Through and elsewhere, I asked for thoughts on mentors and proteges. A wealth of comments came in, mostly through MBU.  It seems there are numerous styles yet no universal definition of mentoring. Below is a partial list of mentoring
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The Ins and Outs of Paid and Free Mentors

Thursday, 15 January, 2015

in Business Planning

Through and elsewhere, I asked for thoughts on mentors and proteges. A wealth of comments came in, mostly through MBU.  It seems there are numerous styles yet no universal definition of mentoring. Below is a partial list of mentoring styles, pulled from the comments. The world of mentors is fascinating, large, and, in a sense, it’s an unseen world of great significance operating within the broader, everyday world

. Organic/informal (unpaid) mentoring See comments from David Leonhardt, Phil Johnson, Gordon Diver, Brandon Schaefer


. Structured or semi-formal (unpaid, paid) See comments from Phil Johnson, Pat Weber, Maxwell Ivey, Lindsey Rainwater


. Formal (paid) coaching See comments from Jeffrey Romano, Phil Johnson, Lindsey Rainwater, David Leonhardt, Maxwell Ivey


A few unexpected viewpoints!

. Two-way mentoring  See comments from Gordon Diver, Liudas Butkus


. Unspoken, organic mentoring See comments from Beth Bugdaycay, Lindsey Rainwater

The Interviews

Gordon Diver says

I have had the opportunity to mentor younger business people and high school students that have run their own companies for the summer, and it was a highly rewarding experience. As I have gotten busier, I have adopted a couple of ideas that I learned from Simon Sinek and Adam Grant.

In Sinek’s case, he noted that now he will only mentor someone who agrees to mentor him as well. The essence being that the mentee should look for opportunities to share and provide mentorship to him. Last summer, I had the occasion to do so. The young woman I was mentoring on business was able to teach me some things as well. It made for a much more meaningful exchange of ideas and dialogues.

From Adam Grant, I learned from his book Give and Take   that one of the case studies built a staggering network on the concept that he would do anything for anybody if he could do it within 5 minutes. An example would be to help arrange a meeting for mutual connections that possibly could help each other. Or, in another instance, provide a quick tip on how to do something.  It is really quite astounding what can happen.

Phil Johnson says

There are two scenarios here.  The first being that someone asks to be mentored.  That’s often a way of asking, “Can you give me all your information for free?”

The other is that someone has set themselves up in business as a “mentor”, whether that be as a consultant, coach, or angel investor.  That’s a formal arrangement that benefits both parties.

A better way of approaching it, if you have nothing to offer that mentor back, is to keep it casual.  I’m happy to answer questions every so often from people that reach out to me.  That only takes a few minutes.  But unless you’re in the business of being a mentor or derive some other benefit from it, it’s tougher to be formal with it.

Jeffrey  Romano says

At the moment, I have two mentors.  I am friendly with both, but ultimately, their mentorship is a service that I am paying for, as both of them are world-class thought leaders. If someone wanted me to mentor them, I would probably direct them to a more established mentor. The reason is that I’m not focused on mentoring at the moment. I’m focused on building my business and in helping people in other ways, such as through my blogging, information products and consulting work. Being a mentor is a significant responsibility, so I think one needs to be very well-prepared before taking that role. Having a mentor is also very important and one should make sure that the mentor is the right match for him/herself.

Patricia Weber says

When I was an employee, not many managers were into mentoring. They were either managers or supervisors and what would be considered today, old school. Too bad for all of us who were in those kind of business situations.

When I started my first business in 1990 I discovered the US SBA (Small Business Administration) offered a mentoring program. After formal introductions at a meeting, we were all on our own. My mentor was wonderful She had a successful floral shop in a city about an hour away. We would meet half way, we would telephone as email wasn’t all that big in our area then. She was encouraging, we got to know each other personally within the year of the program. It was a highly valuable experience.

You asked about immediately saying yes or no if I were asked to be a mentor. I’m an introvert so there is rarely an immediate yes (or no) from me. I think everything through. Having said that, what would make me give a speedy yes, is if the person asking me to mentor them could demonstrate certain behaviors to me in our conversation. We’d likely have a couple of meetings before I would commit either way. The speedy no would be a response if those behaviors that I know, and are generally known for a successful mentoree, weren’t evident.

David Leonhardt says

Over the years, I have mentored many people, especially my direct reports on various jobs. I have always liked to get the best out of the people on my team.  The downside is that those people usually end up growing and are soon ready to take on bigger things than I can offer.

