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How a Cavafy poem guides Manos Nikolakis of BIC Cello India

The GM of BIC Cello India, on being inspired by Greek history and how he likes to mentor in an informal ambiance 

Nikolakis continued to follow his daily routine even while working from home.

Manos Nikolakis has been leading the India operations of BIC Cello, a stationery and writing instruments brand, since 2019. Previously, he led the organisation’s operations in south, east and central African markets. In an interview with Mint Lounge, he talks about what makes a good mentor and what one needs to lead a team efficiently. Edited excerpts:

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Who’s your mentor?

I have never had one individual who I’ve called a mentor. Naturally, there are some individuals who I proactively seek to spend time with and get advice from. I try to gather bits and pieces of advice from people I admire for motivation and inspiration. I believe interacting with individuals from various walks of life allows for a multi-dimensional approach to life.

I participated in a mentorship programme held by our company a few years ago, where I learnt to look at things from another person’s perspective. The mentor I was working with led me to look at things from multiple perspectives.

The experience was life-changing, as it made me realize there are often factors that we don’t take into consideration when making decisions.

It’s vital to get a comprehensive view of any situation. Through questioning, challenging yourself and the status quo, and being open to a variety of opinions, this can be achieved.

How do you mentor your colleagues?

A mentor needs to bring out the best in you. With your mentor, you need to feel at ease, you need to know that you are sharing information in a safe space, and be comfortable enough to share and accept guidance and advice.

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I would say that an interaction with a mentor needs to leave you feeling motivated and hungry for another discussion. They need to help you widen your horizons, direct you to think in different ways, and initiate good and effective conversations with you.

My objective when mentoring colleagues is to keep them motivated and inspired. The starting point is absolutely crucial as it helps build trust.

I aim to ensure that the mentorship sessions are held outside the office to move away from the mentor-mentee label. My preference is to meet face-to-face, over coffee, a meal, or even a drink. This makes the relationship much more personal.

What’s your morning routine?

I am an early riser. I wake up around 6am, and the first thing I do is have a cup of coffee on my balcony while listening to music and reading the news. I then take a shower, grab a bite, and drive my kids to school before I head to work.

The most important morning action that I never skip is to get a real big hug and kiss from my children. While it may sound clichéd, it’s extremely important to me, and I feel like something’s missing if it doesn’t happen. 

Any work routine you developed during the pandemic? 

I did not change my daily habits or routines. I am conscious that many have adapted to the working-from-home concept. To me, home is a place that is dedicated to myself and to my family, while the office is where I focus on my job. I am not at all a big fan of merging the two spaces.

Any book or podcast you would recommend about mentorship and growth in the workplace?

My favourite poem is Ithaka by C.P. Cavafy. He has skillfully used the tale of Odysseus’ return home from the Trojan war. I use this poem as a life and work guide because it shows that people always try to reach a ‘goal’ but it’s actually the journey to get to that goal that is the most important, with all its learnings, challenges, and experiences.

I also enjoy reading The Nameless King: 15 Stories of Leadership From Ancient Greece by Artemios Miropoulos. The author interestingly translated 15 tales from ancient Greek history into modern business leadership behaviours, which I thought was fascinating, insightful and useful. Monday Motivation is a series featuring business leaders and creative individuals who tell us about the people they look up to and their work ethics.

Monday Motivation is a series featuring founders, business leaders and creative individuals who tell us about the people they look up to and their work ethics.

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