10 Things I've Learned About Mentoring

Mentors can be critical to one's career and to the success of one's innovation. These lessons will help people on both sides of the mentor-mentee relationship.

According to polls, most people have fewer than three close friends. Most entrepreneurs say they have had several vital mentors during their careers, but I'm not sure they are telling the truth or just blowing smoke. The numbers don't add up. I have had the good fortune to have had three people in my business and professional life who I regard as mentors, whether they knew it or not.

On the flip side of the coin, I interact with a lot of bioscientists, entrepreneurs, and engineers. For some, I am a teacher. For others, I am an advisor. For some, I suppose, my role is as a mentor or sponsor. Sometimes, I don't know. But, here's what I do know:

1. I never really know the impact, positive or negative, I will have on someone, despite what they call me.

2. Most everyone will talk if you offer. A few will hear what you have to offer. Even fewer will listen.

3. There is a difference between being a mentor and a sponsor.

4. Mentor-mentee interaction effectiveness is related to the depth of the relationship and communications.

does not produce results. I continue to hear from mentees who I've never met in person thanks to the Internet.

Just calling it mentorship and codifying it

5. Both sides should have clear expectations and goals. The relationship should have it's own longevity and be terminated when the time is right. Hopefully, when that happens, it won't be the War of the Roses.

6. I like it when a mentee tell me I made a difference in some way. Reach out and tell them, no matter how long it's been since you have communicated. Remember, at some time you were foxhole buddies.

7. Some mentors are literally the driving force behind your failures or accomplishments and their encouragement, either living or in memory, is what internally motivates you.

8. Most good mentors have had good mentors and they want to pass it forward.

9. Know your strengths and weaknesses and be willing to expose them.

10. Your mentor is not the father you never had or the mother who ignored you. There is enough

entrepreneurial psychopathology going around as it is.

Entrepreneurs need education, resources, networks, experiential learning and mentors to succeed. When all is said and done, though, actions speak louder than words, so be sure your shoes are shined, you behave yourself and you smile. You never know when you are a mentor to someone. I sure don't.