Value of a Mentor

The Value of a Mentor

The Value of a Mentor

Mentor-mentee partnerships have, for centuries, been at the heart of thriving, forward-thinking civilizations and businesses. Think, for example, of how Homo heidelbergensis (+300,000 years ago) taught their children how to use tools and make fire, or the mentorship relationship between Plato and his pupil, Greek philosopher and polymath Aristotle. Vincent van Gogh was mentored by Jean-Francois Millet, and more recently, we have the famous mentor-mentee relationship between Warren Buffet and Bill Gates.

In our personal lives, we all have someone whom we look up to or lean on in times of uncertainty. In business, it should be no different. There is great value in having a mentor for your startup or existing company. Someone whom you can consult when in doubt or when you lack the necessary knowledge or skills to see a deal through. “Today, we use the word mentor for anyone who is a positive, guiding influence in another (usually younger) person’s life.” – Merriam-Webster Dictionary

There are all kinds of mentors: writing mentors, self-development mentors, business and startup mentors, you name it. The essence of a mentor remains the same, though, as defined by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary.

1 capitalizeda friend of Odysseus entrusted with the education of Odysseus’ son Telemachus
2aa trusted counselor or guide
The student sought a mentor in chemistry.

VERB: mentored; mentoring; mentors.
Transitive Verbto serve as a mentor for / TUTOR

Synonyms: Counsel, guide, coach, shepherd, tutor.
(Merriam-Webster Dictionary)

(Image Credit: Wikipedia Free Commons - Pablo E. Fabisch, illustration for Aventuras de Telémaco by François Fénelon (1651-1715), translated and adapted by Clemente Cimorra, Ediciones Peuser, Buenos Aires, 1956. Fénelon, archbishop of Cambrai, wrote the didactic Les aventures de Télémaque in 1699. Based on Homer's Odyssey, it tells of the adventures of Telemachus in search of his father. An extremely popular book in France, this picture is an illustration from one of its many editions.)

The word “mentor” originated in the time of Homer, a Greek author, and his work, the Odyssey, written around the end of the 8th century BC.

Homer writes of Mentor, the son of Asopis and Heracules and a friend of Odysseus (the Greek hero and king of the island of Ithaca), whom Odysseus asked to oversee and teach his son, Telemachus, while he (Odysseus) was fighting in the war in Troy.

Over time, the word “mentor” became associated with the transference of knowledge, information, and skills to someone less experienced.

The Value Created

Benjamin Disraeli, a British politician who was twice prime minister (1804-1881), famously said: “The greatest good you can do for another is not just to share your riches, but to reveal to him his own.”

To me, that is one of the most important aspects when mentoring – helping business owners and startups find their own riches, their own knowledge, and their own success through working together and sharing information and expertise. As the wise saying goes, “Two minds are often better than one.”


Why Even Consider a Mentor for Your Startup or Company?

The value a mentor can create is priceless. Think, for example, of one or two businesspeople whom you admire – did they have mentors? I can guarantee that 85% of all successful individuals today consulted one or more mentors during their lifetime.


There is tremendous value in the transference of knowledge, information, and skills from someone who has more wisdom and experience to another person who is willing to learn and grow. Through this transference of information, several things can happen:

  • Accelerated Learning
    A mentor can help you accelerate your learning experience in your chosen industry since knowledge and expertise are shared and transferred from a more experienced individual who has already achieved success in the industry.
  • Objective Observation & Guidance
    A mentor can also help you examine your own values, beliefs, mission, and goals in life and business.
    Often, we are so blinded by our convictions and beliefs that we don’t see the truth of the matter. Having another person look from the outside in can provide one with more objective alternatives. You, the mentee, can then use the mentor’s advice and feedback to either improve or alter your goals, mission, vision, and beliefs to create more successful outcomes.
  • Improved Perspective on Shortcomings
    A mentor can help you understand your shortcomings and either help you overcome these or show you how to hire skilled and knowledgeable employees and managers who can do what you can’t.
  • Professional Experience
    Due to a mentor’s years of experience in a field, they are able to guide and help you when obstacles and difficulties arise.
  • Invaluable Expertise
    Expertise gained over years of experience is more valuable than any algorithm. When you consult a mentor, you gain access to a wealth of expertise not available in any book, on the Internet, or via an algorithm.

The Mentoring Relationship

The mentoring relationship is not a charitable situation or a hand-holding event but a partnership built on trust, respect, and taking action.

The basis of a successful mentoring relationship is the transference of knowledge, information, and expertise. What the mentee does with the information they glean from their mentor is their responsibility. The mentee has to take personal responsibility for their action or i-action when working with a mentor. A mentor might supply the mentee with a wealth of knowledge and information, but the mentee might not apply it. A mentee should be proactive, honest and truthful with themselves and their mentor, willing to learn, and open to being challenged.

The mentor, in turn, needs to be patient, supportive, encouraging, and empowering, an excellent communicator and teacher, an active listener, and a partner who continues to challenge the mentee.


Principle Attributes of a Successful Mentoring Relationship

Building a successful mentor-mentee partnership requires both the mentor and mentee to embrace the following attributes:

Mentor Attributes
  • Desire
    The mentor needs to have the desire to teach someone with less experience.
  • Patience
    Patience is the key to most everything in life. Successful mentors have a lot of patience.
  • Relevant Experience & Availability
    A mentor shares relevant experiences and information with a mentee and ensures he/she is available for consultation and advice when the mentee needs it.
  • Skill in Developing Others
    A mentor is, in essence, a teacher who imparts practical and applicable knowledge. A mentor thus has to have the ability to communicate well with his/her mentee as communication forms the basis of transferring knowledge and information to the mentee.
  • Trust & Respect
    Trust and respect are two of the most important building blocks of a successful mentor-mentee partnership. Successful mentors have respect for their mentees and afford them the trust and time they need to learn and grow individually.
  • Allowing the Mentee to Grow & Find Their Own Path
    It is not the job of a mentor to hold the hand of their mentee all the time. A mentor provides insight, advice, guidance, and advanced knowledge, but the mentee has to take the next steps to improve themselves and their business by absorbing this new knowledge and processing relevant information.
Mentee Attributes
  • Desire
    The mentee needs to have the desire to learn from someone more knowledgeable.
  • Patience
    The mentee who has the patience to learn without his/her ego getting in the way will be the most successful.
  • Commitment & Availability
    The mentee needs to commit to a learning experience from his/her mentor. Without commitment, failure ensues.
  • Specific Goals
    Having a list of personal and business goals is extremely important before starting a mentor-mentee relationship. The mentee has to commit to setting goals and have an actionable plan to achieve those goals
  • Trust & Respect
    Without trust, all relationships break down. It is no different with mentor-mentee relationship. The most successful mentees trust that their mentors have their best interest at heart and afford their mentors the respect that they deserve.
  • Willingness to Ask for Help, Openness & Teachability
    The famous saying “You can bring a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink” is so true. A mentee has to ask for help and be open and teachable – even if they don’t always agree with their mentor.
  • Personal Responsibility & Accountability
    A mentor can do only so much. To be successful, a mentee has to take personal responsibility for their own learning, actions, and failures.

The mentor-mentee relationship has, for centuries, helped the next generation of entrepreneurs and startup owners overcome the knowledge and experience gap, decision-making difficulties, and the challenge of raising capital. If you’ve done everything you can in your business but are still hitting a wall, consider finding and working with a mentor. You might be surprised by how much value you gain.

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