As a professional business mentor, I often explain how to be a great business mentee.
This is because prospective mentees usually ask something like ‘Gee I would really like a mentor. Will you mentor me?’
That’s nice. It’s flattering, even.
But when you say that, what I really hear is this:
‘I am vaguely dissatisfied with where I am in business, but not so much that I can be bothered expressing it succinctly. Will you waste some time with me while I work myself out?’
Harsh but true. When engaging a business mentor, it’s natural to start thinking about the sort of person who would be the best mentor for you.
The real secret is to start by learning how to be a great business mentee.
Life is short, and as a business mentor, I only have limited capacity. I want to spend that precious time with mentees who are organised, motivated and inspirational. They are the sort of mentees that inspire me to be the best mentor I can be.
It’s a well-known aphorism that you attract like-minded people. The best way to find your perfect business mentor is by being a great mentee. So, start with thinking about how you can be the sort of mentee that the best mentors would want to work with.
Who are you, and why should a mentor want to help? An advanced level of self-awareness is very important in a mentee. What are your strengths? More importantly, where are your ‘gaps’ or areas of development, that you need help with?
This is important to prepare you for being a great mentee. The only way you can find something is if you know what you are looking for.
It’s not always easy to see what you lack – to know what you don’t know. The price of discovering this usually less than the cost of getting the wrong mentor. Talk to some colleagues or peers and be brave enough to ask them where they think you can improve.
Know where you need help
Mentees usually need a mentor with at least one of three specifics attributes:
- Technical prowess
- Detailed understanding of an industry or process
- Wisdom and counselling skills
I recently had a conversation with an entrepreneur in medical technology. He was just about to leverage his product invention to a global scale, which would require mass production and then distribution on several continents.
It was a super impressive situation but still, with all of this, there was a need for their key people to be mentored. I had to make it clear to him that if they needed a mentor that understood supply chain logistics, I probably was not their guy. I know nothing about it!
However, if they needed a sounding board to sanity check their business model thinking and assist them personally in staying focussed, then I potentially I could add value.
Do you need someone with past practical experience in your field? Do they need to understand the industry players and dynamics to help you achieve your goals? It’s easy for a mentee, involved in their daily grind, to forget how labyrinthine their industry can be to an outsider.
Another example: My background is in financial services specifically and international finance more broadly. I understand how finances and financial services markets work, who the players are, some of the politics involved. Some of my clients have sought me out for this particular reason. But ask me for a similar depth of appreciation in, say, Education, then I can’t help.
Life is short...I want to spend my time with mentees who are organised, motivated and inspirational. They are the sort of mentees that inspire me to be the best mentor I can be.
Wisdom and Counselling
Finally, if you need more of a wise head with a few grey hairs, then seek out an expert who can get you talking. Get a mentor with great counselling and questioning skills, who can show you a helicopter perspective on your issues. Someone who can return you to your guiding principles in order to arrive at innovative solutions. In these cases, it is the life experience that counts rather than, say, being a hot-shot python programmer.
With business mentoring, this manifests as an understanding of business models and drivers. It shows in a mentor with negotiating skills and a broad background working in different businesses. Often, it’s a great idea to find a mentor that has worked in a similar scale business to yours.
Set the Agenda
As a mentor, my priorities are ensuring that we focus on the key areas that need change, and that we meet frequently enough to keep momentum. That’s it.
If you say that X is your priority, ok. I might challenge you later on if I see a deeper need, but my job isn’t to prove you wrong.
If you decide you would rather meet weekly than monthly – OK again. You’re the boss.
An important part of being a great mentee is understanding your rhythm and finding a mentor that will work within that. They should challenge assumptions, sure. But you are the client, so have a definitive opinion on what works well for you.
A Fantastic Example
Here’s an example of a fantastic mentee statement, you can check out the original here on Reddit;
I’m an aspiring Entrepreneur working on building my business from the ground up. I have over 15 years in banking operations, people management, process optimization, compliance, and quality in the Financial, Pharmaceutical and Medical Devices industries. While I excelled in what I did, that nagging entrepreneur in me always had a louder voice, which is why I made the decision to start my own business. While making money is essential for any business, the bottom line isn’t my fuel and rather creating an impact through my products is. I know what values are critical to me personally and in the business I’d like to build and grow someday, I am confident in my skills, I’m relentless in my pursuit to making my vision come to life, and did I mention I absorb info like a sponge?
I would love to work with a mentor experienced in manufacturing physical products (specially in areas such as formulation, sourcing and manufacturing process as a whole). The closest industries would be cosmetics, cleaning products, skincare, consumer or industrial products but I’m open to learning the from different industries. I identified my weaknesses, I am focused on my own growth, working on my mindset, building my network and gathering intel on consumer needs & behavior daily.
Now, let me be crystal clear, I understand time is precious and I do not take yours nor mine for granted. I also understand the experience and network you have honed over years of trial and error is a treasure and I do not take that for granted either. My hunger for building and learning is a 2-way street, and I’d like to give back as well. So tell me how can I add value to you and your business? What needs can I help you bridge or contribute to its growth?
Honestly, when I read this, I wished I did have the specific experience they were looking for, as this is a person I would love to mentor!
A Not-So-Fantastic example
I am looking for a mentor to help me with getting started for my seo agency. I can build a good landing page setup social media accounts for growth and know b2b marketing knowledge. But I want an experienced mentor to point me in the right direction
Do you see the difference between the two? Our second mentee has a vague idea but that’s about it. No serious mentor wants to spend the first 15 minutes working out what ‘the right direction’ is.
How to be a Great Business Mentee
Finding the right business mentor for you starts with being a great business mentee. Be the sort of business mentee that will attract the best business mentor for you.
The good news is that this is totally within your control.
Need a hand in working through this? Want to see if I am the right business mentor for you? Contact me today to get started.