Top 10 Best Practices for Mentors | Center for Mentoring Excellence

best_practice-resized-600Our recent annual Mentoring Matters Reader Survey revealed dozens of best practice topics. This blog is the first in our series of mentoring best practice posts soon to follow.  Based on our survey results, here are the top ten:



  1. Start by getting to know your mentee
    • Make sure you take time to get to know your mentee before you jump into the work of mentoring. Nothing of substance will happen until you establish a trusting relationship.
  1. Establish working agreements
    • Agreements lay the foundation of a mentoring relationship. Build in basic structures about how you will work together moving forward. Make sure you and your mentee agree on ground rules.
  1. Focus on developing robust learning goals
    • The purpose of mentoring is to learn. Learning is also the payoff. Make sure the mentee’s learning goals are worthy of your time and effort. Developing robust learning goals takes time and good conversation.
  1. Balance talking and listening
    • It’s easy and natural to want to give advice, especially because you’ve “been there and done that.” But mentees want more than good advice. They want you to listen to their ideas as much as they want to hear what you have to say.
  1. Ask questions rather than give answers
    • Take the time to draw out a mentee’s thinking and get them to reflect on their own experience. Ask probing questions that encourage them to come up with their own insights.
  1. Engage in meaningful and authentic conversation
    • Strive to go deeper than surface conversation. Share your own successes and failures as well as what you are learning from your current mentoring relationship.
  1. Check out assumptions and hunches
    • If you sense something is missing or not going well, you are probably right. Address issues as soon as possible. Simply stating, “I want to check out my assumption which is … ” will prevent you from assuming your mentee is on track.
  1. Support and challenge your mentee
    • Work on creating a comfortable relationship first before you launch into the uncomfortable stretch needed for deep learning. Mentees need to feel supported (comfortable) and yet be challenged (a little uncomfortable) in order to grow and develop.
  1. Set the expectation of two-way feedback
    • Candid feedback is a powerful trigger for growth and change. Set the expectation early on. Be prepared to offer candid feedback, balanced with compassion. Model how to ask for and receive good feedback by asking your mentee for specific feedback on your own mentoring contribution.
  2. Check in regularly to stay on track
    • Keep connected and develop a pattern of regular engagement. Both partners need to be accountable for following through with agreements. By holding an open, honest conversation about how you’re doing and what you need to do to improve, you encourage mutual accountability and deepen the relationship.

Source: Top 10 Best Practices for Mentors | Center for Mentoring Excellence

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Study: Startups See a Need for Diversity, But Fail to Deliver

7 in 10 startup founders say diversity is important, but only 1 in 10 startups are “diversity leaders” according to report released at Denver Startup Week.

Source: Study: Startups See a Need for Diversity, But Fail to Deliver

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The Power of Mentorship – Sven Winter’s Story

svenwinterThis inspiring young man, Sven Winter, is a new contact of mine on LinkedIn. He had already been a champion in the sport of ski cross at an international level which is something I have spent my life attempting to do and he retired at a young age after connecting with a mentor. Now he’s mentoring young business minded people through an organization called World Changers International volunteering his time to the initiative. The irony for me personally is that he represents the mirror image of my life in that he retired from ski racing to become a mentor and I’m doing the opposite. I have decided to retire from my career as a professional advisor & mentor to persue my lifelong passion for competative ski racing and coaching at the age of 58 which I chronicle about in my publication “Unsafe At Any Age” Coincidence we met? I think not. Here’s a video of Sven telling his story.

If we raise a generation of leaders who are certain in who they are, what they are meant to do with their lives and know exactly how to get there we can impact the world with the truth that:

“You can do something great with your life and live a life of fulfillment” and we will equip you on how to do so, so that you can help others do the same.

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Why Googler turned CEO asks employees to email idols – Business Insider

Liz Wessel says she has always been the type of person who has no shame in reaching out to someone, whether or not she knows the person. Wessel is the CEO and cofounder of WayUp, a site used by hundreds of thousands of college students to find jobs at places like Microsoft, Uber, The New York Times, Disney, and Google — where Wessel previously worked. Part of the reason she started WayUp with cofounder JJ Fliegelman was to combat nepotism, she says, “so it should make sense that I don’t really care about whether I have connections to a person.” “In college, my best cold email was to Roelof Botha, one of the top venture capitalists in the world,” she recalls. “He was a role model of mine, and I emailed him asking what he thought that I should do after I graduate in order to best position myself to one day start my own company: take a job offer at Google, or take a job offer at a venture-capital fund.” “He told me the former, and the rest was history,” she says. “It’s because of that first cold email that I have since always encouraged friends and colleagues to cold email people.” Wessel says she and Fliegelman started their company when they were just 24 and 25 years old. “We had a combined four years of full-time work experience, so there were often times that employees would ask us questions that we couldn’t answer or would ask us for advice that we didn’t want to get wrong,” she says.

