Disrupting the Mentorship Model

by Victoria Lennox

4 min read

Mentorship without a doubt is needed to help pull entrepreneurs ahead in every community. Recently we were challenged to do something local to participate in Startup Canada’s national mentorship competition. Our Prince George Startup community began to brainstorm what could we do to change things up.

There are many programs for under 30 and even a few for under 39 when it comes to structured mentorship – but what happens after that point? What happens when you are no longer a startup – do you not need a mentor?

Well, that’s when I realized that we needed to do something disruptive to the mentorship model. For me personally, I am constantly asked how I keep up with the changing online tools and trends as a digital strategist. The answer is simple: I mentor. Each and every time I mentor, I have received (often 10-fold) reverse mentoring. As someone that is curious about how I can improve and grow, I always ask the question – so what do you think?

After being an entrepreneur for 13+ years, I often forget that the filter that I look through can be a bit foggy at times. I no longer naturally have a filter with fresh eyes, risk averse thinking, or willingness to try without knowing the results.

I heard an amazing quote recently from one of our PIVOT team members – “Entrepreneurial Spirit is Contagious!”

It truly is. Marianne Williamson says it best, “when we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same.” Entrepreneurial spirit is about trying something new, thinking outside the box and willingness to pivot.

There is definitely a place for structured mentorship programs. They give both mentors and mentees the structure and the “how to” when cultivating relationships in this manner. I will forever be grateful for programs like the United Way Mentor Me Program, the Community Futures Youth Mean Business Project,Canadian Youth Business Foundation and the Women’s Enterprise Centre’s array of options.

But above and beyond those programs, we need to at least try to disrupt those tradition models by dissolving the hierarchy of the mentor and mentee relationship – even if it is only once in a while, for this one event.

Most mentees are very comfortable in asking questions, being curious and being vulnerable… saying, ‘I don’t know’. So the traditional model actually limits the mentors from letting down their guard, asking for help, saying ‘I don’t know, can you help?’ and connecting at a deeper level.

We all have something to share, give and teach.

The Mentor2Mentor model is about opening up conversation across generations and the belief that everyone has something to offer. It is a structured way of getting participants to open up as people first. True mentorship comes from a personal connection and wanting to see the other person succeed. This happens when there is a synergy between people’s personalities, not just alignment of their career goals.

The Mentor2Mentor model is about first sharing how our hearts connect – what inspires us, what hardships have we overcome that now define us, and what brings us joy. Once a connection can be made as human beings, we are then able to connect through our business ideas.

No event or even program can guarantee a relationship will be formed. Our event will connect people to at least 5-6 others in the room. But whether those lead to mentoring relationships will be up to the participants. But will people really “get” this more vulnerable way of doing business? What if we brought different generations that weren’t used to connecting in this manner for business? What then?

A friend’s wise words reminded me, “What you put in, is what you get out. This is true for friendships, relationships, business and life.” The most any startup community can do is create the event and the environment for people to connect. From there, people that attend need to be willing to share, connect, and be vulnerable with their stories that matter.

The event isn’t until next week, so we have no stories to share from the outcome. All we have is the willingness to put our neck out to say, “This is how we believe people want to connect. From their hearts first.”

What are your mentoring events in your community? How are people coming together to share wisdom? Please share below.

For more events in communities across Canada, check out the Mentorship Challenge.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Shauna Harper is digital marketing strategist, community builder, speaker, and trainer. As the co-owner and founder of Live Work PG, a digital marketing company, she helps organizations with the adoption of technology into their communication and marketing strategy. She is also the lead forStartupPG and Startup Canada’s PIVOT Magazine. Recently she was awarded Business Person of the Year for the city of Prince George.

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