How to Make the Most of Your Business Mentorship
I’m a huge fan of having a business mentor. Just as the best athletes practice harder than everyone else, they also seek top coaches to take their game to the next level. I was pretty ignorant about business when I started out, and it’s mostly due to having zero experience in the business world. Finding a coach and mentor allowed me to learn quicker than I could have alone, and avoid some common mistakes.
I’ve had many great mentors. The more intimate ones that I would call or meet in person early on in my career were Stuart Jenkins, Chris Hawker and Frank Agin, among others. I also had many mentors that I followed online such as Tim Ferris, Seth Godin, Carrie Wilkerson and Chris Brogan. Some I’ve become great friends with, as I’d email or call from time to time for advice, while others I would simply learn by following their example. I spent countless hours connecting with these wise individuals, asking them questions, challenging their thoughts and offering value to them in any way I could.
Knowing how to work with your mentor can make a huge difference in your success, whether you are starting a business or wanting to take your successful business to the next level. Here is a step-by-step guide to getting the most from that relationship, based on my own experiences.
1. Clearly identify your questions.
Be concise, but give enough background information to allow your mentor to understand the situation. Don’t waste the person’s time. Prepare ahead of your call or meeting with a list of your most pressing needs because you may only get five minutes. You want to be ready.
2. Be objective.
Don’t dwell on the stories in your head. Your mentor didn’t get to where he or she is by focusing on problems, blaming or making excuses. Step back from your personal situation and express your ideas from the outside looking in so you aren’t too subjective.
3. Consider the background of your mentor.
Ask for counsel in his or her area of expertise, and ask relevant questions. You may find someone you admire and respect who is making a lot of money, but if you are in the music business and that person is in the food industry, you will most likely not get far with this person’s mentorship. Some things cross over for general business matters, however, it will be more effective if you work with someone who is the kind of business person you would like to become.
4. Shut up and listen!
Try not to interrupt or inject “buts” or extra information. You asked for advice, now listen carefully.
Take notes or record your conversations with your mentor’s permission. Many things your mentor says may go over your head now but will make perfect sense to you in the future. Document and review advice from time to time to see how far you have come.
5. Be teachable.
Weigh the counsel you receive, put it into practice, then follow up with your mentor to process the results. It is a gift to your mentors when you implement their suggestions and they see how they contribute to your growth and success.
6. Add value.
This is critical, so pay attention: You may have found your mentor at an internship or as an employee, but be sure to bring your A-game and add value to him or her as well. Always ask what you can do, and follow up responsibly to deliver. Express your gratitude for your mentor's time and advice, but also utilize your platform to promote him or her. Be sure to refer business to your mentor whenever you can.
7. Pay it forward.
Remember where you came from and pass on the love when someone is looking to you to be their mentor. One day you will become the coach, so be sure to give as much as (or more than) you were given.
Lewis Howes is a New York Times bestselling author of The School of Greatness and The Mask of Masculinity. He is a lifestyle entrepreneur, high performance business coach and keynote speaker. A former professional football player and two-sport All-American, he is a current USA Men’s National Handball Team athlete. He hosts a top 100 iTunes ranked Apple podcast, The School of Greatness. Howes was recognized by the White House and President Obama as one of the top 100 entrepreneurs in the country under 30. Details magazine called him one of “5 Internet Guru’s that can Make You Rich.” Howes has been featured on Ellen, Good Morning America, The Today Show, The New York Times, People, ESPN, Sports Illustrated, Men’s Health and other major media outlets.