Effective Mentorship

Recently, I crossed a passage in Let My People Go Surfing which deeply resonated with me because so few people seem to leverage the giving nature of others.

I had no business experience so I started asking for advice.  If you admit you don’t know something people will fall over themselves trying to help.  – Kris Tompkins

I love the humility and curiosity shown in this quote. It highlights an openness to feedback that is not regularly encouraged.  Often, entrepreneurs in early-stage, high-growth companies (like Patagonia was at the time) feel as though they are drowning in decisions that could make or break their company at a moment’s notice.

These situations create a strong need for honest, candid feedback on the tough choices that move a company forward.  The ability to deliver advice that is sometimes hard to hear relies solely on creating a relationship that is authentic and not artificially created.

The best mentors are able to challenge without being overbearing.  No one knows the business better than the founder, but the ability to have an open, fact-based debate with a mentor is always healthy.  Mentors should help guide when needed but the decision is ultimately in the hands of the entrepreneur.

Lastly, the best mentorships eventually become two-way streets.  I’ve been on both sides of the mentorship table, and it’s always exciting when I can do something to help one of my mentors.  It takes a great person to donate their time to invest in your success, and one of the most fulfilling aspects of the relationship is when you can turn the tables and return the favor.

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