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).