Source: Why Googler turned CEO asks employees to email idols – Business Insider

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Why all startup founders need a mentor – StartupSmart

Did you know that 70% of business owners who use mentors will survive in business twice as long as those who don’t? Mentoring is a mutually beneficial relationship forged between a more experienced business person and someone who is less experienced to help them to achieve their goals and boost their morale. When undertaken effectively, it offers benefits to both parties, but it is first and foremost a supportive and encouraging relationship that focuses on the needs of the mentoree. With mentoring, the budding entrepreneur is guided and supported so they can reach their highest potential. For example, during his early days immersed in growing Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg consulted with mentor Sean Parker and was noted as saying: “Few people are as smart as he is.” The top benefits of having a mentor for your business include: Exposure to new ways of thinking A new perspective on challenges you’re facing Someone to ‘lend an ear’ when you need to vent or talk through your thought processes Advice on how to develop your strengths and overcome your weaknesses Strategies for growing your business An opportunity to gain knowledge and develop new skills The possibility of increased recognition and visibility within your industry through networking Increased confidence

Source: Why all startup founders need a mentor – StartupSmart

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Why More Entrepreneurs Should Seek Out Mentors

This is series is brought to you in partnership with the Consumer Technology Association (formerly the Consumer Electronics Association). You can read the rest of the series here. “Founders have a tendency to drink their own Kool-Aid and can convince themselves it tastes good when perhaps it needs more or less sugar,” described Invisionate founder and CEO George Stepancich when asked why he thinks it’s important for entrepreneurs to seek out mentors. An experienced entrepreneur and a mentor himself for the Consumer Technology Association’s Mentor Program, Stepancich knows all too well how crucial it is for entrepreneurs to have trusted advisors. Unfortunately, for some entrepreneurs, there’s this innate unwillingness to seek mentors – and this could hurt them in the long-run. The Myth of Entrepreneur Self-Reliance “The myth of the American entrepreneur is based on self-reliance: a single-minded obsession with a goal, with a bit of arrogance sprinkled on it,” said Paul Sabbah, president and founder of Stamford International. “The arrogance serves a vital purpose – it convinces the founder that they won’t fail, despite the odds. But it also makes them less open to mentorship, for fear that taking advice somehow cheapens their accomplishment.” While entrepreneurship necessarily involves starting your own business, you shouldn’t misinterpret it as something that must be pursued without help or advice from others. On the contrary: the road to entrepreneurship is paved with the footsteps of many, all working together to make something succeed. According to Greg Borchardt, managing director and cofounder of Caerus Ventures, the most successful entrepreneurs are actually the ones that actively seek out advice and feedback – whether that’s through a mentor or a group of advisors: “[These entrepreneurs] understand their strengths and weaknesses, and they surround themselves with people who have complimentary skill sets. Successful entrepreneurs are open to continuous learning.” Entrepreneurs (even serial entrepreneurs) don’t know everything. And, even if you did, it’s not necessarily a bad thing to have people keeping tabs on you. Even if it’s just having someone else reinforce your certain beliefs or strategies, having a mentor can help.

Source: Why More Entrepreneurs Should Seek Out Mentors

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A Better Way To Find Mentors and Advisors For Your Growing Company — Medium

There was a time when a CEO was surrounded by a bevy of willing advisors. An experienced board of directors or a seasoned angel investor was there to keep you from falling on your face and guide you through the rigors and pitfalls of running a company. But, those days are long gone. It’s all lean start ups and breakneck sprints to market. And, with a new company getting funded every five minutes, seed money coming from crowdfunding and institutional investors overseeing portfolios of 30 companies or more, you can’t get that sort of support anymore. Maybe other experienced independent mentors and advisors exist but how do you find them and how do you work with them? The VCs are sensing the change too; First Round Capital just announced how independent advisors can work with their portfolio of companies. I’ve advised 50 companies, started a dozen of my own and watched friends either fall down flat or go out and score 10-digit success. And, something became abundantly clear: world class mentors and advisors were vitally important. Without them, companies are far more likely to fail and while today’s CEOs surely have the brains and the guts, they might lack the experience. That’s why I helped develop and launch Bad Ass Advisors. Imagine having the ability to get answers to questions like “how do I move from Kickstarter backers to being distributed at Best Buy” or “how can my SaaS company build an internal sales culture”. The answer is experienced tech execs (check out some of our who’s who) who can guide your bad ass company in exchange for monthly slivers of equity. Get advice from those who have done it before, truly enjoy advising and mentoring and who have the expertise in the areas you need.

