"When you learn, teach. When you get, give."--Maya Angelou
The above quote was mentioned by Oprah Winfrey as she spoke at the memorial service honoring her "mentor, mother/sister and friend" Maya Angelou. "She was there for me always, guiding me through some of the most important years of my life," Winfrey said.
There is power in the mentor relationship--it guides you, it inspires you, it helps you see beyond your current circumstances and recognize what is truly possible. I have had numerous people come along side me and help me map out a vision for my personal and professional goals. I have also been honored to be a mentor to others, including one young lady, a junior in high school with dreams of being an entrepreneur, I recently met during the Generation W conference.
Being a mentor is a way of taking responsibility for the next generation--ensuring that we, as small business owners, are creating a quality pool of people employable for the future-- and we just might be creating a few entrepreneurs as well. But, what many entrepreneurs do not realize is that being a mentor also helps you be a better business owner. How?
Inspired by the words of Oprah's mentor, Maya Angelou, here are 4 things entrepreneurs learn through mentoring:
"All great achievements require time."
When you decide to become a mentor, you are making a commitment to steward someone through life and this, of course, takes time. You make this work for your schedule, finding pockets of uninterrupted time where you can stay focused on the mentorship tasks at hand and even using those moments of unexpected free time as an excuse for a quick check-in call or email.
Apply the Lesson: Prioritize time around business goals. Just as you do with your mentee, allot regular time on your calendar to work towards your big picture professional goals, treating them just like you would a regular "to do" list item. As small business owners we spend a lot of time IN our business, but not so much ON our business. By creating room on your calendar for focusing on your mission, you will ensure your business continues to grow and achieve the results you so desire.
"If you find it in your heart to care for somebody else, you will have succeeded."
As a mentor, you take a genuine interest in getting to know your mentee. You ask thoughtful questions about his or her interests, experiences, hopes--all of which allows you to give the proper advice and support that will lead them to find success, both personally and professionally.
Apply the Lesson: Show your customers that you care. As a social entrepreneur, I am focused on doing well while doing good--I truly want my customers to have a better, healthier and happier life, and in order for that to continue to be the foundation of my business, I need to engage with my customers in authentic ways. Use the Ask-Listen-Respond-Adapt approach: Ask your customers how they feel, listen to their feedback, respond swiftly to their concerns (or praises) and adapt your business to meet their ever-changing needs.
"I love to see a young girl go out and grab the world by the lapels"
Being a good mentor is not about giving the right answers--it's about pouring yourself into someone else and helping him or her identify the path--and the solutions--that will ultimately take him or her to their dreams.
Apply the Lesson: Empower your employees. As entrepreneurs, we tend to be problem fixers--we jump right into the situation and quickly try and create our own solution. While this works when our business is small, it doesn't help our business grow. You must hire smart and dedicated employees and then empower them with the tools and information they need to take action and make good decisions.
"You are the sum total of everything you've ever seen, heard, eaten, smelled, been told, forgot--it's all there."
One of the greatest gifts a mentor can give to a mentee is to share their experiences--the good, the bad and even the very ugly. Matter of fact, it is through the very ugly that we sometimes learn our biggest lessons.
Apply the Lesson: Embrace failure. While no one sets out to fail, failing is part of taking risks and is part of growing your business. When you do fail, analyze the situation, learn from it and then move on. Dwelling on the mistake does not fix it--making changes and moving forward keeps you growing.
Through the mentorship experience, we are able to share our knowledge and experience in hopes of shaping the next generation of leaders. However, we are also able to enhance our own entrepreneurial skills--allowing us to shape our own futures as well.
This blogger graduated from Goldman Sachs' 10,000 Small Businesses program. Goldman Sachs is a partner of the What Is Working: Small Businesses section.