05 Jun 2014

Mentoring

By Lily

Over the last few weeks I have been chatting to all of our mentors about mentoring on BGV and thought I would share a few learning points.

 

Mentor/Founder chemistry can’t be forced, but you do have to try.

Many programmes will assign a specific mentor to a team who will be their primary go to for help and advice, if this relationship works then this is the ideal situation. But all too often mentor matching can end up like an arranged marriage, with both parties putting up with each other but not really getting along. So we have always taken the route of leaving teams to do their own matchmaking and see who they develop chemistry with.

However, there does need to be a certain amount of social manipulation for these relationships to form. You can’t just shove a load of people in a room with each other and expect sparks to fly. So we are trying to find a middle way.

 

Mentors get a lot out of sharing their time and experience

Sometimes as a startup you can feel like you are constantly hassling people to pay attention to you and you end up feeling a bit like a toddler shouting “LOOK AT ME” in a room of oblivious adults. However that is often far from the truth, people want to help. And if they don’t reply to emails immediately that is probably because they got it at a busy time and forgot about it. Don’t be afraid to ask again.

 

Mentors might not be experts in your subject area but they can ask good questions.

You will often know your sector much better than they do, but mentors can often ask the “why” questions in a way that sheds light on something previously overlooked. Good mentors provide you with a reality check and a sounding board for ideas before you commit lots of time, money and effort. They should not make decisions for you but rather should ask a lot of questions, based on their experience and expertise, and encourage you to come up with your own answers.

 

Mentors are people too

In popular culture mentors are often superhuman beings who shower down knowledge from some all knowing upper plane. But actually mentoring is far more about listening and empathising while asking constructively challenging questions and actively finding ways to help by sharing experience, contacts and time. We seek out mentors who are able to be patient but know when to push, and are honest enough with themselves to recognise their own habits and shortcomings. People who know that success is as much about context and luck as talent or ambition and have a sense of humility about their own achievements.

You can read all about BGV’s wonderful mentors here. And please do get in touch if you would like to be involved.