Mentoring — why it matters and where to start

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Team, Team, Team — People, People, People… Investing in people has always been a top priority for me. That mentality comes directly from having had mentors that made a profound difference in my life and career. Their impact and what that has allowed me to achieve is something that can’t be measured.

To some extent, we all owe our achievements to those who mentored us along the way. By taking on the role of mentor, we can help our people achieve their potential and pay back those who have positively influenced us.

Being a mentor

As a leader, it’s our responsibility to mentor those around us. Nobody is perfect, and each of us continues to learn on a daily basis. However, the experience and knowledge we’ve acquired during our careers put us in a position to build individuals up and help them develop their skill sets. The following are elements to consider when mentoring:

Build a relationship — The impact you’ll be able to make on those you mentor will be exponentially higher if you can build a strong relationship. Get to know who they are, what they like, and what is going on in their life. Once a connection is established, they’ll be open to making changes and implementing advice. You need that foundation, to be the one who makes a lasting difference.

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” — Maya Angelou

Define objectives — On an informal level, keep a mental note of where you feel like you can provide the greatest lasting benefit. If the mentorship is more formal, a good strategy is to set a clear objective and list the expectations of what is to be accomplished. It is also important to determine a meeting schedule and the length of the mentorship.

Elevate vision — One of the most important things you can do as a mentor is help those you’re mentoring to believe in themselves. It’s easy to convince ourselves of stories that aren’t true, like “I’m not this”, or, “I’ll never be that.” Help those you mentor elevate their vision and understand they’re capable of attaining success. When they begin to feel that you believe in their potential, they will too. You don’t need to tell them exactly what to do to reach their end goal, push them to understand what that is for themselves.

“A lot of people have gone further than they thought they could because someone thought they could.” — Zig Ziglar

Character before skills — Developing useful skill sets is an essential part of growth, however, working to increase mindfulness and molding values will serve them far more in the long run. A focus on strong core values is where you can make a lasting impact.

Restore motivation — Remind those you mentor why their work is important. Show them where they fit in the grand scheme of things and how their current situation fits into their long-term goals. Let them know that they are an essential member of the team, not just a pawn.

William McRaven, US Navy Admiral, has a well-known commencement speech that he gave talking about the the power of hope. He provides examples to illustrate the power one person has to change the world by giving people hope. Giving unmotivated individuals hope is all it can take to change their perspective and ambitions.

Know your expertise — When helping someone with the next step in their path, you may reach a point when you realize there are others who are better suited to help them. Don’t hesitate to connect the ones you mentor to colleagues who can fill the knowledge gap.

Be straightforward — Being a mentor gives you the chance to give advice they may not hear from family, peers, and colleagues. Be direct and honest in your feedback, but don’t forget to focus on the positive. In Kim Scott’s book Radical Candor, she talks about the importance of caring on a personal level and challenging people directly with candid feedback. Doing both properly breeds positive change.

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Kim Scott

The combination of these elements and their proper implementation can bring great results. Becoming a great mentor is a process that takes time and experience. The following are great books that have helped to outline how I mentor: Tim FerrisTribe of Mentors, Ray DalioPrinciples, and Simon SinekLeaders Eat Last.

Sometime basic mentoring concepts can empower individuals and teams to produce amazing results.

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Personal Benefits

While I would never expect to receive something in return from mentoring, some inherent benefits come with the process. Your skills as a leader and ability to manage will improve. That translates to building a team at work that will allow you to accomplish more than otherwise possible.

Mentoring provides an excellent opportunity to learn about new technologies and emerging markets especially when working with mentees from outside of your organization. Offering your business expertise to others in fields outside of your own will help you to find new solutions and adapt them to the challenges your company faces.

I hold in very high regard those who have mentored me and view them as some of my greatest friends. A relationship that began with advice and guidance can turn into a long-lasting friendship. When that connection has developed, those who you help will feel a sense of loyalty and commitment to doing their best.

There is an excellent feeling of self-fulfillment that accompanies mentoring others. Seeing their success will fuel your desire to help others grow. This can provide a new perspective and help to re-energize your motivation. You’ll be able to look back and see how far you’ve come and what you’ve achieved since having a mentor yourself.

“We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give.” — Winston Churchill

Choosing who to mentor

There is ample opportunity to mentor people where we can make a difference: members of your family, who rely on your example; employees who work for you, hoping to gain meaningful experience through their employment; people who seek you out directly for your expertise; and members of an organization centered around mentoring, who you connect with through volunteering. There are many different options, and in some cases, it might make sense to start a mentorship program in your organization.

For the past few years, I’ve mentored at 500 Startups and the Stanford Graduate School of Business Ignite program. Groups like these provide a great opportunity to work with young entrepreneurs and growing businesses. The type of people seeking help here are motivated to learn from your expertise.

500 Startups is a VC firm that aids in early-stage seed round funding. I’ve advised on strategy, operations, fundraising, and corporate governance.

The GSB Ignite program is for entrepreneurs and current grad students. With colleagues that are Master of Physics, Journalism, Robotics, Business, or Medicine, we advise those on the framework of their business in the venture building process.

Invest in people

There is an anonymous quote I’ve always liked that illustrates how important it is to mentor others:

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It’s interesting to take a moment to think where you would be today if you hadn’t been mentored and benefited from the time that others invested in you. It’s hard to imagine where you would be right now without them. Invest in your people; the benefits are there for both parties.

I am a product of those who mentored me in both my life and career. Without them, there are many experiences I would have missed in life. Due to their vested interest in me, I achieved much more than I thought possible. The following are people who have made a significant impact through their mentoring:

Mark Golomb- My father taught me the value of true friendship. He stressed loyalty and integrity in business, with the importance of always aiming to think and act like a shareholder.

Bennett Goldberg — A dear friend, who helped me understand American culture when I immigrated to California back in 1990. He was a guide in determining which undergraduate programs to pursue and directed me to my first job pick. This was fundamental to my current career.

Bob Howells — CFO of Entegrity Solutions and my first down-to-earth boss. He taught me many invaluable lessons as we worked together during the dot-com boom.

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Brainstorm and decide where your knowledge and expertise can be best put to use. Give back to those who helped you on your path in life by making a plan of how you will begin mentoring others…

“The greatest good you can do for another is not just to share your riches but to reveal to him his own.” — Benjamin Disraeli, British Prime Minister, 1874–1880

Written by

Hands-on company builder; Founder & Entrepreneur with 3 exits, who enjoys scaling companies 24x7x365; Blockchain Pioneer. Founder and CEO at FanVestor /#Fvestor

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