This is a guest post by Greg DeLine.
“Hand-ups, not handouts.”
That’s the premise behind mentoring, and the core reason the practice works so well for entrepreneurs. When a mentor-mentee relationship hits its groove, both sides benefit from a cross-pollination of ideas and feedback. However, getting to a point of pure synchronicity doesn’t happen without a little planning (and a lot of discipline).
That’s why it’s so important to have a goal for your mentoring experience, not to mention understand how to be a good mentee. As an entrepreneur, it’s not enough for you to just get a mentor. You have to take the process one step further and understand how to make the most of the bond you form. Otherwise, you’ll hit unnecessary — yet completely avoidable — bumps.
How to Find a Business Mentor (and Enjoy the Benefits of Mentorship Toward Personal Growth)
Of course, there’s no mentoring rulebook, per se. That’s a bummer. Nevertheless, there are a few actions you can take to make sure that you get the most from mentoring and that your mentor feels a positive kickback, too:
Move forward with confidence (but not cockiness).
Do you struggle with impostor syndrome? Do you maybe worry that you might not deserve a mentor at all? Trust that you do.
Yes, you might have failed miserably a time or two. I understand that because I’ve been through the darkness of setbacks and have lived to tell the tale. The key to building your self-confidence is to listen to the lessons given by your mentor. Talk about your failures and discuss how you can springboard from mistakes into a world of successful decisions and outcomes.
Remember: Your mentor can be a terrific sounding board. Mentors aren’t trying to judge you. Instead, they’re available to help you push forward, even when the path ahead isn’t so clear. Accept that you belong on the road to entrepreneurship, and embrace the fact that you warrant a mentor.
Find a mentor who shares your values.
We’ve all had the uneasy feeling of talking with someone whose words just don’t resonate with you. You don’t want that individual to be your mentor.
So what should you look for in a mentor? If you don’t have someone in mind yet, seek out possible candidates whose values and beliefs dovetail with your own. You might even want to create a “job description” of your perfect guide. For instance, if you tend to be a workaholic, you’ll want to find a mentor who also believes in plugging away (rather than a mentor who has more of a “strike when the muse hits you” mentality).
Commit to the journey.
Many people think of mentoring as two people occasionally getting together for coffee or drinks and sharing stories. Real, in-depth mentoring involves not just dialogue, but also planning and action. Expect to write down “homework” assignments for yourself per your mentor’s advice, and then look to the person in the mirror to complete those assignments on time and as expected.
Really, learning how to be a good mentee comes down to accountability. You must hold yourself accountable, or your mentor will feel frustrated. Too many people want a shortcut, but there aren’t any shortcuts in business. Think of this like going on a diet: You don’t get ahead by sneaking into the fridge for a slice of cake at midnight. And you won’t get much out of your mentoring relationship if you aren’t going to follow through, respond to suggestions, or ask questions when you’re unsure of how to proceed.
Lay out what you want from your mentorship.
Everyone wants a different mentoring experience. Some mentees want to learn more about a certain skill set. Others crave knowledge about all aspects of a specific role, such as founder, researcher, or salesperson. Write down exactly what you hope to gain from your mentorship.
To ensure your objectives make sense and are doable, keep the “SMART” guidelines in mind. In other words, your goals should be:
Share your written goals with your mentor so you’re on the same page from day one. Oh, and be sure to see if your mentor has objectives for the experience, too.
Take your mentor’s time seriously.
As a final way to make sure you develop the strongest mentor-mentee connection possible, show you value the time your mentor is giving. Be early (or at least on time) for meetings and phone calls. Be gracious and say thank you. Be a participant — and not just a recipient — in the relationship. By making sure your mentor feels appreciated, you’re indicating that they’re not just a cog in the wheel in your eyes. They’re an integral part of your development as an entrepreneur, and you couldn’t reach for the stars without them.
Being part of a mentorship is both a privilege and an honor. Treat this journey as a gift, and you’ll be sure to keep reaping its advantages for the rest of your life.
About the Guest Post Author:
The president and CEO of DeLine Holdings, Greg DeLine is an entrepreneur and philanthropist. Greg has started and owned more than a dozen successful companies. He has a passion for relationships and helping others reach their full potential. In addition to leading various companies, Greg is the president of the board for Phoenix Programs, past president and current board member of Love INC, and a Leadership Circle level sponsor of the Heart of Missouri United Way. A lifelong Mizzou athletics fan, Greg is an Ambassador level member of the University of Missouri’s Jefferson Club.