Source: A Better Way To Find Mentors and Advisors For Your Growing Company — Medium

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7 Places to Find Your Own Small Business Mentor | SCORE

BusinessMentorNo matter what type of business you run, having a “mentor” to help guide you can increase your odds of success. Having a wise, loyal advisor – especially one who’s “been-there, done-that” – is like money in the bank. Mentors can’t make decisions for you.  That’s your job.  But their expertise can be invaluable as a sounding board or reality check.  Mentors aren’t in it for the money.  Generally they work with business owners for free, for the satisfaction of helping out. So how do you find such a person? Here are some places and organizations that help match mentors with business owners or startup entrepreneurs: SCORE ( is probably the best-known organization providing free (and confidential) mentoring to small business owners via its national network of some 13,000 retired business executives, leaders and volunteers. SCORE’s volunteer mentors share their expertise through both in-person and online counseling (via email). Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs) are another great source of free or low-cost help and advice for current and would-be business owners of all types in all locations. There are over 1,200 SBDC locations nationwide. For help locating one, visit Women’s Business Centers (WBCs) offer business training, counseling and other resources to help women start and grow successful businesses. To find your nearest WBC check the Office of Women’s Business Ownership at Minority Business Development Centers, part of the U.S. Department of Commerce, offer free help to minority-owned businesses through about 40 centers nationwide.  Visit the Minority Business Development Agency at Trade or Professional Associations: Many trade and professional associations operate mentoring programs for business owners just starting out. Some offer formal one-on-one mentoring sessions as well as group networking opportunities.  Check associations in your industry. Mentors for Government Contracting: If your business plans to sell to the federal government, the General Services Administration (GSA) offers a Mentor/Protégé Program designed to encourage prime contractors to help small businesses be more successful in government contracting and enhance their ability to perform successfully on government contracts and subcontracts. You’ll find it at Your Own Network: Who do you know? Is there a previous boss who was very inspiring to you or a friend who is a business owner? Ask that person to be your mentor or share his or her successes and struggles. You have nothing to lose. Just be prepared to share with them why you chose them in particular, your goals and what you are looking for from them. The best way to connect these days is LinkedIn. Make sure you’re on it! Here are some tips for getting the most out of a mentoring relationship: Be organized, prepared and consistent. No one wants to waste their time if you aren’t serious about success. Plan your mentoring sessions in advance. These could be as simple as having a one-on-one consultation or lunch meeting once a month to discuss where you are against your business goals, how best to tackle business obstacles, getting advice on business processes or regulatory requirements that you don’t understand, and so on. Casual one-on-one sessions are good, but also have more structured sessions that address different aspects of starting, running, managing and growing your business. A good starting point is for you to prepare a detailed agenda of items to discuss at each meeting. Take notes, take change of your “action items” and review progress against these in your next session. Be respectful of your mentor’s time. Use their insight and apply as you best see fit. It’s still your business.

Source: 7 Places to Find Your Own Small Business Mentor | SCORE

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Mentoring to Build a Better Profession

In addition to being personally beneficial, mentoring is a way to help cultivate and improve a profession that you are passionate about. It is a means for transferring technical knowledge as well as an opportunity to model and promote your educational, ethical, and professional values to others in the field.That’s why it is great news that, in round numbers, 65% of respondents to a recent CFA Institute Financial NewsBrief poll reported that they have mentored fellow finance professionals. It’s also good news because there is never a shortage of interest from early- to mid-career investment professionals for such career support.Have you voluntarily and proactively mentored fellow finance professionals?Of those who reported mentoring experience, 15% did so as part of formal programs. Certainly formal processes abound. At times in the past, these programs were primarily designed to help the development of high-potential employees for succession-planning purposes. But companies have found that mentoring is a good recruitment and engagement tool for all levels and types of employees and have grown or launched internal programs accordingly. Moreover, many firm alumni and professional associations — including several CFA Institute member societies — run mentoring programs. There are opportunities to plug into a formal mentoring structure for those who are interested.Half (50%) of respondents  mentored in an unofficial way. This likely includes many in managerial roles who look to mentor — not just supervise — their direct reports and, in turn, build more effective teams around them. In the book Managers as Mentors, Chip Bell and Marshall Goldsmith compared this process to panning for gold. The gold is mixed in with a lot of sand and you have to patiently shake away the excess so that you can sift through for the nuggets of gold. Managers are in a particularly good position to help their reports work through challenges, patiently shaking away the sand, and then sifting for the insights that help their staff develop.

Source: Mentoring to Build a Better Profession

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How to mentor and inspire an employee – Smart Business Magazine

There are many learnable skills in the food service industry: food cost and payroll management, effective ordering, inventory and stocking techniques, food preparation and facility management. These are industry critical skills; while they do not necessarily transport to smart business in general, what does freely translate across all businesses is the ability to communicate and coordinate with nearly everyone and inspire them by being a mentor to perform, successfully, the tasks that need to be done… with a smile. When we find someone with this wonderful skill and we see it is also accompanied by other important leadership skills like discipline, hard work, integrity and “smarts,” we single out this rising star and go to work. Some folks call it the “fast track,” although there is nothing especially fast about it. The accelerated learning pace always proceeds at the speed the star can absorb the information and the experience. How fast and how well the person “gets it” is an indication of the magnitude of the star. So, let’s say you have a rising star on your hands; a real high achiever who has the potential to do big things for your team and your business. How do you effectively develop this person to his or her full potential?

Source: How to mentor and inspire an employee – Smart Business Magazine

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