We all know those mentors who act like superstars, shining brightly on stage, always very convinced to their point of view and generous with harsh words because being constructive and friendly is just “beating around the bush”. I am tired of mentors who don’t know their place.
It is not about you.
Let’s get this one clear: mentoring is about the one who is mentored. While the role of a mentor is obviously important, he or she is not the subject of this relationship – because yes, mentoring is a relationship. It is based on trust and belief that both people work for the same purpose – an improvement of a certain area of work/business/life of mentee. Mentoring is not about bringing more fame to the mentor, it is not a way to boost his or her ego, it is not another nice entry on mentor’s LinkedIn profile. The goal of mentoring is to help someone with your knowledge and experience. And you do it because you want it, not because there are hidden values you are hoping for.
You don’t know everything.
Being an expert in e-commerce doesn’t mean you can advise entrepreneurs building SaaS products, having a great experience in digital communications and running a successful agency doesn’t give you a right to pretend you know anything about business development in MedTech industry. We know you read a lot and you know a lot. But being a mentor requires a deep expertise in a given area, otherwise, your advice is worth as much as any random Quora user. When being a mentor be aware that there is someone who deeply trusts you and values every word you say. Be careful with this responsibility.
You do not do any favor
Mentoring is a mission. You do it because you want to share your knowledge and experience with people you trust in. You build a true relationship with another human, who believes in your good intentions. No one is pushing you to be a mentor and no one wants to feel like you are doing them a favor. Don’t agree to be a mentor if you don’t have time for that. Period.
Are you a mentor or a consultant?
The discussion whether to pay mentors or not is on for a while in the industry. There are many pros and cons of both approaches but it is important to understand that a mentor who is helping someone for money is becoming an ordinary consultant. Knowledge sharing is becoming a duty – the mentor is obliged to deliver as he/she gets money – while it should be a part of a relationship between a mentor and mentee. It is also good to have a mentor who does not have any financial issues. Usually, economic stability is not only a proof of someone’s efficiency in professional life, but also gives the privilege to focus on other things than the monthly bills.
Why trashing people’s ideas is still so popular?
Why being rude and crude is so attractive in startup industry? Are we really such a masochists that we enjoy being trashed and treated like primary school students? Here is a surprise: nice and friendly mentors are not worse than I-don’t-do-bullshit mentors. Lack of respect to peoples work and their ideas should not be gratified and promoted. Especially when we consider early stage entrepreneurs who are still learning and looking for the right path to follow. We teach people it is OK to fail but when they do something which doesn’t make enough sense some mentors are very eager to choose hateful phrasing just because they believe being nice while giving negative feedback is like patting on the back. Really?
It is time to wake up
Programs managers and event organizers are often guilty for worshiping mentors a bit too much. Of course, we all should be grateful to anyone who devotes free time and resources to support startup ecosystems. But there is a huge difference between being grateful and idolizing.
We need to be aware that mentors get their gratitude anyway. Sometimes is just satisfaction from giving back, sometimes new connections, building their position in an industry or shares in new promising projects. And it is fine. Feeding egos of cocky mentors brings no value to the industry and may cause more damage than we all think. Humble and wise mentors are the ones who will bring teams to the next level, because they still remember how it was when no one was googling their names. We need mentors, not bullies.