Advice to mentors


A little jog down memory lane reminds me that I’ve been involved in mentoring for as long as I can recall… And not always doing it well. I’ve learned many a things over the years, so thought of putting down some of my learnings for the benefit of others…
Here are my tips around mentoring…

  1. If you find that you are speaking and making suggestions during your mentoring then you are not mentoring (tip: instead of telling someone, rephrase your statement into an open question).
  2. Ask your mentee to think about what they want to achieve out of the session from you. Let them take charge. You are not there to babysit them… having said that, do take the lead if the entrepreneur is struggling (they are dealing with already so many things that sometime they need a little helping hand).
  3. Help – don’t tell – the entrepreneur to decide what her/his priorities are.
  4. Help – don’t tell – the entrepreneurs to create targets and make those targets public. Nothing like a bit of peer pressure to get the motivational juices running.
  5. Keep the pleasantries to a minimum. Get down to business. My opening line is often (not always), “Thank you for coming. What are your expectations out of this meeting”
  6. Ask the mentee how harsh they wish you to be.
  7. Your responsibility is not to depress them however. No-one has  a right to put anyone down. Your role is to help them figure out how to get to the next level (or get unstuck). Entrepreneurs deal with so many setbacks that a visit with you should leave them feeling energised.
  8. Be their biggest fan.
  9. Never ever lend money or do the entrepreneur’s work for them. I personally never look at documents sent to me.
  10. Understand where your mentoring role ends and where friendship starts.
  11. Everyone can pretend to be an entrepreneur. Please be careful with your advice and guidance. It is really easy to suggest from the sidelines. Unless you have walked their path, steer clear of assumptions about your mentees.
  12. Master the power of good questions… Here is a list I use (it is by no means exhaustive):
    1. What in your view is the list of prorities you should pursue
    2. Which priorities in this list will get you closer to your goals
    3. What are your goals
    4. What are the biggest hurdles you are facing to getting to you goals?
    5. If you were me, what advice would you give yourself?
    6. etc…
  13. You do NOT know better. No matter how much info your mentee has shared, there are some pieces that inevitably are still missing. Be careful of giving advice. Let them run their own business.
  14. Entrepreneurship is a very individual journey. By all means help them not fall off the cliff, but don’t tell them what path to take. Let them choose their own destiny.
Don’t let the above frighten you if you are just starting out being a mentor. Mentoring is – like most things in life – about practice. Just make sure those you practice on know to take your session with a pinch of salt.
Hope the above helps.

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