Allowing a person to “fail” as a learning experience, is not the same scenario at all as giving up because you the mentor fail at achieving a desired outcome for the mentee!
This may sound as though I lay most of the blame on the mentor when things don’t go right; and I do, as even the most delicate and difficult mentoring situations can be worked through when the mentor has a clearly defined focus and the ability (and time) to keep things on track.
Following are some reasons that most mentors I know give up:
The uncommitted mentee
There are those who seek out a mentor to fill up time, or simply as a hobby, and are not really in it to actually learn or accomplish anything!
One of the first things I do in a mentoring relationship is to set tasks, related to the mentoring goals, (and I might add I am a very challenging taskmaster)! This very quickly shows up someone who is unwilling to work at realizing entrepreneurial goals.
If I find a person is unwilling to work, early on I’ll suggest termination of our relationship before further involvement. Threat of my giving up on a mentee has on occasions quickly changed their commitment and working habits!
For those that thought it was going to be an easy ride and that I would do all the work for them…it’s better to give up sooner, rather than waste more time (for both of us)!
The time suck
Also known as the attention whore! It’s easy for a mentor to be “sucked in” for many seemingly compelling reasons, it happens to all of us. However it’s too late when we realize that things are out of hand!
I start a mentoring relationship with very precise expectations of my time commitments.
As the mentoring evolves, so might my availability and access become expanded to embrace email and other communication platforms, provided they are used with discretion and don’t become a time suck. Copious emails or IMs can be abusive; a ranting or obsessively venting mentee is not one that is committed to growth, and the mentor might justify giving up; though here I put most of the onus on the Mentor for letting it get this far out of hand in the first place!
The mentee who knows it all
I’ve noticed that as we guide and help entrepreneurs through layers of self-doubt and uncertainty, they may graduate to thinking they know it all! Don’t be fooled, as I have found this is just a phase that has to be worked through, though it is extremely frustrating to deal with!
I’ve known mentors to give up…..saying “ahhh, they already think they know everything; even more than me!” I know parents go through this with teenagers, who think they are invincible, and there’s no telling them what to do.
However, if you keep your cool and put your observation faculties on high power, you’ll detect some cracks in their perceived perfection. By asking the right questions, conversations with the mentee can be orchestrated to reveal a more realistic view of self! Though sometimes we lose this one and the mentee gives up!
The entitled attitude
A sense of entitlement, that ‘you owe me’, is the most challenging for a mentor, and might be one of the most common reasons to give up (or not even get started in the first place).
I’ve seen the entitlement attitude replaced with humility by a very savvy mentor who recognized the entrepreneurial genius behind the insecurity posing as entitlement. He inspired the mentee to become so focused on the strategy and tactics defining the success of his entrepreneurial journey, that the prospects and actuality of a successful start up replaced the entitlement attitude. That’s what a focused mentor can do.
Where’s the entrepreneurial spirit?
Sometimes a person is just not cut out to be an entrepreneur or small business owner, and mentoring may bring this to the forefront.
Mentoring that results in an opt-out or change of direction is still very valuable when it can delete a problematic path before it happens.
However, when an entrepreneur is fixated on pursuing a path, which will result in setting themselves up for failure, and there is no changing their direction, I have seen mentors give up. They give up instead of seeing the fail through, avoiding what could have been a valuable life’s lesson. Sometimes there is simply not enough time or energy for the mentor to just stand by and wait.
Just time to move on
The best reason of all to give up/move on would be when someone you mentor is successful, and you feel you have outlived your usefulness. This also can be a very difficult decision, like a parent who is reluctant to let their children go out on their own to grow and learn from others!
I personally find this most rewarding when it happens! My greatest reward is when someone I mentor is successful and moves on. However I always leave a door open to hear about progress and updates.
I mentor entrepreneurs; if someone works hard and smart, has cognition along the way, implements their best choices, and is considerate of my time invested; our mentoring relationship has the best chance of being successful, and along with a successful relationship comes the success of the entrepreneur!