Many successful people can attribute their success at one point or another to having a mentor or someone who offered some form of guidance or wise counsel along the way. Most mentors make a significant difference in others’ lives. Although it is obvious that mentorship is useful for mentees, it is equally as beneficial for the mentors. Mentors are able to take further steps in their careers, test and/or critique ideas with the intention to help someone else, prove that they are authorities in their fields by providing the relevant guidance and timely advice to their advisees, and mentors also benefit by staying on top of their dynamic industry while improving their craft..
Types of Mentors
Your expertise and experience can help when deciding what type of mentor you can be. Below are some of the categories that different mentors fall under:
- Coach- Generally, when people have a problem or some hurdle they need to overcome, they tend to go to someone who can provide some sort of guidance or coaching. As a coach, it is not necessary to give the answer to others’ problems per se; instead, you can simply listen closely then help steer them in the right direction. You can also provide different perspectives that might not have been considered.
- Connector- Whether someone is starting a business or searching for a job, knowing people that can help is always an asset. Moving forward can be a lot about who you know and not merely what you know. As a connector, you can help entrepreneurs and businessmen reach others in your network and beyond to take their business or idea to the next level.
- Idea/Start-up Experts- In this role, you help entrepreneurs and businesses develop their business ideas and prepare for the start-up process. Sometimes, entrepreneurs are creative but unrealistic; therefore, it is essential that they have the right mentors to keep them grounded.
Though some of the major mentoring types have been highlighted, deciding the method that would produce the best results is crucial. Therefore, mentors should possess and exhibit certain qualities and employ certain strategies that would guide their approach to yield the greatest outcomes.
Qualities of a Good Mentor
Coach Not Tell- As a mentor, your job is not to tell your mentees what to do. Instead, you should ask the right questions, listen well, and help your mentees arrive at the right conclusions. For instance, a mentee may be contemplating implementing a new strategy in his/her business. However, as a mentor, it is not always wise to tell the person how to implement the change. Instead, mentors may choose to guide the individual along or show him/her the merits and demerits of certain choices. Consequently, the final decision should be left up to the individual. The feeling of critically analyzing a situation and making a choice that is beneficial gives and/or reinforces confidence. On the other hand, poor decisions that are not overly detrimental to the success of the business teach important lessons, nullify the possibility for the blame game, and indicate strategies that should be avoided in the future.
Make Connections- Mentors can help the persons they advise by connecting them with others in the industry who can offer assistance such as financiers, employees, or suppliers. Connections are especially useful for start-up mentees. When starting a business, entrepreneurs may not have many contacts and a small network. As a mentor, you can help them reach a wider network comprised of persons they may not have been able to connect with without you. Therefore, advisees will be fortunate to have a wider base of support, which is especially crucial during the embryonic stages of a start-up, at their disposal therefore increasing their odds for success.
Focus on Your Strengths- In order for a mentoring relationship to be truly successful, it is important to play to your strength. For instance, if you are not an accountant, it would not be wise to give accounting advice; instead, mentor individuals in your area of expertise. The idea is to build trust between yourself and the advisee. However, offering advice in areas where you are not familiar increases the risk for errors. Mistakes may then be detrimental to the relationship that both parties may have fostered since the mentee may become overly skeptical about the advice that is subsequently given.
Be Unambiguous- As a mentor, you should provide clear and precise direction and support. Providing general and ambiguous advice may cause confusion and little to no help. For example, if someone is requesting help with their online marketing plan, no need to give them general information about what marketing is and why it is important and so on. It will be more beneficial to focus on the topic at hand and provide specific and relevant information.
Willingness and Ability to Communicate What You Know- Some mentors may be professional and well experienced, but not everyone can teach what they know. Therefore, the importance of being willing and able to effectively transfer knowledge or communicate the necessary information cannot be understated. With that said, mentors need to consider their audience as well to enhance the communication process. For instance, if your mentee is more or less a beginner and not too familiar with advanced business jargon, it is recommended that you choose words or terms that they would be able to comprehend. Gradually, you should introduce and teach them more advanced concepts and practices as they become more competent.
Continuous Learning- The proverb “a rolling stone gathers no moss” is a one that mentors should live by. Mentors should always keep abreast with current issues, improvements, invalidations, and general changes in their industry and field of expertise. One may have years of experience, but knowledge is constantly evolving, so what may have worked years ago may not necessarily work today.
Things to be Careful About
Good mentors should be passionate about their field and eager to share their knowledge with others. However, because human beings have diverse personalities and react differently to certain circumstances, mentors need to be careful, observant, and cognizant about their approach and the reactions of mentees for a mentoring relationship to be successful. Some situations they should be aware of and to look out for are:
- Over-secrecy- Mentors should pay close attention when mentees are unwilling to provide crucial information. For example, some persons might fear that their confidential disclosures may be broadcasted or their ideas may be stolen. Therefore, mentors should strive to build a trusting relationship with their advisees.
- Dishonesty- Working with dishonest people may be a total waste of time and effort. Therefore, mentors should be mindful and attentive to make a fair assessment and determine that negative trait.
- Managing Defence Mechanism- Not all mentees are able to accept bad news or negative feedback about their ventures. In some persons, negative feedback automatically triggers a defence mechanism so be careful about that. Phrase your criticism and advice with a positive spin to help the easily offended move forward.
- Speculative Mindset- Some entrepreneurs tend to get carried away by the hype in the entrepreneurial world. Take Facebook’s acquisition of WhatsApp for example. Some entrepreneur may believe that he/she can create the next big app to get acquired by a major company without any proper plans or models for such a venture. Consequently, as a mentor, you have to be mindful of such scenarios and ensure that you are helping your advisees achieve realistic goals.
A number of mentoring organizations that are dedicated to making a difference in the lives of individuals can be found worldwide. One such organization is Mentor Me India. They believe that mentoring can be an asset for entrepreneurs and children from low socioeconomic backgrounds alike. Therefore, when given the opportunity to mentor someone, it is imperative that persons take the task seriously. Also, it is important to note that anyone can be mentored once they are prepared and willing to let someone guide them on the journey they are embarking on.