Share the Wealth – Mentor Someone

Wednesday, July 20 2011

Extremely successful people have two insights to share; they received help from others and they give back to their community. When people from your organization share the wealth of their expertise with others through mentoring, everyone in your community benefits.

The Canadian Youth Business Foundation (CYBF) provides mentoring for young entrepreneurs aged 18 -34, who want to start a successful business. They expect to help 600 young adults this year; making them one of Canada’s largest administrators of mentorships.

Here are some important concepts that I learned from my experience as a CYBF mentor.

Select carefully those who mentor.  Look for personality, skills and interests that fit with the protégés. This helps ensure people will work together well.

Create a mentoring agreement. Outline roles, responsibilities, and time commitments. Include obligations about confidentiality and conflicts of interest.  People bring different expectations to the table. Lack of clarity can cause the relationship to break down quickly.

Schedule regular meetings. This ensures meetings don’t get forgotten in the face of business pressures. Anticipating a meeting prompts participants to think ahead, increasing its productivity.

Create a formal structure for each meeting. It provides focus and ensures more gets done. You might ask the protégé to provide, in advance, a question to be addressed, which gives the mentor time to reflect and research.

Keep the tone informal and friendly. Start with small talk, enjoy each other’s company, and laugh.

Open the formal discussion by asking a question of the protégé. “How do you think this should be addressed?” This gives the protégé credit for their insights and builds self-confidence. The mentor adds ideas and suggests alternatives to the protégé’s approach during the discussion.

Ask the protégé to make a commitment to a goal and devise a plan to execute it. This can be as simple as a few action steps or as comprehensive as a complete success plan.  Ensure the protégé schedules time each week to execute the steps.

Keep the protégé accountable. Have him/her provide brief, regular reports between meetings. Accountability helps counteract the daily pressures of running their business.

Give strong, positive feedback after every report. Point out negatives without making them personal, perhaps sharing a similar mistake you made and how you learned from it.

Obtain regular feedback about how the relationship is working. Teachers ask, “What should I keep doing?  What should I stop doing?  What should I start doing?”  Make sure you both understand that not all mentoring relationships work and there is nothing personal if it doesn’t. Provide a simple, non-intimidating way to say, “Thank you, but…”

A protégé can receive immeasurable benefits from the gentle guidance of someone with more experience. They build self-confidence that allows them to take calculated risks. Their business grows, employing more workers, and contributing to their community.

As mentor, you know you have made a positive impact, as well as feeling a small sense of ownership in the success. A recent newspaper article described how a young woman I mentored, and her husband are expanding their restaurants in our community. Perhaps something I suggested contributed to their success.

How can you get started?  Contact an organization in your community that administers mentoring programs or click on the link provided.