• Mentoring

What colour are your mentoring lenses?

Futurpreneur | April 22, 2013

Without action, results don’t just materialize. We understand this all too well, and that’s why we tend to be primarily action-focused.  A mentoring challenge may arise and our instinct is to switch to solution mode.  How do you fix this? The general pattern goes like this: the challenge within the mentoring relationship presents itself, we find a solution, implement it, and of course correct – if required.

However, at our recent SAGE Mentor Think Tank in Vancouver, I was reminded of the importance of a missing step in this process.

Becoming conscious of an unconscious process

Here is an excerpt from one of the cases we considered at the SAGE Mentor Think Tank:

“Five months have passed since Tatiana’s grand opening, and there is less traffic to her boutique than she expected.  She has consistently missed her sales goals and the business is in jeopardy of closing. With each passing week, Tatiana’s enthusiasm for the business wanes.

Mohammad, Tatiana’s mentor, is finding it difficult to connect with his entrepreneur. Tatiana cancelled the last two mentoring meetings on short notice; she has not returned his phone calls, and email communications are rare and short. He’s aware of her challenges, and although marketing is not his expertise, he is certain they can work through her challenges – provided they maintain contact.”

Below is a list of assumptions mentors made about this situation:

  • There is no trust in the mentoring relationship;
  • The entrepreneur has an attitude;
  • She took the money and ran; and
  • She was too good for her mentor.

Mentors made different assumptions based on their experiences, beliefs, and values, and proposed next steps based on these assumptions.

Questions for consideration

  1. What other experiences (mentoring or otherwise) are colouring the way in which you see your current mentoring situation?
  2. What are the beliefs, values, and experiences your decisions are based on?

Recommendations for next steps

  1. Identify your own biases and assumptions about this situation;
  2. Try to look at the situation with fresh eyes.  Put yourself in this entrepreneur’s shoes.  Gain an understanding of her situation: what state might she be in? She could be feeling pressured, shocked, fatigued, overwhelmed etc.;
  3. Have you experienced something similar to Tatiana?  How would you want your mentor to work with you through a situation like this? Having met with Tatiana a few times, consider whether she would respond well to this approach;
  4. If you are not quite sure about next steps, here’s one way you could approach this situation: rather than adding to Tatiana’s pressure by sending emails or calling to request a meeting, you could acknowledge her current situation and the way she may be feeling in a simple email.  Remind her you are just a phone call or an email away, and that you are there as a support.  A gesture such as this can open the door for further discussion; and
  5. Keep in mind the course of action you chose and the assumption on which you based it.  You may need to reassess your assumptions going forward.


Resist the urge to react to a mentoring challenge and consider taking the time to make conscious the assumptions on which we base our mentoring ‘next steps.’

By Linda Morana, CYBF Mentor-in-Residence, lmorana@cybf.ca