Before You Get a Mentor, Here's One Thing You Need to Know

Before You Get a Mentor, Here's One Thing You Need to Know

Many entrepreneurs believe mentors are vital to their success. Someone with more experience in business who can answer questions, expand your network, help guide you through times of transition, and weigh in on big decisions.

And while it's true that mentors can be a valuable asset for budding business owners, there are a few things you should know before seeking one out. 

In episode seven of TGIM, we spoke with business mentor expert Lois Zachary to learn more.

In this interview, you'll...

  • Find out how a mentor can help accelerator your business goals
  • Discover the most important component of any mentor/mentee relationship
  • Learn what mentors and mentees should strive to accomplish within the first 90 days

Check out the full interview below:

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Speaker 1: "The concept of an older, wiser, friend offering advice and guidance has its roots in Greek mythology. Modern mythology has its mentors and mentees too. The poet Maya Angelou helped guide Oprah Winfrey. Steve Jobs mentored Mark Zuckerberg. Madonna has been a sounding board for Gwyneth Paltrow. Then there is perhaps the most famous teacher student pair in modern mythology, Yoda and Luke Skywalker. Who could forget the scene in the Swamps of Dagobah, in which the 9000 year old jedi master hangs off his young pupil's back, castigating him all the while."

Luke: "Tell me why I can't-"

Yoda: "No, no, there is no why. Nothing more will I teach you today. Clear your mind of questions."

Speaker 1: "Yoda's style is a little mysterious, somewhat brutal, kind of top down. Lois Zachary is the author of 4 books about mentoring, including, The Mentor's Guide and The Mentee's Guide, and she would not recommend that style of mentoring these days."

Lois: "We've come a long way from the mentor as the sage on the stage. Rather, the mentor is the guide on the side that asks questions that take people to deeper places of insight. It's a dance, it's a partnership and a mentor should not be giving the answers, should be raising the questions and should be helping the mentees to seek answers to their own questions."

Speaker 1: "Yoda certainly had that part down."

Yoda: "Do. Or do not. There is no try."

Speaker 1: "Now there's a sentiment most entrepreneurs can relate to."

Jen: "My name is Jen Laughlin. I'm from a company called Schoolhouse Gluten Free Gourmet. Today we are making deliveries, doing errands, setting up, closing down a market, fielding phone calls, emails and social media. No big deal. Regular day."

Speaker 1: "Jen and her husband Aidan have been in business for 7 years making gluten free baked goods. Their business has grown rapidly. They now employ 7 people. For Jen Laughlin, as for Yoda, there is not try. Only do. Though she's got that mentorly aphorism down pat, there are some other aspects of business with which she needed help. When Jen's busy day was done, we found a quieter place to chat."

Jen: "I started to work with a mentor 2011, when we started to evolve into a wholesale side of business. Basically for me, a mentorship relationship is when I nee the advice from someone who has more experience than me."

Speaker 1: "Lois zachary says this a great reason to seek guidance. Just as president's carefully consider their first 100 days in office, Lois says for mentors and mentees, it's the first 90 days that matter. That's the time to lay some ground rules, develop trust, really steer the relationship. Jen Laughlin is naturally inclined toward those kind of conversations."

Jen: "Yes, we had a preliminary meeting and we talked about what would be our goals for our relationship. Some ground rules that we set were obviously confidentiality, trust, we sort of have to establish trust. We also said, I guess a project end date. For me at that time, it started with getting our products to wholesale, so that's how it started. Once that was established, we re-evaluated our goals and decided if we wanted to continue our relationship further. Almost like a project."

Speaker 1: "Now Lois Zachary applauds this kind of textbook approach to beginning a relationship with a mentor, but she cautions, all those conversations and groundrules, all that goal setting and checking in. She says that is all for naught if mentees don't follow one vital commandment. Be yourself."

Lois: "It's really essential to be open. If you're not willing to be vulnerable, and not willing to be authentic and real, then your mentor actually ends up mentoring else, and it becomes waste of time for you and a waste of time for them."

Speaker 1: "What is that? Your mentor could end up mentoring someone else? Let's hear more about that, Lois."

Lois: "You have to be yourself, and sometimes mentees find themselves in a mentoring relationship with someone we hope they admire, they respect, that maybe has more power than they do in the organization. Maybe they're intimidated by them. But it's important that you don't shine on and pretend to be someone you're not, because here's a learning opportunity, to take you from where you are to where you need to grow and go."

Speaker 1: "That definitely resonates with Jen."

Jen: "In my situation, I was asking a stranger to be my mentor and thought that she was amazing, and of course at the beginning you're putting on a bit of a front, "Of course I have all of these things ready to go for you, and I will set an agenda and I will meet it. I'll just knock it out of the park." Then we start to have better conversations about reality and how when you're a business owner, sometimes you make a list of things to do and you pick away at them versus set goals that are potentially aren't achievable. A lot of times, you're faking it til you make it anyway, right? You learn something. You go out and you find the knowledge. You try it. You smile. You're like, "Oh yeah, of course, this is great." But really you're like, "I have no idea what I'm doing."

Speaker 1: "Now, once you've reached your project's end, it's time for another conversation. Lois says, now that your mentor knows your strengths and weaknesses you might choose to continue the relationship with new goals, or perhaps you use your mentor's network to find a new mentor who can help you move on to the next stage of your development. Although that is not quite happened when Jen and her mentor parted ways."

Jen: "I got pregnant and had twins."

Speaker 1: "Talk about a plot twist, but Jen's confident the credits haven't rolled yet on her relationship with her mentor. She thinks there's potential for a sequel. You feel you can pick that relationship up again?"

Jen: "Yes. Yes. She's a mother. That's the nice thing about the moms and the entrepreneurs. They're like, "Oh, yeah, yes, so that happened. That year happened.""

Speaker 1: "That is the kind of understanding even Yoda couldn't offer as a mentor."

Yoda: "Nothing more will I teach you today. Clear your mind of questions."


Show notes:

About TGIM: TGIM is a podcast for people who can’t wait for the week to start. In each episode we’ll be bringing you inspirational stories about entrepreneurs who have overcome obstacles, built incredible businesses, and are now living the life they want.