This article is the second in a two-part series about managing mentor relationships.
Spoon feeding, in the long-run, teaches us nothing but the shape of the spoon
The young entrepreneurs in our clubs and summer program often look to their mentors for the “right answer.” Trouble is, entrepreneurship is a journey of testing and discovery. There are no right answers. The role of a mentor isn’t to tell you what to do, but to challenge you to think more deeply and explore new perspectives.
In our last article, we provided tips and templates to help you as you schedule meetings with your mentor. Below, you’ll find a sample agenda and ideas for running a productive mentor meeting.
How should you prepare for your mentor meeting?
As your meeting approaches, you’re likely to feel eager to share some ideas with your mentor. DO NOT email your mentor to share these questions or ideas. Show your mentor that you respect their time by saving all questions and conversation topics for your scheduled meeting.
A couple days before your meeting, sit down with your team to put together a meeting agenda. Your mentor will be able to help you talk through some of your company challenges, but they don’t know your company as well as you do. Your team has to be ready to drive the discussion.
Here is a recommended adenga for your meeting. Notice that the time adds up to 50 minutes—be respectful of your mentor’s time by not letting your meeting run over an hour.
Greetings and introductions
Build rapport with your mentor by asking them about themselves!
Ex. What do you do for work? How did you get into that? What college did you attend? What do you like to do when you’re not at work?
|What you've already done||
What have you accomplished so far?
Ex. So far, we’ve identified a business opportunity and we’ve done our customer research. The way we went about research was by interviewing elderly people on their routines, preferences, and challenges for
What you’re doing now
What are you working on now?
Ex. Now, we’re working on designing our prototype.
|Challenges and questions||
What are you unsure about? Your mentor won’t give you answers, but they can help you to think through challenges.
Ex. We’re not sure if our minimum viable product is testing the right thing. Can you help us to talk through the behaviors we should be testing so that we can find the best way to do that?
What goals do you hope to accomplish before your next meeting?
Ex. We’d like to finish building our prototype and start testing it before the next meeting. Do you have any advice or feedback for us before we start testing?
|Schedule next meeting||
Before you leave the conversation, be sure that you put your next meeting on the calendar and send a calendar invite to your mentor.
Ex. Was this meeting time okay for you? Should we schedule the next one for the same time next month?
|Thanks and goodbyes||Be certain to thank your mentor before signing off!||3 min|
How to run an effective mentor meeting?
One team member should be responsible for leading the meeting. This person’s main role is to help direct the conversation by asking different teammates to contribute at different times. They should also make sure the team sticks to the agenda and that the meeting does not run over an hour.
Showing respect for your teammates is just as important as showing respect for your mentor. This means that you should not talk over one another or disagree with one another. Showing your mentor that you trust one another and are all on the same page is an important part of establishing your credibility as a team and building a strong relationship with your mentor.
What should you do after the meeting?
Within one day of your meeting, follow-up with your mentor to show them that their time was well spent. Include the following:
- Thank your mentor again meeting with you
- Tell them what was most helpful/ valuable about the meeting
- Restate the goals your team will be working toward over the next month
- Remind them of your next scheduled meeting
Thanks again for taking the time to meet with us yesterday. Talking with you about our plans for testing our prototype helped us to gain more clarity around how we should be running these tests so that we get honest feedback from our customers.
Before our next meeting, we hope to test our product with 30 customers. We look forward to sharing these results with you at our meeting on January 22 at 4pm.
For more templates and tips on writing emails to mentors, see our blog post on professional email communications with mentors.
We hope that this article helps you to get the most out of your mentor meetings! For more information on how to schedule meetings, take a look at our blog post on managing mentor communications. And remember—the entrepreneurial process is not a math equation—there is no one right answer. Your mentor’s role is not to give you answers, but to help you to consider possibilities.
Before we close, here’s a list of tips on how to run your mentor meetings—
- Include the full team in mentor meetings
- Create an agenda one to two days in advance
- Send the agenda to your mentor in advance
- Come prepared with questions
- Build rapport with your mentor and show an interest in learning about them
- Ask your mentor “Does our process/ rationale make sense?”
- Schedule the next meeting
- End your meeting early if there is nothing left to say
- Send a follow-up email after your meeting
- Let your meeting exceed one hour
- Disagree with teammates
- Have one-on-one meetings with your mentor—your meetings should include your full team
- Plan in-person meetings with your mentor without school and parent/ guardian approval (if you do meet in-person, be sure it is in a public place)