You’re Mentoring the Wrong Way

Say the word “mentor” and all sorts of warm fuzzies are conjured up. Unfortunately, I’m here to kill the warm fuzzies.


Because in reality, 99% of mentors aren’t mentoring the right way and it’s important enough that you shouldn’t screw it up.

I see it happening all of the time: Entrepreneurs get to a certain point in their lives, and they think it’s suddenly time to “give back,” and instead of listening to and observing their mentees, they spend a lot of time telling them the “right way” to be an entrepreneur/run a business/use their strengths based solely on their own experiences.

This stifles individuality.

And when it comes right down to it, individuality is precisely what you want to preserve as a mentor.

As I’ve grown businesses over the years, I’ve had a few mentors; some were decent enough, but only one was truly amazing.

What made him different? He listened. I mean, he really listened.

Instead of sitting me down to “tell” me how to run my company, he took the time to ask me the questions that got me thinking about what was important to me, what my weaknesses were, and how I could fix them. On occasion, he’d chime in with anecdotes from his own experiences, but for the most part, the best mentor I ever had was someone who treated mentoring like a research project, and the subject was me.

Rather than telling me that his life was the blueprint for success, he openly acknowledged that there was no single path to success, and what was right for him probably wasn’t right for me.

That was life-changing.

Entrepreneurs being mentored have to understand that the individuals guiding them aren’t going to give them a breakdown of how to be successful in a few simple steps. It’s also not a one-way street, which means mentees have to engage as much as their mentors engage with them, if not more. A good mentor will let the questions roll in, but then encourage you to seek the answers as they’re relevant to your business and your own path. It’s not an opportunity to leech life lessons from your mentor.

Whether you’re a mentor or you want one, you need to know that the best mentors are those who are always learning. The last thing you want is someone who sees guiding you as the end game or capstone for their career. That’s a one-way ticket to complacency both for you and your mentor.

Keep in mind this simple rule: Mentors should be uncomfortable with the status quo.

They also have to be as interested in making themselves better as they are interested in making you better.

That’s the thing about mentoring that people need to understand: It’s about the strength of the individual to weather the unrelenting storm that is entrepreneurship, not acquiesce to some rigid timeline of entrepreneurial life milestones.

The best mentors don’t play by the rules.

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