John Brandon’s article This Mentoring Tip Will Rock YourWorld Today from Inc. has a great quote regarding mentoring:
If you treat an individual as he is, he will remain how he is. But if you treat him as if he were what he ought to be and could be, he will become what he ought to be and could be.
The quote comes from a writer and statesman names Johann Wolfgang von Goethe who died in 1832, but it’s incredibly relevant today if you run a small company or lead a team of any size. It hit home for me because it is one of the best ways to mentor people.
If you are mentoring, stop trying to see the person for their current skill level. Don’t evaluate people on their current personality traits or knowledge, stop trying to push someone to make quick progress and excel at their current endeavors only. Start seeing the person you are mentoring for who they will become eventually(say, after you are done with the mentoring).
This is why I always try to start my mentoring sessions by asking the founder where it is they are trying to get to, what it is they are trying to accomplish. Because mentoring is not about the present, it’s about the future. What the founder wants to build, for whom and why. As mentoring usually starts very close to the birth of a venture most of our time will be spent with the growth and development of the founder and their company.
So it is critical that we see the founders and their ventures as they “ought to be and could be” – our advice, guidance and feedback will help them get to get there. That’s why, while intros are important, given the limited time we have in a mentoring session focusing on “what’s next” is critical, not what’s come before. As Mr. Brandon concludes:
If you can somehow muster the outlook that your mentoring will be effective, that the process will work beyond your wildest dreams, you will be surprised by the growth. You might also receive a note thanking you for taking the time to make it happen.