Death of the Mentor – Why traditional mentoring isn’t working for modern businesses 

Mentoring, mentor group

If you want to be a successful founder, you need the right support.

Finding the right person, or people to support you can provide a boost, a shortcut, a way to avoid some of the mistakes, or wrong turns that you might otherwise encounter on your entrepreneurial journey. Of course you can get there on your own, but the right support will just get you there quicker.

Many a runaway business success story features a far away look as the founder remembers the mentor that sent them down the right fork in the road. It’s no wonder so many entrepreneurs look for that one person that’s going to change their life, open that one door, share that magical one liner that makes all the difference.

Mentors are often mooted as a panacea for all founder ills, but I’m hearing more and more, especially from CEOs that the wrong mentor can actually slow you down and sometimes do more harm than good.

When we think of traditional mentors we tend to think of someone who has successfully completed the journey already. Someone that can give us some of the answers we crave, open some of the doors we can’t get through on our own.

But what if that advice was actually repackaged nostalgia? What if that meant that they lacked imagination about what was actually possible? What if they could only see things through their own lens? What if they thought that what you were trying to do wasn’t even possible – because they had never done it themselves?

For founders who are disrupting their industries, challenging norms, breaking long established rules, the right mentors can be hard to find. What’s more, in my experience, because they are ultimately engaged to share their experience, mentors can sometimes be reluctant, sometimes even stubborn, about seeing things from the point of view of even the founders they are trying to help.

The most common area that this falls down is a fundamental misunderstanding of the pace that disruptive, modern businesses need to be able to move at. With mentors counselling against risk taking and rule breaking rather than failing and, more importantly, learning fast.

For all of these reasons, many founders and CEOs are turning to peer to peer mentoring as an alternative. These structured groups of like minded business people with similar challenges but sometimes disparate experience is providing much needed objectivity and insight. Sometimes these are structured mastermind groups, sometimes group therapy, sometimes coaching or training programmes or as part of a wider structure such as an accelerator or incubator.

This coming together of founders alleviates not just the need for advice and support but also the loneliness that can so often prevail at this level.

About the author

Rebecca MorleyRebecca Morley is an internationally recognised executive coach who understands what it takes to develop leaders who can step up and lead with clarity, vision and confidence in fast-growth environments. Recognised as one of the top 50 coaches in the world by CV magazine, Rebecca Morley recently introduced 3rd House, a new learning and development programme for first time CEOs and founders of fast growth and scaling companies to prepare for a post-pandemic world. Having successfully coached numerous clients through the ever-changing pandemic landscape, Rebecca Morley’s Leadership and Development programme, 3rd House, directly addresses the unique challenges that fast growth and scaling businesses face as they reset their vision for what comes next. Broken down into three eight-week modules – Envision and Empower, Showing Up as The Leader You Want To Be and Creating the Conditions for Success – the programme is designed to empower and accelerate the development of CEOs beyond the steep trajectory of change.

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