Earlier this week I was presenting in front of a group of successful entrepreneurs, each of whom had built a business from scratch and turned it into a $10m+ company. As they talked about their businesses you could see the passion for their company oozing out of their pores. They had “made it” by almost every definition of the word but you could tell that their entrepreneurial spirit hadn’t waned. Their success had afforded them more control over their time but they certainly weren’t resting on their laurels. They were passionate about growing their businesses. This post is my first in a series on Leadership in Small Companies vs. Big Companies and covers how small companies can be more focused on hiring for passion.
Let me start by saying that I am a huge fan of Steve Blank‘s (@sgblank) work (I have linked to some of his recent articles below) and I did appreciate the distinction that he had drawn between teachers, mentors, and coaches in his article for LinkedIn. But as I read the article I found myself upset with his response to a question from an audience member. I felt that he had shown indifference to the audience member based on his response. The question was “How do I get you, or someone like you to become my mentor?” The individual was clearly asking for a suggestion on how to find a mentor. Steve’s response was “At least for me, becoming someone’s mentor means a two-way relationship. A mentorship is a back and forth dialog – it’s as much about giving as it is about getting. It’s a much higher-level conversation than just teaching. Think about what can we learn together? How much are you going to bring to the relationship?” Steve finished the article with this advice regarding mentorships “But never ask. Offer to give.” To me that advice sounds to close to, “I’m too busy, don’t bother me with your question.”
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