Mentoring Model – Mutual Mentorship or Paying it Forward?

Yesterday, one of my friend sent me this article written by Steve Blank about  Mentors, Teachers, and Coaches.   I wanted to shared it with you to get your perspective.  Steve makes great distinctions about the difference between mentors vs. teachers vs. coaches.   I completely agree with this.  He says

  • Teachers, coaches and mentors are each something different.
  • If you want to learn a specific subject find a teacher.
  • If you want to hone specific skills or reach an exact goal hire a coach.
  • If you want to get smarter and better over your career find someone who cares about you enough to be a mentor.

In the article, he also went on to define what has to exist for a mentoring relationship to form.  This is where I disagreed.  In this article, Steve Blank wrote “what made these relationships a mentorship is this: I was giving as good as I was getting. While I was learning from them – and their years of experience and expertise – what I was giving back to them was equally important. I was bringing fresh insights to their data. It wasn’t that I was just more up to date on the current technology, markets or trends, it was that I was able to recognize patterns and bring new perspectives to what these very smart people already knew. In hindsight, mentorship is a synergistic relationship.

I do believe both mentor and mentee/protege get something out of the relationship, but I don’t believe it has to be  mutual mentorship as Steve describes.   A mentor provides help to someone who values his/her experience and perspective .  What is absolutely needed for a mentoring relationship to form are personal rapport,  mutual inspiration (mentor is inspired by mentee’s potential and passion and mentee is inspired by mentor’s experience and wisdom), and a mutual agreement to enter into this kind of relationship.   The type of mentoring relationship Steve describes is just one kind.

I think of Mentoring most of the time is a “Pay it Forward” model.  I was lucky and still am to be mentored by great people who helped me learn from their mistakes and guide me in life or work.    I also “pay it forward” by mentoring other  folks that have passion and potential and wants my help.  Do I also learn from my mentees?  Absolutely, but it’s not why I agreed to be their mentor.  Ultimately I think personal rapport and mutual respect are what’s critical to make a mentoring relationship work.

In the article, Steve also talks about a person who asked him during one of his talks, “How do I get you, or someone like you to become my mentor?”  Steve’s response was  “At least for me, becoming someone’s mentor means a two-way relationship. A mentorship is a back and forth dialog – it’s as much about giving as it is about getting. It’s a much higher-level conversation than just teaching. Think about what can we learn together?  How much are you going to bring to the relationship?

I think Steve also couldn’t easily agree to be a mentor because that person didn’t know how to ask Steve to be a mentor.  They have no rapport with Steve and the person didn’t know how to express why Steve would be a great mentor for him and inspire Steve to care.   Asking someone and the process of building a mentoring relationship is an art in itself.    For tips on how to ask someone to be your mentor, refer to How to Ask Someone to be Your Mentor?

So be sure to find great mentors for yourself as well as pay it forward and take opportunity to mentor others.  What do you think?  I would love to hear your comments.

I am in your corner.


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