Notes For A Better Mentor Mentee Relationship

Master the art of learning from the master


I’ve interacted with little over 100 startups as mentor across the global, from an up start in Bangalore to more matured startups in San Francisco, there are some striking similarities when it comes to how startups receive advice from a mentor.

While neither a mentor nor a prodigy come in a standard shape, there some fundamental tenets both can observe for making the most out of it, here goes:

How to select your mentor?

If you are part of an accelerator or incubator, more often you may not have choice to pick and choose a specific mentor. At best you may ask for a domain expert. So the first premise is to accept the who get whole heartedly.

Why mentors exist?

Almost all the mentors do it for free of cost and by spending their precious personal time, one must appreciate this to begin with, that being said, different mentors have different drivers – they impart knowledge and experiences to prodigies since they don’t want others to make the mistakes they did, they love to spread knowledge for building better good will and my personal driver is the derived from the famous maxim ‘to teach is to learn twice’

How to select mentees?

This is a tricky situation for mentors, a lot of bias comes into play here as well, rather than giving objective feedback, some newbie mentors start judging the startups or its founders, this creates friction and next time they are picky in selecting who they want to mentor; which is a sub optimal method in doing good to the world of entrepreneurship.

Master Shifu had no choice but to accept Poo as his prodigy.

How to get the most out of mentors?

Startups and entrepreneurs need to start with a mindset of unlearning; and be realistic about what to expect from a mentor session. There’s a notion of treating mentors as a magic wand to solve all the problems faced by a mentee, that’s extremely unrealistic.

Discuss solution and not just problems: Mentees and prodigies need to do their homework, define their problems well enough and more importantly have a handful of possible solutions ready, discussing which of the proposed solution is ideal with a mentor is more efficient than expecting to arrive at an impromptu solution during the mentor session.

In the movie The Intern De Niro does a role reversal of being an experienced person acting as a prodegee.

Best way to treat your mentees and prodigies:

Don’t expect them to follow your methods precisely. The idea of imparting knowledge is to make them self-sufficient and not to create a mirror image of yourself.

Some mentors even take offense when startups don’t implement their advice or take their conversation seriously, this is reality, as much as you have a wide view of things, the mentees’ too have a plethora of advice coming their way.

Mentors also need to evolve with time, their way of doing thing in the past may no longer be in vogue, after all if things are done the same over and again and don’t evolve, there won’t be any disruptions.