Get mentors out of their seats – Show, don’t just tell!

A sales process flowchart drawn on a whiteboard.We had a great mentoring session the other day, thanks to the leadership of my colleague Beth Kahn. We were doing a pitch scrub for a founder and Beth came up with two great ideas on the fly.

It was clear that our founder was having a bit of trouble telling her story in a convincing manner. Cadence and inflection are very important when speaking and her delivery was flat. So Beth, rather than providing typical mentor feedback, asked Linda Lewi, the other member of our mentoring team, to deliver the founder’s pitch for us! Linda, being an experienced presenter, complied and showed by example how to deliver the vitally important verbal part of the pitch. No matter how good your slides are – and our founder did a very good job with most of them – if you don’t project enthusiasm, totally familiarity with your material and tell a story, the audience is going to tune you out.  It was clear that our founder got it, and we’re confident she can deliver her pitch just fine now that she’s seen how it should be done.

But Beth wasn’t done yet! I had criticized of one of our founder’s slides that showed the process her venture’s clients went through and how they benefited from the process. It would have been fine if she was emailing the deck to someone who had the time and interest to study the deck and that slide in particular, but for a presentation its complexity would cause the audience to either ignore the slide, or worse yet, resort to looking at their phones. I had suggested she create a much simpler, linear process flow, leaving out much of the detail that was in fact distracting, not informative.

So Beth said to me, Steve, why don’t you diagram the client process flow? I like diagrams, but no longer being in the business of creating pitch decks only critiquing them, it had been a quite a while since I had diagrammed anything. And since any first grader possesses stronger graphic skills than I, I felt a bit challenged. But I really like the founder’s venture and have given it a lot of thought over the course of several meetings. Because I did understand how clients moved through the venture’s process it was actually pretty easy to step up to the wall and diagram the flow in a simple, but effective manner. Everyone said, “That’s it!” and I knew it was pretty good when the founder stood up and took a picture of the diagram with her phone. I’ve now seen her version of my scribbled whiteboard diagram and it looks great.

This was a real breakthrough mentor meeting for me. Beth showed us mentors that there is more to mentoring than sitting back in our chairs and firing off bursts of feedback to the founder. There are times when we need to show, not tell. To lead by example. From now on I’m going to look for opportunities to get my fellow mentors out of their chairs and step to the front of the room or up to the whiteboard and show, don’t just tell!

Author: Mentorphile

Mentor, coach, and advisor to entrepreneurs, small businesses, and non-profit organizations. General manager with significant experience in both for-profit and non-profit organizations. Focus on media and information. On founding team of four venture-backed companies. Currently Chairman of Popsleuth, Inc., maker of the Endorfyn app for keeping fans updated on new stuff from their favorite artists.

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