Mentoring and Reverse Mentoring: The Key to Entrepreneurial Self-Confidence. 10 steps for Parents, Teens, and Gen Y at Work and at Home

January 24, 2012 at 2:44 pm 3 comments

Jordan grew up in the generation in which – stop me if you’ve heard this, “Everyone got a trophy.”  What does this mean, exactly? A recent article in the Washington Post citing learning mastermind Dr. Carol Dweck helps us understand that “self-esteem on a platter” is not cutting it, and how important the feedback and correction cycle is to building true effectiveness for the next generation.

Feedback? Correction? This is the kind of thing entrepreneurs focus on every day. These exact lessons – the ones entrepreneurs are forced to experience daily – are the exact model for building a successful generation of leaders.

Trying hard…grinning and bearing it when muscling through the feedback and difficulty… and coming out successful and confident in the end.  We now know that blind praise does not work, and rigor and persistence do. The feedback and correction process is central to success.

But where do we get this feedback and guidance? It’s a large burden to bear for just one parent or one teacher. Let’s look to the world of entrepreneurs again.  Entrepreneurs often operate with a blank slate. What helps them fill it in? What provides their feedback and correction loop so critical for success?

Enter: Mentoring.

January is National Mentoring Month. At its basic level, mentoring is about an exchange. It’s about feedback, and reaction to that feedback for improvement. Mentors are everywhere, it’s just a question of where you look. Entrepreneurs are constantly leaning on each other for advice, and many join formal groups and networks they so value these connections.

But what about the rest of us? And the next generation of entrepreneurs? In celebration of National Mentoring Month,  here are some quick mentoring steps we can all take whether we’re parents, teens, in the workplace, or Gen Y Millenials being mentored, or mentoring, or somewhere in between.

You can be a mentor, or be mentored, no matter what age. So get ready to pay it forward, backward, and sideways.

Where to find mentors.

If you’re in school or just out of school, take the following steps:

1. Take the initiative.Pick an area you’re interested in, or a sport, a school project.

2. Come up with a very specific question about this area, or a series of questions.

3. Then approach a parent, teacher, or relative, and ask: “Do you know anyone I could talk to about this?

4. PARENTS / TEACHERS: Have your game on. Be ready to connect these resourceful young people with someone willing to answer questions.

  • A co-worker
  • A relative or friend

How to be a mentor

5. Ask a friend “What is are you working on now? With school, or after school activities?

6. Ask if there is a way you could support them, a la: “How can I help you with that?”

7. They may not even know, but, knowing that you are there when you need them will mean a lot.

8. Follow up one week later,“How’s that going?”

Mentoring at Home

9. Turn a family meeting or dinner into a mentoring session. What is everyone working on, and how can you help one another? This is mentoring, reverse mentoring (ages mixed) all in one.

Mentoring at Work

10. End a meeting with a mentoring session-30 seconds each of, “What I need to achieve my dreams/goals” and, “What I can offer/how can I help.” Once again, this is traditional and  reverse mentoring all in one.

Discussion Questions

1. What would you ask a mentor? In Module 2 of the Entrepreneur in the Classroom free curriculum there is a Mind Mapping exercise in which the student takes and area of interest and develops it into a business idea through brainstorming. This could be ANY area of interest (not just business). Use the Mind Mapping exercise for an area about which you’re excited. Maybe you can run your ending ideas by a mentor. It could also be a problem or challenge area (you may want to read #2 first in deciding what to talk with your mentor about). Practice going to find a mentor, and talk to a mentor, so that when you really need one – you know how to do it.

2. About what would you mentor? List between one and three things that you could mentor. Are you good with apps? Are you good not letting kids bother you at school when there is teasing? Are you good at sports? Math? The list can be anything – use your creativity. This is what entrepreneurs do in organizations described at the end Module 3 of the Entrepreneur in the Classroom free curriculum.They find mentors, often in each other. There are no textbooks for real life!

More information

Know a Young Entrepreneur? Nominate them here.

The NFIB Young Entrepreneur Foundation is a 501(c)(3) organization promoting the importance of small business and free enterprise to the nation’s youth. More information is available at The Foundation is associated with the National Federation of Independent Business; NFIB is the nation’s leading small business association, with offices in Washington, D.C. and all 50 state capitals.

Entrepreneur In The Classroom. The NFIB Young Entrepreneur Foundation Entrepreneur-in-the-Classroom (EITC) supplemental curriculum exposes students to entrepreneurship and the necessary steps to take an idea and turn it into a business. The free curriculum can be integrated into classes teaching a variety of subjects including music, art, fashion, business and many more. You must be registered to view the full Entrepreneur-in-the-Classroom curriculum.

Related links:

National Mentoring Month site

Follow NFIB Young Entrepreneur Foundation on Twitter

Follow NFIB on Twitter

Follow blog author Kathy Korman Frey on Twitter


Entry filed under: Educators, Entrepreneur, Parent, Resources, Young Entrepreneur. Tags: , , , .

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3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Geof White -Author of Lemonade Stand Economics  |  October 1, 2012 at 9:56 am

    I had mentors when I was young in business and didn’t even realize they were mentoring me. The mentoring was beyond valuable and the fact that these adults took time to mentor me spoke to their character. I have every intention of mentoring as they did when the opportunity arises.

    • 2. kathykormanfrey  |  October 23, 2013 at 1:00 pm

      Geoff – this is such a great point. Being aware of the lessons, even after the fact, is a fantastic skill as Geoff has done. And passing it along…”Paying it Forward” as we now say: Pays dividends every which way: In your community, back to your business, and psychologically (to you and others!).

  • 3. Karrie Spall  |  December 13, 2013 at 4:55 pm

    This design is incredible! You definitely know how to keep a reader amused.
    Between your wit and your videos, I was almost moved to start my own blog (well,
    almost…HaHa!) Fantastic job. I really enjoyed what
    you had to say, and more than that, how you presented it.

    Too cool!


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