HBR Blog: Get the Mentoring Equation Right

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I've got a new post up at HBR, co-authored with Bob Moesta.  It is the outline for my talk at the Women in Business Conference on October 29.

Mentoring is a big and timely topic, one that I'm wrestling with because I feel like I'm not mentoring as well as I used to — or would like to.

One thing that was interesting as I wrote this post with Bob was that he has a formal process for accepting mentors versus my very haphazard, willy-nilly approach.  He went so far as to provide a template for what he would say when approached, if he were me.  Because it was eye-opening, I want to share it with you.

Note of caution:

You may squirm as you read this.  You may feel that if you were to put this in front of someone that you were big-timing them.  That's normal – remember Anna Fels' work, we are only considered feminine when we are giving something to someone else?   Will you set that impulse aside for a moment, and consider the following:

  1. When you mentor you are giving something of value.  Because no money changes hands, it's important to get this equation right so that the relationship can remain intact;
  2. Sometimes we need to have others help us realize how much value we create — and I'm NOT just talking about in the workplace. (For example, a parent helping their child with homework — good tutors can cost $100 plus).  What if someone were to write out a contract like this for you, whether in a business, civic or personal context?
  3. Even when we don't charge money for what we do, affixing a dollar value, makes what we do more concrete, and I think changes our perception of the task.


Here's what Bob suggested:

Dear Prospective Mentee and Friend —

I take mentoring very seriously and I am not sure we all have the same definition so before we take a step down that path,  I want to clarify what you are asking for and what I am able to do, and the terms in which I am willing to help.

For me, my mentoring process starts with an application and assessment.  To be clear, If you are chosen I will do this for free, but you need to agree to my terms. I choose only one person a month to mentor.  If you are not chosen, you can re-apply in 60 days or you can pay for my mentoring services upfront (which are at $7500).

I have a systematic process for mentoring that is very structured. It lasts 60 days consisting of 8 assignments that will take you 40-50 hours of your own hard work to complete. We will talk on the phone for 8 x 30 minute sessions that will be pre-scheduled. Once you miss call, you are out. Each assignment must be completed 2 days prior to our call and posted. One missed assignment and you are out. At the end of the 60 days I will have passed to you everything I can to help you get to the next level as defined by you. Our mentoring relationship will have evolved into one of peers. To be clear, this is not for every one and it is hard.

I have this process for three reasons:  1) I have dozens of requests per month to mentor, and I only want to work with those who are ready to make the commitment and really want to make a difference in the world.  2)  My time is the most important resource I have.  I am in high demand with investors & companies from around the world, my family and my church, so my time is at a premium as is yours; 3) The mentoring is shaped by me but driven by you.  You make the choice, you make the effort, you make the progress.  I get the satisfaction of seeing you grow and and then help others.

If you are accepted, there will be three requirements:

  1. Write, document, video your 60 day experience to share with others on dare to dream;
  2. When you complete the 60 days, you will agree to mentor another person in the next 12 months using the same process.
  3. Our mentoring agreement will expire on the 61st day and any further or ongoing relationship will be framed as an advisory relationship (not mentoring)  and can be contracted only if we BOTH choose and for a retainer for no less than $10,000/month with a 6 month minimum commitment.

I look forward to reviewing your application (can be done on on google forms) and hope you are ready for the time of your life.



Richard Saul Wurman, the founder of TED wrote, “I am terrified and confident all the time.”  That pretty much captures how I felt when I read this.

What do you think?

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