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Mentoring requires a proactive approach and an open mind, especially in the beginning of the relationship. It is not complicated, but it requires emotional intelligence. Work on cultivating the following qualities for a successful mentoring relationship:
- Assertiveness. Stand up for your ideas if you feel strongly about them.
- Communication. Don't expect the other person to read your mind. Communicate often and early about the relationship.
- Curiosity. Don't be afraid to ask for clarification if you don't understand something. Follow-up questions help to paint a richer portrait.
- Patience. All relationships take time. Don't expect immediate results.
- Preparedness. Honor your word and follow through on commitments before each meeting.
- Punctuality. Even though this is a voluntary relationship, people are dedicating their time to you. Respect this by being on-time to each meeting.
- Self-Awareness. Know what you want to achieve from the relationship. A clear understanding of your purpose and desired result will help you to recognize relationships that will be mutually beneficial, and will prevent future confusion or disappointment.
- Openness. Your mentor may not always have the same background as you, but their knowledge may still be valuable for the development of your business.
- Trust. All relationships are built on trust. Once you've established a mentor's credibility, don't be afraid to take calculated risks based on their advice.
- Active Listening. Get to know the entrepreneur well before jumping into problem solving. Good listening will ensure that your advice is relevant to the entrepreneur.
- Clarity. Speak in clear, simple language. Emphasize business basics, and recognize that not all entrepreneurs have access to formal business or technical education.
- Sensitivity. Understand where the entrepreneur is coming from. The entrepreneur will respond better to advice that takes into account their unique situation.
- Walters, J., "Seven Tips for Finding a Great Mentor," Inc. Magazine (April 2, 2001).