but never with arrogance or dominance.

The next most important item in the Texas Rig is the bead…typically red, but always a bright cheery color.  The bead is what initially attracts the fish; much like the mentor establishes a warm rapport at the start of an effective mentoring relationship.  The bead is positioned 18 – 30 inches in front of the hook to give the fish needed lead time to react and strike.  Under the bright bead is a swivel that ensures the worm and hook easily maneuver in the water–making it all appear life-like to the fish.  Swiveling to the mentor is very important as it implies being adaptable and responsive to the protégé.

Now, we come to the bait.  The bait obviously represents a meal to the fish.  It must be attractive and relevant to be of interest.  Anglers particularly like plastic worms; watermelon and green pumpkin are their favorite colors.  Colors both attract the fish and make it easier for the angler to spot the lure in dark water. The meal in mentoring is learning and it must be attractive and relevant for the protégé to find it of interest.

True anglers are conservationist.  They may fish for a meal occasionally but most fish for sport or entertainment.  Barbless hooks enable them to enjoy the process of landing a fish without creating injury to the fish.  Done with a caring hand the fish can be gently returned to the water unharmed.  Great mentors use “barbless hooks” in the approach and a caring manner.  Their goal is to create an independent, self-directed learner who, filled with new knowledge and the joy of learning, eagerly return to work ready to apply what they learned.

 For more cool stuff like this log to on

Managers as Mentors by Chip R. Bell and Marshall Goldsmith

(San Francisco:  Berrett-Koehler Publishing, 2013)

About Chip&John

Chip R. Bell and John R. Patterson are customer loyalty consultants and the authors of several best-selling books. Their newest book is "Wired and Dangerous: How Your Customers Have Changed and What to do About it."
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