Image source Unsplash

How to be a mentor

There’s a lot of talking about mentors for entrepreneurs and how to get them, but about best practice for being a mentor and mentee. How do you get the most value out of a mentorship?

I’ve been lucky to have the opportunity to mentor a few startup founders over the years. It’s one of the best ways to truly pay-it-forward. I’ve also had wonderful mentors helping me forward. Sometimes, the best is to tell everything to someone that isn’t involved in your day to day life and understands the pressure you’re facing. I’ve heard of different processes and level of success with mentoring, so I wanted I’d share what I’ve found to be working the best.

There is no problem having several mentors. One can be good at your market segment, while others can be good helping you grow in your role as a leader. Regardless of the type of mentor, it’s critical to build trust to really be efficient and helpful. Trust is established through several meetings where the mentee opens up about his/her goals and needs, while the mentor exemplifies what part to help on through own experience and reflection.

The first time I met with one of my mentors, I got the task of writing my 10 year plan. The exercise helped me think through what I’m doing and where I want to go with my startup and life. That made it much easier for my mentor to be helpful.

At first, there should be an agreement in place between the parties on frequency. My recommendation is to have a fixed calendar event every 3–6 weeks. It’s important to address that the mentee can reach out if it’s needed outside of this interval. During the first year, the frequency should naturally be higher than lower, as both learn each other. I would recommend starting with a frequency of 3 weeks.

At the beginning of each session, the mentee should have an idea of the goal of the session. That way the mentor can be more effective to ensure that the mentee will have an action plan to tackle the challenges as the session comes to a close.

At first, the mentor should take an active role facilitating the discussions to ensure progress. After a while, this responsibility transfers to the mentee to take control.

At the end of the session, you should agree on a clear action plan on how to move forward. At the beginning of the next session, the mentee should share what’s the status of the plan and what worked/didn’t work and why.

The hardest part is definitely not telling your mentee what to do, but rather help them resonate with the best possible answer to a challenge. The mentee will always have more information that the mentor, thus, the mentor should focus on getting the mentee to properly think through all angles and suggest solutions that they can discuss together.

Set a date for evaluating the mentorship. That gives both parties an easy way out if it doesn’t work. Or something should be changed that is reducing the sessions value. E.g. the mentee doesn’t come prepared or that the mentor is easily distracted by his/her phone during the session.

Thanks to Tiff Willson and Torstein Berteig for reading drafts of this.

I’m taking on a writing challenge to publish something new every day for a week. If you want to read what’s next, subscribe here, and check out what my challenger is writing on her blog. You can also help me figure out what to write about by posting questions in the comments or on Twitter.

The Startup

Medium's largest active publication, followed by +565K people. Follow to join our community.

Aurora Klæboe Berg

Written by

Interim COO / Co-Founder & CEO @megacool_co. Previously @DirtybitGames, creator of @TheFunRun (100M downloads). MSc Engineering & Entrepreneurship.

The Startup

Medium's largest active publication, followed by +565K people. Follow to join our community.

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade