If you remember the movie The Matrix, you’ll already have an example of an effective mentor. Neo is a computer hacker who has lived his whole life with the nagging feeling that something is seriously wrong with the world. He comes across rumors online about some mysterious phenomenon known as ‘the matrix’ and becomes obsessed with finding out more about it.
It is while searching for more information that he makes contact with a mysterious character called Morpheus, a man who then becomes his mentor. Right away, Neo is given a choice to leave his comfort zone and learn the truth about reality (red pill) or go back to his life of mediocrity (blue pill). After he chooses the red pill, Morpheus helps Neo to reach his potential – this is what real mentorship is all about.
It can be incredibly challenging to succeed as an entrepreneur if you just rely on finding your way as you go. The danger with this ‘trial-and-error’ approach is that you’ll end up making bad decisions that that you can’t recover from.
The benefit of having a mentor is that this person can offer you expert guidance, provide you with a different perspective, give you access to their network, and help you develop your skills as an entrepreneur. A mentor is not there to do your work for you, but this individual can provide you with advice and support so you can run your business more effectively.
“Colleagues are a wonderful thing – but mentors, that’s where the real work gets done.”
Finding the right mentor can be a real challenge. These individuals are usually going to be offering their services for free, so it is usually up to you to find them and not the other way around. You need to be careful because relying on an inappropriate person could set you on the wrong path – you want to avoid taken advice from people who are bossy, manipulative, or narcissistic. Some of the qualities to look out for in a mentor would include the following.
A Track Record of Success
“The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.”
William Arthur Ward
You are going to have no trouble finding people who are willing to offer you advice about how to run your business. The problem is that too often it’s going to be a case of ‘do as I say, not as I do’. Do you want to be taking business advice from somebody who has no track record of success as an entrepreneur? At best, these mentors are only going to be able to repeat second-hand wisdom they’ve never managed to apply to their own lives – at worst, the advice they offer is going to be plain wrong. The message here is to not expect people to be able to give you what they don’t have.
The right mentor is going to be somebody who has done more than just talk about success. The ideal candidate may have tasted plenty of failure along the way but will have treated such setbacks as valuable learning experiences. It isn’t always necessary for your mentor to have experience in your particular industry, but you do want somebody with a track record of achievement. If you are not impressed by the credentials of potential mentors, you probably don’t want to choose them as trusted advisers.
Someone Who Shares Your Vision
If your mentor doesn’t share the vision you have for your company, it may mean you feel pulled in opposite directions. For example, if you place a high value on your business always behaving ethically and transparently, you probably don’t want to be advised by somebody who believes in success at any cost.
The risk here is that a mentor who doesn’t share your vision could knock you off track, and you could end up managing a company that doesn’t reflect your values. A mentor who shares your dream is going to much better at keeping you on track and motivated.
Someone Who Is In Your Corner
It is fantastic that there are experienced entrepreneurs out there who are willing to act as mentors. The only downside of this is that some of these individuals are doing it for the wrong reasons. Some people become mentors as a type of ego-trip, or they may be trying to gain some personal advantage by getting involved with your business.
You need a mentor who you can trust to be in your corner – any advice you are given should be based on your needs and not any hidden agenda.
Someone Who Is Able To See Your Potential
“A mentor is someone who sees more talent and ability within you, than you see in yourself, and helps bring it out of you.”
One of the common reasons successful entrepreneurs agree to become mentors is their ability to recognize potential. They may see something in you that reminds them of themselves when they started out in business. This ability to recognize your potential is a wonderful gift, because it means the mentor can guide you to greatness. You may have no real idea about what you are capable of achieving, but a quality mentor can spot your hidden qualities and encourage you to blossom. This is exactly what happened in the Matrix when Morpheus agreed to mentor Neo.
An adviser who doesn’t recognize your potential can do more harm than good. This individual can feed into your self-doubt rather than motivate you to up your game. If the mentor believes that you are already working at your full-potential, how can this person lead you to anywhere other than where you are now?
Somebody Who Is Willing To Give Up Their Time
It’s not much use having a mentor if you never get to spend any time with this person. It’s understandable that successful entrepreneurs are going to be incredibly busy, but you want somebody who is going to be able to spare a few hours for you at least a couple of times a year.
It’s also going to be incredibly helpful if your mentor allows you to call them occasionally in the event of an emergency. If this person regularly cancels meetings, fails to return your calls, and always seems to be in a rush to get away from you, you probably need to choose somebody else.
The Relationship Is Focused On Your Business
It can be a bad idea to choose a mentor if you feel sexually attracted to this person or you suspect they may be attracted to you. These feelings just get in the way, and it may mean that the relationship becomes exploitative and ultimately detrimental to your business. There are many examples of entrepreneurs who lost everything because of their inability to separate work from their sex life.
A mentorship relationship can last a lifetime, but the likelihood is that a romance is going to have a limited shelf-life. The bottom line – if you suspect the person is just offering to mentor you in the hope that it will lead to a romantic relationship, it is unlikely that this person is going to be much of an asset to your business.