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The first instinct we have as business people is to look for a solution. Problems pose a threat to our business, our livelihood, and stand in the way of our goals, therefore they must be overcome. This paradigm may be most efficient for advancing a business, but does not encourage learning. The “I’ve been there and it was worse for me” syndrome can be just as unhelpful.

We have all faced challenges and been under stress at different times. Focusing only on our shared struggles may give a little comfort, but doesn’t help in any way. Commiserating offers no hope for progress, only the knowledge that others have faced the same problems and survived, but not necessarily overcome.

Our Top Seven Tips for Mentorship:

A good mentor must understand their role is multi-fold.

They need to support and challenge the entrepreneur, while encouraging their growth and aiding them in development. Obviously the mentor has been successful in their endeavors, or they would not be in the position they are in now. That does not mean that everyone who does it their way will succeed, or that there is not another equally effective way to proceed.

A good mentor should not judge what they hear.

Mentors instead, need to try to be empathetic and understand how the entrepreneur reached the decisions and conclusions that brought them to where they are now. It is important to understand the paradigm of the entrepreneur right now, before presenting alternative perspectives. Often simply reflecting the facts of a situation without the emotional baggage will allow the entrepreneur to gain a new perspective on their own situation.

A good mentor examines the process that leads the entrepreneur to failure or obstacles.

When mentors are presented with failures or obstacles, the first instinct is to discard the process that led to the failure and find a different path. Often, the failure is a result of one small part of the process. Identifying and addressing that one element is more effective then starting over, and encourages the entrepreneur that they were on the right track. At the same time, considering other approaches can broaden the perspective and provide new avenues to explore in the future.

A good mentor helps the entrepreneur to: THING BIG!

Too often, we get so bogged down in the details that we can no longer see the big picture. A mentor has the ability to step back and see the forest, not just the trees. Look for patterns and tendencies in the actions and emotions of the entrepreneur. These will often be indicators of the underlying issues that they may not even be aware of.

A good mentor finds positive elements to draw strength from before thorny issues.

Nothing leads to failure quicker than burnout. Encourage the entrepreneur to step away from the issues for a few minutes. Regular R & R, refreshes the spirit and helps settle the nerves for the next challenge. Set aside some “safe” time when work WILL NOT be discussed. Never spend the entire meeting discussing problems. Ask about the most recent fiction book or movie the entrepreneur read or saw. Ask about their vacation.

A good mentor challenges the entrepreneur.

If they didn’t want a challenge, they would not have become an entrepreneur. But that doesn’t mean they know where to go from here. Help them develop specific goals and measurable results, and then push them to exceed them. We rarely set goals that we think we cannot reach, and we rarely grow without exceeding our own expectations. Your job is to push them past the limits they think they have.

A good mentor supports and encourages the entrepreneur.

Just as a team will reflect the attitude of their coach, you shape the attitude of the entrepreneur. Be honest, but be optimistic. You are living proof that failures can be learning experiences and that obstacle can be overcome. In the end, the quality of your mentorship is partly based on what the entrepreneur brings to the table, but also in a large part to what you are able to do with it together.

Be open, honest, frank, optimistic and completely down to earth.