By Natacha Wilson, Accelerate Cambridge mentor
At Accelerate Cambridge I have the privilege of mentoring gifted and extraordinary entrepreneurs. Their talent and energy help them develop new ideas into sustainable businesses and bring a positive change to the economy, communities and the planet.
Mentoring is a rewarding experience which allows me to share my knowledge and skills to help individuals gain confidence, develop ideas, fine tune value propositions, get funding or secure a pilot.
The mentor and mentee relationship
Mentoring can mean different things to different people and it is important to establish a good mentor-mentee relationship from the start – based on trust and mutual respect. As a general rule, the mentee drives the relationship and sets goals whilst the mentor provides guidance, support and encouragement to help the mentee achieve his or her goals. It is also important to recognise that mentors will often help mentees further define their goals (into SMART goals) or break them down into smaller steps.
Crosby’s definition highlights the multiple components and benefits of mentoring from a mentee’s perspective. Entrepreneurs need that precious time and space where they can share their ideas in a safe environment and get initial feedback from their mentor. This helps mentees develop an idea, validate it or simply park it for the time being! Furthermore, entrepreneurs face a number of challenges on a daily basis which can affect confidence or energy levels. The support and encouragement provided by mentors can often help mentees re-focus and further develop problem solving skills.
A flexible approach
Working with entrepreneurs at Accelerate Cambridge, I have found that flexibility is one of the key aspects of mentoring. Each mentee will have preference in terms of the way they communicate with others and also learn from others. Mentors need to adapt their communication style to each mentee to ensure learning takes place and goals are achieved. This is why mentoring is so challenging and rewarding!
Associating mentoring and generosity may not come naturally and yet the two are very much linked. Both mentors and mentees need to be generous with their time, something we are all short of, and most of all both need to be generous with their skills, expertise and networks. Helping others fulfil their dreams is one of the most generous gifts we can give.