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Evolving the Mentor Manifesto

Mentoring a Startup

September 12, 2019

I subscribe to Techstars Founder David Cohen’s Mentor Manifesto. The Mentor Manifesto shows you what it means to be an engaging mentor and tells entrepreneurs what to demand of the mentors they forge relationships with. The manifesto includes the following advice:

  • Be Direct (or check Iowa nice at the door)
  • Commit
  • Guide
  • Empathize
  • Mentor Relationships are Two-Way
  • And more!

Like many, I was thrown into mentoring relationships without much preparation. Going back into memory’s archives, I believe my first professional mentor was Tim Turner who gave me rock-solid advice about 401(k), investing outside retirement contributions, paying down the mortgage early and many other tools of modern finance. I was a young corporate employee with access to meaningful benefits but didn’t understand them. He, during our carpool, imparted advice, listened to me about the value of saving as much as 50% of one’s salary and gave me actionable guidance.

I didn’t think much about mentoring as life took me from being an employee to becoming an employer — from a sole proprietor to a small business co-founder, even as I added fitness instructor to my technology credentials — until being thrust into the startup subculture that thrives on mentoring.

The Key to a Successful Mentoring Relationship

Nearly a decade of mentoring relationships with young technology startups, new and accomplished company founders have reminded me that mentoring relationships begin as one-way streets but the ones that persist quickly become two-way thoroughfares. The vulnerability inherent in sharing one’s deepest fears and concerns quickly filter out the relationships devoid of trust and confidentiality.

[Find a small business mentor in DSM.]

Diversity in Mentoring

Reflecting on mentoring recently, I was reminded that all my mentors had always been male. I wondered what led me to become vulnerable with those mentors, and why I had never established a formal mentoring relationship with a female colleague, friend or associate. I thought through the various elements of my professional life that none of my mentors were addressing and chose a path to vulnerability with someone I respect tremendously. Contrary to prior relationships, I chose to let her know the issue in my opening email requesting the mentor connection.

[Learn more about how honesty is key when mentoring a startup.]

Diversity in any aspect of life is amazing. And so it was in this new relationship. In our mentoring session, I was handed a new item for my mentoring manifesto. Her advice was to lead into resolving the issue from a place of love

If you go back to the original mentor manifesto linked above, you will see many emotions that make us human. I now have a new emotion not limited to humans – mentoring from a place of love.

Find these tips useful? Learn more tricks on how to maximize the potential of your business through The Partnership’s Top Five series or through the Small Business Resources Hub.

The DSM Fellowship program is the preeminent professional development initiative attracting, developing and retaining a diverse community of top-tier graduates to Greater Des Moines (DSM).

Tej Dhawan

Tej Dhawan is chief data officer with the Principal Financial GroupĀ®. As the chief data officer, Dhawan is responsible for developing and carrying out the strategic vision for company-wide data and applications. Dhawan works closely with the chief information officer and chief digital officer to help shape, evolve and drive our digital experience. He also partners with business and technology teams from around the company to build a customer-focused digital experience that addresses the ever-changing needs of our global customers. The experience takes into consideration a mix of data, analytics, user experience, and augmented intelligence. Dhawan's experience includes small business ownership, startup advocacy, accelerator mentorship and use of data to influence and adopt innovation. Dhawan earned his bachelor's degree in math and computer science at Central College.