The FEW Women’s Start-up Club wrapped up the year on June 29, with a timely presentation on mentoring and motivation for entrepreneurs by Patricia Bader Johnston. Patricia’s career in Japan has spanned the public sector, including the Canadian Embassy, and the private sector, including positions at Goldman Sachs and Japan Tabaco, corporate decision-making as a board member with IBM, and currently as a consultant and serial and social entrepreneur.
In an account of her career progression, Patricia explained that while she often made career choices based on family needs, she firmly stressed that she succeeded due to the guidance of mentors. She imparted her insights below, gained from her varied experiences as a mentee and as a mentor herself.
Save the date for the next WSC event on Thursday, September 28. Share your projects and passions and connect with other like-minded women who could help you in your entrepreneurial journey. More details coming soon!
Mentoring vs. coaching
- Coaching: Usually covers a specific issue over a period limited time.
- Mentoring: Can involve aspects of coaching, but it should be a continuous relationship to achieve ongoing personal and professional development and success.
- Talent alone is not enough to succeed in the corporate domain and will fail without support.
- Keeping relationships with mentors throughout your career can result in job leads. Mentors even have the potential to become clients.
- Mentors are your best branding tool: Everyone you stay in touch with will come back.
Mentoring for entrepreneurs
- Mentors as motivators: A sense of pressure to perform in a new role, all the while still developing your professional skills, can cause feelings of inferiority and loss of confidence. Mentors can help motivate, give advice, provide contacts and give constructive feedback.
- Mentors as experts: Starting up can be daunting. Look for mentors in areas where you don’t have expertise, for example:
- Revenue generation, govt. funding, and friends established in business, enterprises and with contacts can advise and motivate.
- Technical knowledge – you don’t have to be an engineer, ask an engineer for advice.
- Mentors as voices of support: Startups are daunting, and there can often be a lag between starting up and succeeding. Experienced mentors can offer support and encouragement, especially if discouraged by early mistakes after just making the big leap.
- Mentors as sounding boards: Many entrepreneurs need help with their focus, such as recognizing and putting a cap on ambition, working on what matters, and learning to be productive rather than just busy.
What’s needed from mentors
- Informed: Mentors should know your objectives and help keep you focused.
- Objective: Mentors should provide safe and nonjudgmental relationships and give constructive feedback with “no curls” straight talk.
- Experienced: Mentors should have at least some personal experience in what you are doing.
- Trustworthy: You should be able to share your ideas and have a good sounding board with a mentor, without fear of having your ideas poached – use your gut instinct to determine who to trust.
- Strong rapport: You should have a personal connection with a mentor, along with effective communication.
- Good listener: A good mentor must really hear you, your ideas, and concerns – in turn you must hear your mentor’s constructive advice for a mutually open and beneficial relationship.
A good mentor
- Experience matters: A good mentor is usually, but not necessarily, older and more experienced. But anyone with experience in your field can give valuable insights. Age and seniority can often be disconnected – in learning your business, don’t be afraid to ask for the help in the areas you need
Capitalizing on a mentorship
- Be proactive: Reach out and set up meetings, communicate with a mentor.
- Be clear: In your vision, path and communicating it – the person should not have to intuit or develop your plan for you, but give feedback.
- Be clear: Of your issues and articulate how someone can help.
- Keep a balance in communication: Use a mentor as a sounding board and share your ideas, but don’t expect explicit answers to build your business.
- Be honest and open: Rely on a mentor’s feedback and build trust.
- Be responsible: Make arrangements for meetings or communications, keep schedules.
- Be respectful: Of a mentor’s time and agenda, keep appointments and commitments.
- Be grateful and show appreciation: Also good to stay motivated, especially in lean times to avoid a ‘persecution complex’ when things don’t seem to be working well
Choosing a mentor
- Seek a good match and reflect on the relationship: Often mentors are accidental and not realized as such until later.
- Choosing a mentor should be unique and contextual to one’s needs: Like-minded corporate to corporate relationships or entrepreneur to entrepreneur make a good match. Corporate people often talk about the entrepreneurial spirit, but do not necessarily have the experience in the same innovation and business development that business owners do.
- Assigned mentors from programs are not always effective if not there is not good connection.
- Look around and choose someone you admire and would like advice from, or who you aspire to be like.
- Choose someone you trust and whose straight talk you value
Reaching out to potential mentors
Cold calls and follow-ups to an unanswered e-mail are acceptable if done with finesse and respect. But recognize and graciously accept when there is no possibility or interest in such a relationship from a potential mentor.
Being a mentor
Accept mentoring if asked and feel qualified to do so. Especially if you have had the advantage of mentoring, it’s good to give back. Also, someone mentored is a potential contact or client.
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