Ever since Human Resources departments started using 360 Degree Feedback to see how an employee is doing, its processes and outcomes have been intriguing me. Having a mentor (or several mentors) as an entrepreneur is not that different; it allows the entrepreneur to receive honest feedback about its venture, leadership style and growing opportunities.
Mentoring is currently becoming more accepted and sought after. So let’s briefly see how a mentor can support you in your entrepreneurial journey.
Mentoring Support: Your Foresight
Let me first say that mentoring is a process, not an accomplishment. A mentorship is a flexible and often informal relationship that can vary from person to person and field to field. It is characterized by story telling to help you build your business. Essentially, a Business Mentor is someone whose hindsight can become your foresight.
As a start-up, you are laying the foundations of your business. Let’s use an analogy, say you are building a new house. You have to be all the following roles: a planner to check the house is close to a school for your children, a financial planner to discuss loans with the bank, an architect to design the house, a project manager that hires a construction company and manages the budget, a mason to build walls, a plumber to ensure the house has access to water, and an electrician to keep the house warm and wired for light, and so forth.
No one expects you to play all these parts. It is accepted that you hire people to do specific and specialized tasks for you. Then why do you expect to be the expert in every specialized task it takes to run a brand new business?
Mentors guide you where you need to focus on during a specific time and specific circumstances. They make sure your house doesn’t get flooded or devoid of warmth. A mentor gives you clarity on the monthly bills you need to pay.
They do this by helping entrepreneurs gain clarity when making business decisions. A good mentor zooms in on strategic business initiatives and priorities, focusing on your productivity and effectiveness.
Find a Good Mentor With These Four Elements
A mentor has the drive to help others evolve to strong business leaders. As such, practical experience in the industry is key. Good mentors use four elements to find out where you are stuck share their feedback with you:
- Socratic questioning
A variety of Socratic questioning is used to delve deeper and offer a bird’s eye view. Socratic questions help you think more systematic instead of fragmented, I call this “coming to the why of what you do or want to do”.
Soft skills: dig deeper with sensitivity to life’s complexities (including many isms: gender, culture, race, age, etc.).
Mentors use coaching skills to define gaps in knowledge – sharing practical advice and perspective based on years of experience. Don’t confuse long-term mentoring with short-term coaching by a professional.
Soft skills: story telling to share experiences and skills necessities and relationship building and forming trust
A good mentor knows how to motivate you, whether that is by encouragement or by challenging you.
Soft skills: being the “cheerleader” and comfortably providing feedback and gently pushing the mentee
Mirroring is a mentor’s tool to reflect what is being said or not said. Through mirroring a mentor acknowledges and encourages personal development.
Soft skills: ability to listen to what is not being said and awareness about oneself (understanding one’s own lens to the world given his/her own background).
Don’t sell yourself short! Stop convincing yourself that you must do everything alone. Instead, seek advice, mentors, training and start building a top team. If you are concerned about money, hire interns and see if you can barter services with others (never your mentor) or consider other financing options.
As Founder of Kaleidoscope and Business Mentor, Lisette Andreyko works with start-ups on gaining strategic focus. She is passionate about leadership development in start-ups.