This column is part of Globe Careers' Leadership Lab series, where executives and experts share their views and advice about leadership and management. Follow us at @Globe_Careers. Find all Leadership Lab stories at tgam.ca/leadershiplab.
Most of what we hear about mentorship focuses on the importance of having a mentor. I want to share a different perspective, one that I have benefited from over the years and has even lead to my newest business venture – why seasoned entrepreneurs should actively seek a mentee.
Whether we are just entering the workforce or are looking to broaden our knowledge in our current position, we turn to mentors to learn from their successes and mistakes; ask questions; and use their insights to help carve our own path. As we grow in our careers, we often come across young leaders who express a desire to learn from our experiences. Of course it is rewarding to share our knowledge and help others grow – but the benefits of having a mentee don't stop there.
My mentor once explained to me that he met with young leaders for two reasons: to get inspired and to learn new things. He was someone who enjoyed hearing perspectives from different points of view and believed young minds could see things in an innovative way and taught me how to apply these differing perspectives to my own pursuits.
Following in the footsteps of my mentor, I put this learning into practice a few years ago when I met current mentee Sara Hodson, with whom I have joined forces at Live Well Exercise Clinic.
Working with Sara has taught me the value of combining complementary skill sets with a shared goal or passion. By finding a mentee that brings a new outlook and new skills, and allowing your own skills to fill in the gaps, you can even turn your mentorship into a full-fledged business partnership.
In my case, Sara brought the innovative concept, the expertise and the passion; I brought the experience of building national franchise brands. As we grow our brand across Canada, I can't help but reflect back on the key lessons I learned in finding a mentee.
Pick an area you are passionate about and that you need to learn more about: Look for an eager, curious, and knowledgeable mentee that inspires you in areas you aren't already well-versed in.
Choose someone who you like: Really like. You need to share similar core values, a similar purpose, and a desire to learn. The relationship has to be genuine, otherwise you will dread your meetings.
As an entrepreneur, mentoring is the best way to do your due diligence on a new concept: You will learn your mentee's business inside and out; you'll know where it needs to be better, and ensure that you are the right fit to get it there.
It is also the best way to discover if they are the right partner: Through a mentorship, you will get to know your mentee well; you will see them through the good and the bad and their strengths and weaknesses will be revealed. Partnerships are powerful if you get them right – and you better get them right, or they will fall apart quickly.
As in any business relationship, you will encounter challenges along the way. The beauty of business people with different areas of expertise is that you will often be pushed to step outside of your comfort zone and see things in a way that you might not have otherwise considered. As you grow your mentorship or partnership, the key is to keep your shared purpose at top-of-mind, and never lose sight of your values. Treat each other as equals and never stop learning from your mentee's perspective – no matter how many more years of experience you may bring to the table, their fresh approach may actually be better in the end.
John DeHart is co-founder of Nurse Next Door Home Care Services and Live Well Exercise Clinics.