I have never formally mentored someone, other than as supervisor.  I don’t think I would accept a request to “be a mentor”.  For me, a mentor relationship is something that grows organically.  To do it formally makes a person a consultant or an advisor, which is not quite the same thing as a mentor.

Lindsey Rainwater says

I was reading your request for opinions, and although it didn’t clearly define “mentor”, I was thinking about coaching being a type of mentorship. I’m a coach, and so I work with people all the time, and I try to make it relaxed and fun – not too formal. I also have a coach of my own, and talking to her is like talking to any friend whose opinion I value. It’s fun and productive. When I think of a mentor, I think of anyone you go to for advice. To me this could be a parent, friend you look up to, teacher, or a paid coach – but I realize others might not consider someone a mentor if they’re being paid.

Maxwell Ivey says

I’ve had several mentors. They have all been online.

I have mentored a few people, all of them other blind people. One is an aspiring travel writer who is making great progress.

For me, whether or not I am someone’s mentor, or they hire me as a coach (which is what I want to be) it all comes down to deciding if they are ready. The key question is: Have they gotten to that point where they know what they want, or at least know they want something more or better in their life? They have to have the desire to put in work; Not just the actual doing, but the soul-searching, brainstorming, and personal investment in walking their path. Some people talk about it as rock bottom. I don’t think that is a necessity, but most people do need to go through some sort of tragedy or failure before they are ready to make big changes.

If I get the feeling that someone is a it’s always someone else’s problem then I’m not interested. And if after starting they fail to follow through on the goals and deadlines we agree upon, that would make me not want to continue with them.

Brandon Schaefer said

I’ve had several mentors, and I still, to this day, have multiple mentors. I’ve also had the pleasure of being a mentor to multiple people as well. All of my mentoring activity has been natural and organic, and they’ve all been built through positive relationships. For me to say yes to mentor someone, I need to know them for a while and make sure that they’re really up for the challenge of pushing themselves… no slackers accepted. I’d say yes to mentoring someone if I saw a natural ability within them, for whatever they’re trying to achieve, but I need to know you, or have you come from a strong recommendation. If I don’t know you, or you don’t come highly recommended by someone that does know me, it’s going to be very tough for me to say yes to mentoring them.

Beth Bugdaycay of Rebecca Taylor says

I don’t recall having official mentors. I can identify some retrospectively. What I mean is to treat almost everybody around you like they’re a mentor. Ask questions, listen, and filter. Then someday you’ll notice you reflect more often on one piece of advice than another. And, if you have the opportunity to speak with that person more than once, and you notice you consistently reflect more on their advice, then that’s the person who mentored you. But as it’s happening, you might not see it. My guess is that you have a mentor, or several mentors around you right now.

Liudas Butkus says

Well, I had internet marketing coaching. Not sure if that’s the same thing. It was just a more intimate marketing training. It offered immediate responses when you needed it and extra motivation. If someone wanted to be mentored by me, I would say yes only if they provided some kind of value for me

If you talk to anyone who has achieved success they will always tell you about the mentors they have had along the way. Talk and try to connect with people who are where you want to be; most will share how they got there so you can follow in their footsteps.

As you are searching for the perfect team of mentors you need to think what to achieve from each relationship. You can find mentors everywhere. Network with many people in and around your area of interest: Use Twitter, LinkedIn and even local MeetUp groups to make high quality connections

Universal Musts

  1. Respect – You need to find a mentor who is respected in his field – This way he will be able to give you introductions you need
  2. Support – Your mentor must be there for you through thick and thin. He or she must truly believe that you have what it takes
  3. Access – Ideally you must be able to actually meet up with your mentor. Emails and phone calls will work most of the time but there are times when only a face-to-face will work.
  4. Tough Love – Your mentor must never let you ignore his advice. He will always get tough if you are skimping on the work.
  5. Discreet – You are going to be telling your mentor things you have not discussed with your spouse. There needs to be a lot of trust there.
Alex Yong

Alex Yong Intrepid reporter

This article is contributed by my good friend Alex Yong. That’s him on the right of the photo.

Alex Yong is a general assignments and events reporter for Small Business Trends ( ) and a friend to PR agencies. He reports on announcements from corporations like Facebook, Paychex, IHS, and Acer. Alex was named an influencer and PR resource in Cision North America’s list of the top 50 Twitter accounts utilizing rich media in January 2015 along with Ann Smarty, Lee Odden, Michael Stelzner and Gini Dietrich.

Alex’s “hobby blog” focuses on tech trends. He is also a LinkedIn blogger ( ) writing about issues important to PR industry mavens, agencies, solo PR practitioners, event professionals, etc. Alex can be reached on Skype at YHSmanhattan

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