in Canada, Mentors

The Mentor Manifesto by David Cohen

CC-BY Some rights reserved by pasukaru76
Attribution Some rights reserved by pasukaru76

I am continually amazed at the horror stories I hear from entrepreneurs about finding mentors. About mentors taking large pieces of the company and not providing any value in return. It was great to see David Cohen’s The Mentor Manifesto this morning. It is great to see David take the time from his 11 cohorts at TechStars and try to explain “What does it mean to be a great mentor?”. This is an extension of his tips for entrepreneurs that includes how to Find and Engage Great Mentors as part of his top twelve startup tips.

The Mentor Manifesto

  • Be socratic.
  • Expect nothing in return (you’ll be delighted with what you do get back).
  • Be authentic / practice what you preach.
  • Be direct. Tell the truth, however hard.
  • Listen too.
  • The best mentor relationships eventually become two-way.
  • Be responsive.
  • Adopt at least one company every single year. Experience counts.
  • Clearly separate opinion from fact.
  • Hold information in confidence.
  • Clearly commit to mentor or do not. Either is fine.
  • Know what you don’t know. Say I don’t know when you don’t know. “I don’t know” is preferable to bravado.
  • Guide, don’t control. Teams must make their own decisions. Guide but never tell them what to do. Understand that it’s their company, not yours.
  • Accept and communicate with other mentors that get involved.
  • Be optimistic.
  • Provide specific actionable advice, don’t be vague.
  • Be challenging/robust but never destructive.
  • Have empathy. Remember that startups are hard.

I hope that I can live up to the manifesto for the companies I mentor at UW VeloCity, FounderFuel and those I’ve been working with in Toronto and Waterloo.

  1. This goes both ways. The TechStars folks also talk about teaching the people being mentored how to be good at that. The typical experience as a mentor is you pour your heart out offering up any/all advice you can, then you hear nothing. If someone gives you advice, do your best to followup with them after you’ve acted on their advice. Mentors love hearing how their advice impacted you. Was it helpful, did you even act on it, was it bad advice?

    The better you are at being mentored, the more great mentors you’ll likely to be surrounded with.

  2. Agreed, 

    A lot of founders aren’t able to proactively take advice. Back in the day, I was lucky enough to have a coach, @SOLIDexec:twitter in Austin, TX, that figured out one of my character flaws and set to work correcting it. (The specific flaw was being ok with rejection and hearing “no”). It was a difficult but eye-opening experience. 

    My process has been fairly light weight.

    1. Mentees book meetings using Tungle or Calendar (ics) invites
    2. Calendar invites must list the 3 goals or metrics we will talk about including the measurement at the time of invite + the target for the meeting. 
    3. Open discussion about metrics and progress, followed by other open discussion
    4. Set the time and metrics for the next meeting

    I’m curious at how it is working with the companies I advise: @attachmentsme:twitter @buzzdata:twitter @tribeHR:twitter @vmfarms:twitter and @lymbix:twitter 

    There is room for improvement. 

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