5 Things You Didn’t Know You Needed in a Mentor

How do you find business mentors to help you grow professionally? Countless studies have proven the efficacy of mentors within the workforce, and even more, are showing mentors are needed outside traditional company walls. Entrepreneurs need mentors, especially during what many will look back on as the toughest part of their career.

Entrepreneurs need mentors during the toughest part of their career. Find a great one: Click To Tweet

Step One? Find willing business mentors. Ensure your top choices are available to answer questions relevant to you and your company. Also, make sure you are genuinely interested in your mentor and have a willingness to take at least some of their advice. But even more than what you can do for your mentor (more on that below), you need to figure out what your business mentor can do for you. Take a look at our list of 5 values you didn’t know you needed in a mentor:

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Self-reflection

If you want someone to share their experiences with you, they need to have experiences to share. A person can be knowledgeable and successful without having reflected on how they got where they are. Just hearing about what someone has done is much less valuable than hearing about why they did it and their understanding of why it did or didn’t work. Business mentors with experiences to share most likely have been mentored themselves. 90% of young adults who were at-risk for falling off track but had a mentor became interested in becoming a mentor. In addition, they’re 130% more likely to hold leadership positions.

Look for: Admittance to failure, resilience, ability to say “I was wrong”

Discretion

In a good business mentor relationship, you need to be honest about your own life and circumstances. You also need to be confident that your revelations won’t go beyond your mentor. If he or she can’t be trusted to keep your discussions confidential, your relationship could end up being damaging and not beneficial.

Look for: Nothing. Their lack of gossip and name-dropping indicates they’re discreet.

Honesty

No one has time to waste. When searching for a mentor you want someone that gives you honest advice even if it’s not something you want to hear. If you’re thinking about hiring a new employee or selling off a chunk of the company and you explain the situation and ask for your mentor’s point of view – he or she should give it to you without worrying about personal feelings. 92% of respondents agreed with the assertion, “Negative (redirecting) feedback, if delivered appropriately, is effective at improving performance.”

Look for: Honesty. Unfortunately, in the vetting process, many great potential mentors will tell you they don’t have time to be your mentor, which indicates honesty. It’s an entrepreneurial paradox.

Curiosity

Wait a second… isn’t it the mentee’s responsibility to be curious about the mentor? Of course, it is, but if the mentor isn’t curious about you too, it’s unlikely their advice will be very helpful. If you find yourself in that situation you will start to notice that your mentor is only giving generic feedback that isn’t as relevant as it should be. You might be thrilled to connect with someone very experienced, but after a few months you won’t know anything about them and realize that they aren’t sharing anything that you could apply to your career. A study showed that 35% of employees who don’t receive a regular mentoring plan to look for another job within 12 months.

Look for: A pause in the conversation. Questions about your company and work processes.

Generosity

A great mentor wants you to succeed and they will actively support your success with words and action. Great business mentors will never be envious or feel threatened by your growth but instead will congratulate you on your accomplishments and help you recover from your mistakes. A generous mentor will make connections and offer resources that are useful to you. Most importantly, a generous mentor believes in your potential and communicates that to you.

Look for: All of the above. After all, your mentor is already being incredibly generous with his or her time.

Building a company is hard work. It’s work that leaves little time for self-reflection or deep thinking. Finding a good mentor can help give you that outside perspective because they’ve been there and they understand your space and journey. Your business mentors can act as a sounding board, a catalyst, a swing-vote in important decisions. They might be available for morning coffee, late night calls, or to call you out if you’re treating your employees poorly. It’s a big job and one that doesn’t pay very well.

So how do you find someone willing to be all of the above, when all you have to offer in the way of compensation is your lifelong devotion? Like this:

  • Have your offer ready when you walk through the door. If you can make a compelling case as to why you would be the perfect mentee, make it.
  • Explore all avenues of communication. If you can get what you need from emails, phone calls or a private slack stream and keep meetings to a minimum, say so. Conversely, try to fix your schedule to your mentor’s needs.
  • Seek alternate mentor sources. Coworking spaces, incubators and founder groups can be a great source of both mentor recommendations AND mentors themselves. A mentor doesn’t have to be just one person.
  • Can you assist your mentor in any way? If so, don’t leave that off the table. While offering equity is not a first-date move, you can offer services or recommendations and testimonials, which are valuable.

Business mentors can make or break your budding entrepreneurial career. Choose wisely.

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