So you have decided to mentor someone – or to be mentored.
This can be a very pleasant and beneficial arrangement for all parties involved. First let’s look at the psychology involved. On the mentor end, someone has the audacity to decide that they can help someone get where they want to go – business plan, raising children, planting a garden, building the perfect skateboard, whatever… On the mentoree (Is that a word?) side, someone has put their ego aside long enough to admit they want and will accept help. Big decisions not to be taken lightly on either side.
So the two parties make contact – virtually or in person – shared experience and goals are discussed. Then they agree to give the mentor relationship a try. Now everyone feels warm and fuzzy. Not so fast. At this point there is a consideration that many don’t think about. A mentoring relationship is a business deal – whether you want to admit it or not.
Advice to mentors. You are there to assist, not be dictatorial. Ask a lot of questions and listen to the answers. Make suggestions if they are appropriate and you have them. If you don’t, say so. Don’t be pushy or unrealistic.
Advice to mentorees. Ask a lot of questions and listen to the answers. Make suggestions if they are appropriate and you have them. If you don’t, say so and what you are lacking. Don’t expect your mentor to do everything. It is your project after all.
Communication is a key issue as well. Will you use chat (my preferred since it is more timely and direct), email, phone, face to face – or a combination? Schedule when you want to get together beforehand (weekly, bi-weekly)? Agree on how many hours will be given so no one feels abused. Another note on communication – if there is a personality conflict over time, or honestly nothing is getting accomplish, politely move on. Why waste each other’s time for no gain?
This all seems simple at first but things can get complex quickly, misunderstandings can happen, feelings can get hurt. The byword here is ‘patience’, just like in any business deal. Staying excited about the project under scrutiny is crucial as well. Again why bother if you are not having fun?
So how do people hook up to discuss mentoring? Social Networks are a good start. There a literally thousands of groups that deal with the assistance issue. I personally use Dennis Pitocco’s, and my, groups on Linkedin. But where you go is up to you. I recommend you do just that. In today’s online world, finding the right mentor relationship is easier than ever. There are a lot of knowledgeable people out there who want to, and are willing to, lend a hand.
Back to the business deal issue, I have found that helping out can result in reverse marketing. One case study of mine that comes to mind is a book editing deal. I contacted a PhD in psychology (through Social Media) who has written a book on self and life improvement. We hit it off and when I offered to edit her book for free (160 pages), my doctorate insisted that she pay me. (It would have been rude to say no so I accepted.) Another case study has to do with business plans. I was approached by three people at basically the same time who wanted pro bono help with the focus on finding investors – a TV show, a recycling business and a resort & yacht club. I did some checking for all three and made some initial referral introductions. I finally went with the resort because I liked the promoter and the idea seemed the most likely to succeed given the existing conditions. The end result is that we found a source who has gone as far as an MOU. If the deal goes through, I can retire on the points guaranteed! Again, I never brought up possible rewards.
So there is my take on the mentoring issue. And I should say I have been following my own mentoring advice for years. So far I have only walked away once. Not bad…
By Dennis Smith
dennis.dean.smith @ gmail.com