Monday, May 20, 2019

Most effective mentors ask hard-hitting questions

I was reading the book 'Why I stopped wearing my socks'. This book outlines Alok Kejriwal's journey as an entrepreneur. This blog is inspired by the of the stories in the book.

During the early phases of evolution of Alok's company-, he was speaking with a lot of venture capitalists. One of them was eVenture. At one of the meetings, eVenture's representative Neeraj Bhargava asked Aolk a couple of questions before giving a go ahead for further funding:

1. Asked for more clarity on business model (they weren't charging their clients any money then)
2. Asked for the credentials of his team (he didn't have anyone from pedigreed Ivy league institutes).

While Alok gathered composure and answered as well as he could, Neeraj dropped another tough exercise on Alok as he asked him to list his top 10 clients along with their numbers so that he could call them and check their credibility.

Alok narrates this incident in the book and mentions that he had tremendous learning from this conversation. Though it was not a direct mentoring conversation, he took it as being mentors while answering these tough situations.

During the Innovation programs that I run, one of the key things is how the teams choose their mentors. While many teams take the familiar route and choose the mentors who are familiar to themselves or are technically good. But the teams that are more successful in achieving the intended outcomes from these programs are the ones who choose mentors that makes them uncomfortable.

Collating the learnings from Alok's story, here is what I believe the playbook for business mentorship should be looking like:

1. Choose a mentor who asks you tough and hard-hitting questions.
2. Choose a mentor who can potentially upset you with his/her questions.
3. Don't always look for formal mentorship. Be open to be mentored in unlikliest of the situations (like Alok did with the VC in this story).
4. Don't take any tough questions and flaws in business approaches personally. Many people foolishly let go of good relationships when rendered into uncomfortable situations by mentors.

What else would you add to this ?

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