Mentorship is one of the most valuable resources you can have as an entrepreneur. It is a cooperative agreement between two individuals, one often more experienced than the other, in one or more subject-specific areas, to exchange knowledge-based support in a particular skill or area. As most entrepreneurs are continuous learners, the most effective mentoring relationships support constant growth and development, and are mutually rewarding for both the mentee and mentor. A mentoring relationship may focus on the mentee’s development goals, but the mentor will also grow and develop as they guide the mentee.
January is National Mentorship month, and we’ll be sharing sharing insight and encouraging entrepreneurs to seek mentorship and in turn, be a mentor! However, before you dive into mentorship here are a few do’s and don’ts we recommend!
Mentor Do’s and Don’ts
Let Your Mentee Make Mistakes
A vital part of your mentee‘s growth is learning from their mistakes. In lieu of your mentees failures, they will become better business owners knowing first-hand what works and what doesn’t. Though providing preventative advice is helpful, the true experience of entrepreneurship is based on the decisions your mentee makes and how they apply what they’ve learned to their business goals.
It is the role of the mentor to set the foundation for an open, honest and realistic exchange of information and ideas. A good mentor will proactively take the relationship to new levels by understanding their mentee and deciding what kind of leader their mentee needs.
Share Your Experience
The general idea of mentorship is sharing what you’ve learned throughout your journey with your mentee, as they are most likely in the same place you once were. As a mentor, the knowledge you’ve acquired is valuable to your mentee and sharing let’s your mentee know that you are trusted source.
Put on a Facade
Your mentee is seeking your guidance in areas you are knowledgeable about and is trusting you to be honest about your experience. Pretending to know something you don’t, or pretending to be someone you are not is not conducive to a mentee-mentor relationship. If you are unsure of anything your mentee asks, be honest by letting them know you don’t have the answers. In place, offer to seek and learn the information together. This could strengthen the relationship between you and your mentee.
No one is perfect. Your mentee will make mistakes and may do things you don’t agree with. Differences in opinion or outlook should never result in harsh criticism or chastising. You are a role model for your mentee, and they will look to you for constructive feedback that motivates them to be better. Your mentee should be able to open up about their experiences without the fear of being attacked.
Failing to be an active mentor can make for a one-way relationship, leaving the mentee unsupported. A mentor may offer praise when deserved or warning when challenges appear. A mentor should be able to provide feedback professionally and take on a leadership role.
Mentee Do’s and Don’ts
A good mentee responds well to feedback. After all, the nature of your relationship is based on your personal and professional growth! Once you stop being coachable the relationship between you and your mentee becomes pointless. Being open and giving your mentor the voice he/she needs to support you will leave both of you feeling like the relationship is mutually beneficial. In the end, your mentor will know their help is useful and you will have gained a lot from being open.
Use the Advice
It’s not enough to listen to your mentor’s advice, you must apply it! You don’t have to hang on to every word your mentorsays, however it is important that you take what your mentor shares with you and apply it as you see fit. Acknowledging what you learned is the best way to show your mentee that they are helpful and the relationship is valuable to you.
Thank Your Mentor
Let your mentor know that you are grateful for the time that he/she has sacrificed to share, teach, and help you grow. Write a note or voice it whenever you can. Tell them how much their support and guidance means to you.
The relationship between you and your mentor should always remain professional and positive. Dwelling on the negative aspects of your life leaves less time to focus on your growth. It is okay to discuss things that you feel are hindering your growth or tough times you’ve experienced, as it is a part of your mentor getting to know who you are. Be a good steward of timeby being positive, proactive and ready to learn.
Expect Your Mentor to Answer All of Your Questions
While a mentor is there to provide knowledge and share their experience with you, it’s important to keep in mind that they are human and do not hold the answers to everything. Be realistic about what you need from your mentor.
Stay In Your Comfort Zone
It sounds cliche, but growth only happens outside of your comfort zone. Open up to your mentor, take risks and leave room for error. It isn’t always easy to approach the unfamiliar with open arms, but if you repeat the same actions you will get the same results. Leaving your comfort zone does not necessarily result in success, but it helps you learn about yourself. Take comfort in discomfort!