How mentoring can add value
Merely having experience does not make a great mentor. Sometimes it doesn’t even make a good one. Above all, mentoring requires curiosity and empathy. You must be able to apply these in a conversation and you must be able to recognise and cultivate them in the person that you are mentoring.
Today’s leaders are expected to show more than just talent and ambition. They are expected to demonstrate a high level of emotional intelligence.
When mentoring goes wrong
Using a local example, amongst all the young entrepreneurs that I have met in London, many have been through a startup incubator or an Accelerator programme and come out disappointed by the quality of mentoring they received.
Typically the mentor in question was a well-known “serial entrepreneur” with an impressive success story, and initially it was very exciting. For many, this may have been the very reason they applied to a particular programme. These mentors shared very generously from their experiences and had amazing personal learnings to share.
So what was lacking?
Without guidance on how to apply someone else’s inspiring experience and learnings to your particular product, business, team, investment need or other situation, those stories might just as well be anecdotes and memes circulating the internet. Unfortunately many programmes provide no training or coaching support for their mentors and just expect them to “know” what they’re doing.
Yet entrepreneurship is not one-size-fits-all. Some are hard-core developers, some are spinning out of uni and some are brand and marketing enthusiasts. All are excited and terrified about their future to a different extent and come equipped with different levels of self-confidence. If mentoring doesn’t address these differences in context and mindset, it can simply bounce off.
Mentoring in innovation
100%Open believes that innovation is a team sport. It’s crucial to understand the interpersonal dynamics in play and create conditions for great collaboration. To us this is the foundation of success in any collaboration.
In our core work of helping the suits meet the sneakers, we provide innovation mentoring to startups and many of our global and local clients across public, private and not-for-profit sectors.
Whether working with individuals or teams, we always focus on building business empathy. In its simplest form, business empathy means a deep understanding of both the employees’ and the organisation’s aspirations, pain points and opportunities.
In a 1-on-1 setting, business empathy helps innovators adapt their own behaviour to what might work best for each person they are talking to or working with. Applied more widely, business empathy helps people live the organisational values and create organisation-wide impact that resonates across teams and functions.
The best mentors help the other person grow as a leader and as a person, with some learnings for herself, too. You may not have had an official mentor but I’m curious nevertheless…
Who has been the greatest mentor for you in your career?