A lot has been written about why startups and entrepreneurs should get themselves a few mentors. Today I am writing to share why I make time to mentor startups. As I have spoken to others’ like me, I realize that we tend to have similar reasons. Feels like there is never enough time in the day for everything one wants to do. Assuming this is the case for everyone, why make time to mentor startups you ask?
Learn while you Teach I believe the best way to understand a concept is to explain it to someone else. “While we teach, we learn,” said the Roman philosopher Seneca. In my experience teaching is such a fruitful way to learn! If you are trying to help others understand a concept you tend to work harder to understand the material, recall it more accurately, articulate it better and apply it more effectively.
Grows you as a leader As an experienced leader one tends to rely on data but in the end ones’ gut. The gut is made up of all of your experiences so thats a wonderful thing methinks. However, I’m still learning to hold back my perspectives because the most important thing to do as a mentor is to help answer Qs they have for you. Where you have thoughts on their startup, ask intelligent questions so they can discover your areas of concern versus tell them that they are wrong. Why you ask? You can never be sure that you are in fact right - disruptive thinking comes from making connections of non-obvious data points. The last thing you want to do is demonstrate conventional wisdom and kill their disruptive ideas. Showing this restraint and helping your mentees through a self-discovery process certainly grows you as a leader. Plus, mentors that keep telling the entrepreneurs what to do are not very popular among startups, they already have their VCs doing that for them !
You get a view into new thinking Especially if you work in a large company this is really important. Large companies tend to have legacy systems and processes that keep you from seeing a more obvious and straight-forward customer experience. This could be your point of disruption. Fresh perspectives and approaches are often what you can take back to your company. You get a good pulse on what’s going on and what the new thinking is. For example, I think it is really interesting that many companies use social media as a way to communicate with customers and allow customers to communicate back. It is a new approach of being transparent about the company and their products. It is not only the content but how they company responds (especially to negative feedback) that adds credibility to the company.
You’ll meet like-minded people The number of people making the time to pay forward is growing exponentially. These folks will inspire you to do more and trust me you will be bowled over by how much they do. It is usually the most busy people that will find the time to pay forward. It is not about having the time, it is about making the time to pay forward. When you meet and connect with these individuals you have another chance to learn from them and their views while strengthening your own. If nothing else it will inspire fresh ideas since you’ll e stepping out of your normal circle of friends and associates.
It is just the right thing to do! You will feel great for having taken the time to help others and in your own way make a small dent in the world.
Everyone should mentor, it is quite amazing actually. Start by telling your story, where you’ve failed, where you’ve succeeded, where you’ve been scared, where you’ve felt on top of your game. There is always someone that will benefit from your experience and mentorship. You’re never too young to mentor. You’re never too old to be mentored.