The entrepreneurial journey is tough and going it alone makes it even harder. Knowledgeable founders will tell you that having great mentors can make the difference between turning into a bright star or end up a flaming disaster. However, not all mentors are as useful as they ought to be. Some mentors give insignificant or bad advice to further their own gain. And there are always the deadbeat mentors who simply show up when they want something.
So, how do you tell if someone may be a fantastic mentor for you? And what should you expect from a terrific mentor? Here are three hints that will help you find a mentor that will meet your requirements, always have your back, and push you to do better than you imagined you could.
What good mentors do and do not
Every entrepreneur is unique and requires several kinds of support, information, networks and advice. A mentor who knows your startup’s unique market challenges and opportunities are as essential as a mentor that receives your shortcomings as a leader and creator. All of us have blind spots and most of us must be pushed. Terrific mentors give you what you request and, hopefully, what you need but did not request, but sometimes they miss the mark. Here are 3 red flags your mentor is not helping you:
1. If your mentor does not challenge you to handle your weaknesses and overcome your anxieties, your mentor is happy with the status quo: that is not good enough for you! Building a business requires doing the things we love and the things we wish we could hire someone else to do. Your mentor should push you to develop into your flaws and throttle past the challenges that frighten you.
I have frequently heard mentors working with startups respond to questions with questions. Mentors don’t need to have all the answers — but they do need to learn how to ask the correct questions. A mentor to slow down, listen and concentrate on you and your startup.
2. Avoid mentors who give identical advice after asking identical questions to each and every mentee they have. Instead, start looking for a mentor who actively listens to you as you describe your situation or predicament. Are they asking questions that help them understand the situation more before giving you advice? You know you have a good mentor when they give you advice that’s specific, timely and probably effective for you. Mentors worth your time give you their time.
3. If a mentor is not calling you back, does not appear for meetings or cancels with minimal notice, this mentor is wasting your valuable time. One way to ascertain if your mentor will give you a reasonable period of time would be to set expectations when you’re first exploring the concept of working together. A reasonable quantity of time to you may seem like lots of time to a busy, successful CEO or investor. I suggest meeting by phone for 30 minutes every other month and in person at the off months. However, great mentors know that if a startup they’re helping trips or falls, they may want to jump in and help get things back on track.
Do not be shy about checking in on the procedure with your mentor. Ask them if they’re pleased with the time and energy they are putting to your own success. Take note if your mentor says that they have a crazy month following month and offer to reschedule if this helps.