Mentoring: It’s all about trust

No one is successful in isolation. Behind every unicorn is a team of supporters, believers and early adopters and even the world’s greatest business minds have trusted advisors and mentors who have helped them navigate crucial moments. Mentorship plays a significant role in founder development and in the continued progression of top leaders. And with the right attitude, perspective and alignment, mentorship can provide a significant boost to your business.

I’ve had many mentors and sponsors both throughout my corporate career and now as a small business owner and many have – and still are – incredibly important to me for guidance and advice.  I had the opportunity to “pay-it-forward” and serve as a mentor for many different founders and businesses, particularly over the last five years as part of a mentor program set up through the Tyro Fintech Hub in Sydney. I’ve spent every Friday volunteering my time to support founders as they grow personally and professionally, particularly focusing on how businesses can scale internationally.

To me, the role of a mentor is one of honour. It’s an important relationship and should be treated with the highest level of respect and trust. I often feel I’ve gained as much from the experience as the founders I’ve supported. I also get an immense joy from seeing those individuals or business leaders go onto to enjoy their success. The problem, however, is that not every mentoring experience works out well for both sides.

Here are a few tips to help ensure your mentorship experience is positive and productive, whether you’re the mentee or the mentor.

  1. Set expectations in advance

It’s critical to set some ground rules before embarking on a mentorship engagement. Agreeing early on details such as how often you’ll meet, how you prefer to communicate and your goals encourages both sides stick to the commitment and helps ensure that the relationship continues to provide value.

It’s also worth discussing how either side can ‘opt out’ if the relationship isn’t proving as productive as hoped and reaffirming your commitment to confidentiality.

  1. Remember it’s a two-way street

 The mentee isn’t the only one who benefits from a mentoring relationship. Mentors should remember that they also have a lot to gain from the experience, including a new perspective on business challenges or emerging industry trends, a sense of satisfaction in helping others grow, a stronger professional network and the opportunity to reflect on their own skills and goals.

3. Be prepared for each session

As the mentor is usually the more experienced leader of the two, it’s sometimes expected that they should take the lead. But the mentee is actually the one who should drive what they want to discuss meeting. They should come prepared with specific questions or topics that they’d like to discuss and be accountable for taking agreed actions on board.

The mentor is responsible for guiding the discussion and helping the mentee work through challenges on their own. It’s not meant for the mentor to give out endless advice or to try to solve the mentee’s problems for them – so they shouldn’t be the one leaving with a long to-do list.

  1. Respect each other’s time

This should go without saying but being respectful of one another’s time helps ensure the relationship stays positive and focused. Don’t miss meetings, arrive late or overstay your welcome.

  1. Be honest

Many of the founders I’ve mentored were nervous and lacked confidence at the start. Most didn’t know how to start, let alone run a business. But by being honest with their fears and challenges, we were able to work through them and help them get on the right track. I admired them for being brave and owed them honest feedback as well.

  1. Be a good listener

If mentors don’t listen to their mentees, they can’t fully understand the experience, build trust or figure out how to guide them. Mentees also need to keep an open mind and remain ‘coachable’ in order to unlock the best from their mentor. Mentors should allow the mentee the space to express their challenges and concerns but keep the conversation focused with open-ended questions and to get them thinking with a ‘growth’ mindset.

  1. It’s all about trust

The relationship between mentor and mentee requires a high degree of trust on both sides. Particularly when a great deal of confidential information is shared. The mentee must know that the mentor treats the information with careful consideration, and the highest of confidentiality – what they discuss in meetings will never be shared. Once broken, trusted relationships may not be able to be repaired and could have a lasting, negative impact.

A solid mentoring relationship is about building rapport, staying focused on your goals and channelling a growth mindset that looks for self-directed problem-solving. If you can do that, you’re on your way to a more successful business.

If you are seeking a mentor, consider our “PowerPlay Program”. Details here:

FD Global PowerPlay Program