Why Give a Damn:
We all know (or should know) that having a support network around you makes a world of difference. So get yourself a mentor and make the relationship work.
The author of this post, Pascal Finette, is a veteran mentor. He is the Founder of Mentor for Good, and has served as a mentor for the Unreasonable Institute, Unreasonable at Sea, TechStars, Seedcamp, and Mozilla’s WebFWD. He’s also the Founder of the GyShiDo Movement.
Intuitively we all know that having a good support network of smart people around us will make us stronger, help us make the right decisions, allow us to see things from a different perspective, and pull us through those inevitable dark moments of being an entrepreneur. Leaders often don’t tend to talk about their respective mentors – but you can almost guarantee that any well-known (and less well-known) successful leader has a roster of other people they trust and rely on. When they do talk about their mentors, it’s often with a voice filled with admiration, passion, and love.
A good mentor will become your mirror. The person you can be vulnerable with, who holds you up, cheers you on, tells you off when you do something stupid, and generally makes you a better person. And often they are friends for life.
Interestingly a lot of young leaders don’t have a mentor. It is not due to lack of mentors, or a mentor’s unwillingness to work with people who haven’t cut their teeth in the world of business and entrepreneurship yet. It is because young entrepreneurs don’t ask. Often they think they either know the answer (they generally don’t), don’t want to be perceived as weak and vunerable (a misconception of leadership), or don’t have the guts to ask. Don’t be that kind of leader. You owe it to your idea, your employees, your customers.
How do you get the right mentor? First – make a list. Actually – make multiple lists. Make a list with all the areas you feel you need to develop to be a better leader, business person, or simply a better human being. Make another list with people you admire and who you would love to have as a mentor – they can be highly aspirational (think Richard Branson) or the guy who runs the local bike shop. Lastly make a list with an initial set of questions you would want to discuss with your mentor.
Put your lists together and figure out who in your extended network might either be a fit or might know someone who could be a fit. Then ask. Send an email. Call. You will be surprised how many people are delighted to help. Put yourself in their shoes – someone in their network asks them to be a mentor, it doesn’t get any more flattering!
Once you have your mentor(s) identified and have scheduled your first meeting make sure you are prepared. Figure out what you want to get out of the relationship, what you are prepared to give back (e.g. you can offer a fresh perspective for a seasoned executive from the trenches of a startup) and how you would like to structure your relationship (e.g. a meeting every month over coffee where you come prepared with a list of topics you want to tackle). Create an alliance with your mentor – be clear about the structure and agree on it.
Now the most important piece of advice – it is up to YOU to make this work. Time and time again I see mentorship relationships go nowhere as the mentee simply didn’t follow up, provide feedback, and schedule meetings.
An Unreasonable Challenge:
Find a mentor. Get your relationship off the ground and put effort and energy into making it work. You won’t regret it.