How to build a successful mentoring relationship


Mentoring helps people to focus on business challenges and arrive at ways to overcome them. For small business owners, research has shown that having a mentor can substantially increase the overall success rate.

Yet, like all relationships, a mentoring relationship takes time and work. The Canadian Youth Business Foundation (, an organization that provides mentors to young entrepreneurs, suggests the following key attributes for a successful mentoring relationship:

• Trust

Built over time, trust means being able to share sensitive information, including personal doubts, financials and mistakes. Trust is gained from a mentee by remaining neutral while offering actionable advice. A mentor grows to trust their mentee when they see their advice reflected upon and applied.

• Mutual respect

When choosing a mentor most individuals chose someone that they respect for some aspect of their personality or success. This has to be ongoing and work both ways. The mentor also needs to respect their mentee’s ideas, experiences and concerns. Each side needs to respect the other’s time and commitments.

• Structure

There should be clear boundaries in the relationship, such as defining appropriate areas for advice, making sure that communications from both parties are timely; and scheduling times to meet or talk. As well, all meetings should have some structure so that they can be productive and meet all expectations.

• Active listening

The skill of listening is central in creating a positive mentoring environment. Good mentoring is about giving your undivided attention to the other while you are in conversation. There must be time for both individuals to question the other, and to offer thoughtful answers.

Building the mentor plan around these attributes should ensure a mutually beneficial, long-term relationship – where both parties work together for success.

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