My journey from a Manager to a Mentor

Follow us on LinkedIn:

My journey from a Manager to a Mentor

Author: Le Nguyen Phuong Thuy, Investor Relations Director, Mekong Capital

May 31st, 2023


There was a large poster hanging in our old office in Thai Van Lung Street, quoting Galileo “You cannot teach a man anything; you can only help him to find it within himself”. Every time I passed this poster, I felt that I got each word intellectually. But at the same time, it occurred to me only as a nice quote hanging on a wall, similar to hundreds of positive quotes posters hanging in my university’s dorm room.


In 2019, I was promoted to Manager and was suddenly responsible for team development of the Investor Relations team. At first, I did not think much about this as a challenge. I was a good performer. I knew the tasks so well. It would be a piece of cake if I could show other newbies how to do their job.

Operation team Le Nguyen Phuong Thuy social share

I spent hours showing them how accountability should be done. I tried to talk in as much detail as possible, hoping that they would fully get what I said. Somehow, it never worked. They did not seem to get what the job was. Errors were made. Team spirit was low.

I had as many as 3-4 failed attempts to have a team member stay more than a few months on the team. At first, I believed a series of excuses that I had done everything I could possibly do. But gradually I was forced to come to a painful conclusion about myself: I was not capable of being a good manager. I believe that I did not know how to manage people and I was better off working alone. Every time a member left the team, there was an invisible force rushing in to strengthen this belief of mine.


During that same period, I enrolled myself in a car driving course. Before the first practice lesson, I watched dozens of tutorial videos on Youtube on how to drive a car. I Googled “Is it difficult to drive a car?” And still, I felt so fearful just thinking about being in the driver’s seat.

In the practice session, the teacher spent half an hour teaching me the rules, showing me how to turn left, turn right, and control the wheels.

I tried to note down everything. But I then realized that l could not drive a car by reading the notes. During the actual practice, the essential value of the experience of discovering something new for myself was so visibly clear to me. No matter how detailed the teacher taught me how to drive a car, I would not know how to drive if I did not drive the car myself. It was up to ME to discover the feeling of controlling the wheels and being in the driver’s seat.

How to Become a Better Driver

Only then could I make sense of how to drive a car by adjusting my technique and judgment when driving.

It was an AHA moment for me. If it works for driving, it should also work for developing my team’s skills and performance. I had found a new approach to my own performance in team development—without anyone telling me that is what I should do. The real power is that one can obtain lasting knowledge by discovering it for themselves, even if it means they need to struggle to discover it. It was exactly like how I learned to drive the car by driving the car myself.


From such a moment, I changed my approach toward how I coach my team. Instead of trying to answer their questions for a task by showing them how to do it step by step, I tried to ask questions for my members to discover the answers for themselves. Sometimes, they can come up with how to achieve the results in a way that I would not even think of. More importantly, what they discovered became theirs, not something external I gave to them. They can own the tasks, own the how-to, and own the results. The practice of asking questions was also my journey of discovering which approach, communication styles, and questions will be effective (or not effective) toward different team members.


When I think about everything I learn during my life so far, I can only own things that I discovered for myself through relentless practice. There is no reason why I cannot give the space for others to experience such power for themselves, the power of struggling to discover something new. At the end of the day, I have found that Galileo was right. I cannot teach anyone anything. But I can provide the initial safe space for them to discover that within themselves.


Click below to subscribe to Mekong Capital’s quarterly newsletter.

Sign-up Mekong Capital Newsletter



Mekong Capital makes investments in consumer-driven businesses and adds substantial value to those companies based on its proven framework called Vision Driven Investing. Our investee companies are typically among the fastest-growing companies in Vietnam’s consumer sectors.

In January 2022, Mekong Capital founder Chris Freund published Crab Hotpot, a story about a bunch of crabs who found themselves stuck in a boiling pot. The colorful cover of “Crab Hot Pot,” complete with expressive cartoon crustaceans, looks like a children’s tale at first glance. But as one continues reading, it becomes clear that the work has an important message about organizational transformation, leadership and focusing on a clear vision for the future.

The book is available on Tiki (Hard copy): (Vietnamese) and Amazon: (English)

Follow us on LinkedIn:
Follow Mekong Capital on LinkedIn

Leave a Reply

Registration isn't required.


Recent Posts