What makes a great mentor?
When we think about mentorship, we often skip over what it took to get to a place to be able to mentor – or that most mentors themselves are still seeking advice or counsel from others. I sat down with Gregarious Narain, a serial entrepreneur and founder, having founded more than a dozen companies over the past 25 years, to speak about mentorship in his life.
Greg has been at the forefront of influencer and content marketing. His current company, Fanbase, offers creators and influencers the first CRM designed for their audience. Previously, he co-founded Chute (YC W12), a user- and influencer- generated content platform raised $16MM before being acquired in 2018. Prior to Chute, Greg was the first employee and V.P. Product at Klout, the online standard for influence. Here are five lessons in mentorship to share with your teams.
Goldie Chan: How has mentorship positively impacted you?
Gregarious Narain: Mentorship has served me in two important ways.
First, and most importantly, it’s provided an opportunity for me to not only share from my own experiences but to also learn from them. In spite of all the experiences I have had in my own life, it’s not until I have had the chance to make them useful for someone else that I truly value and appreciate them.
Second, it’s been a source of inspiration. Entrepreneurship is a long, often thankless journey, and as I was transitioning out of my last company, it’s allowed me to re-connect with both new founders and ideas. This refuels both my passion and ingenuity.
Chan: Why do you believe in being both a mentor and mentee?
Narain: We’re never done learning and the best way to learn is to teach. Every day, there’s a chance to see something from a new or different perspective – transforming something new or ordinary into something special or significant. This makes us all mentees in the world.
At the same time, as a mentor, you have an opportunity to leverage your hard-won experience in new ways. Too often, we take for granted what we know and a good mentee can draw them out.
Chan: What is the difference between a mentor and sponsor? When do you need one over the other?
Narain: Both are individuals with experience, but I believe that there is an important distinction. Mentors leverage their experience to advise their mentees. On the other hand, sponsors are more actively engaged in advocating and creating opportunities for those they sponsor. In my experience, these roles need not be mutually exclusive, but it’s important to understand the nature of the relationship at its onset and as it evolves.
Chan: What should someone look for in a good mentor?
Narain: Finding a good mentor is challenging, but there are many willing to be mentors. I think that there are 3 things that everyone should seek out in a potential mentor.
First, expertise. Mentorship gives you a leg up from where you are, so you need a mentor with at least enough expertise to help you through to the next level.
Second, fit. Successful doesn’t necessarily guarantee a great mentor. Finding a mentor that communicates in an effective manner for you and your situation is critical for a good relationship.
Third, commitment. Mentorship is a two-way street and it requires a commitment from both sides. If either of you can’t meet the requirements the other sides perceives, the relationship is likely to go sideways.
Chan: What are signs of a bad mentor fit?
Narain: A bad mentor relationship can show itself in a few different ways.
– Good mentors listen to your concerns and provide you context, bad mentors insist on a right path regardless of context
– Good mentors understand you are on a journey and expect you to stumble along the way, bad mentors are unforgiving
– Good mentors respect your relationship and are present and helpful, bad mentors forget to show up and aren’t accountable
Mentors are an indispensable part of any strong career. Looking for a great mentor fit as well as always continuing to learn from others will help you rise infinitely higher in the ranks.