Business tips from SCORE: The power of mentoring

Cape Cod Times
Cape Cod Times

In Walter Issacson’s "Einstein: His Life and Universe" we learned, surprisingly, that this genius was not very good at math and understood from early childhood it was OK to seek out a mentor to help him.

So what is mentoring?

A mentor is frequently defined as a person who guides a less-experienced person. An effective mentor needs to build trust and model positive behaviors. It is essential that a mentor understands his or her role and is authentic and engaged. Most importantly, a mentor needs to be tuned into the needs of the mentee.

Mentoring focuses on the verbs: guide, support and inspire.

Mentoring can be applied at three levels: micro, mezzo or macro.

When mentors guide individuals, business owners or executive directors interested in starting a new business, thinking about strategic activities, re-branding, marketing, developing or refreshing business plans, fundraising and/or finding new markets and opportunities. This one-to-one mentoring could be called micro mentoring.

When mentors assist small groups of people, perhaps stuck in conflicts or in interpersonal disputes. This could be called mezzo mentoring.

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Mentoring can also extend to nonprofit organizations with board development, board governance, strategic planning, succession planning and fund development. This might be called macro mentoring.

Mentoring has been the subject of a lot of research and has been found to be extremely helpful to the mentee’s success and very satisfying to the mentor. Almost every effective business or nonprofit organization’s leader can name a mentor who helped guide them on their journey to success.

We tend to think of mentoring as an older person assisting a younger person learn the ropes. But now we see many younger people mentoring older people as they struggle with social media or Zoom tricks. Age doesn’t really matter anymore.

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Below are a few tips for mentors. Good mentors:

Guide their mentee along their journey. Remember, it is their journey.

Listen and assist when appropriate.

Be strengths-oriented — build on the existing strengths of the mentee.

Build confidence through reinforcement and praise.

Seek to understand and continuously check that you are being understood.

Set realistic goals.

Be a good role model.

Exchange experiences.

Build trust and mutual respect.

Build a positive relationship.

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Mentoring is really all about the relationship. Being positive and encouraging is crucial to becoming a successful mentor. It is probably impossible to encourage too little. We all like to hear that we are doing a good job and mentors need to give a lot of praise and encouragement while teaching important skills and letting the mentee practice and learn.

Contributed by Susan Chandler Ph.D., Certified Mentor, SCORE. Sources: The Mentoring Guide, Lois J. Zachary, 10 Steps to Successful Mentoring, Wendy Axelrod. For free local small business and nonprofit mentoring and life-long learning webinars/workshops reach out to SCORE Cape Cod & the Islands., or 508/775-4884

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