What does it mean to be a Great Mentor?

If Life is hard, it is especially challenging for rugged individualists.  

Rugged individualism, derived from “individualism”, is a term that indicates the virtuous ideal where an individual is totally self-reliant and independent from outside assistance.

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I was a proud rugged individualist through school, into my first corporate job, and into my first 2 entrepreneurial ventures. 

In 2006 I came across Entrepreneurs Organisation (or better, they came across me…) and I began to change.  I learnt that you can make much wiser decisions when you allow others to guide you with their experiences and their questions.

I have had many mentors in these last 12 years.  I have been asked to be the mentor to others.  I feel underprepared to be a mentor.  David Cohen, founder of TechStars, wrote about the lessons he has learnt over 11 years of day to day experience in identifying great mentors for the entrepreneurs that form part of TechStars.

The Mentor Manifesto

Here is David’s mentor manifesto (full text on his blog: The Mentor Manifesto)

  • Be socratic.
  • Expect nothing in return (you’ll be delighted with what you do get back).
  • Be authentic / practice what you preach.
  • Be direct. Tell the truth, however hard.
  • Listen too.
  • The best mentor relationships eventually become two-way.
  • Be responsive.
  • Adopt at least one company every single year. Experience counts.
  • Clearly separate opinion from fact.
  • Hold information in confidence.
  • Clearly commit to mentor or do not. Either is fine.
  • Know what you don’t know. Say I don’t know when you don’t know. “I don’t know” is preferable to bravado.
  • Guide, don’t control. Teams must make their own decisions. Guide but never tell them what to do. Understand that it’s their company, not yours.
  • Accept and communicate with other mentors that get involved.
  • Be optimistic.
  • Provide specific actionable advice, don’t be vague.
  • Be challenging/robust but never destructive.
  • Have empathy. Remember that startups are hard.

If you liked this post on mentorship, you will also like How to be a good mentor and What is Mentorship?

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