The dif­fer­ence be­tween be­ing a men­tor and be­ing a man­ager

You can dish out ad­vice to any­one. But to be a good men­tor, you need to learn to lis­ten first

Inc. (USA) - - DEPARTMENTS - Gary Vayn­er­chuk is a co-founder and the CEO of Vayn­erMe­dia, a dig­i­tal me­dia agency based in New York City.

QUES­TION AND AN­SWER is my fa­vorite for­mat, whether I’m do­ing a speak­ing en­gage­ment or my YouTube show, #AskGaryVee, with my com­mu­nity. I can al­ways dis­cuss busi­ness or shift­ing con­sumer be­hav­ior in gen­eral, but get­ting con­text within a Q&A for­mat al­lows me to go into de­tail and pro­vide value to the per­son ask­ing a ques­tion. We can go deep. There’s an ac­tual di­a­logue.

When you’re able to go deep, get­ting a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing of some­one and the prob­lem at hand and form­ing a re­la­tion­ship, you can serve as a men­tor. There’s a dif­fer­ence be­tween men­tor­ing and giv­ing man­age­ment ad­vice. For in­stance, I of­ten find my­self, from ei­ther a pro­fes­sional or a me­dia stand­point, thrown into the mix of a busi­ness prob­lem or asked for ad­vice, and I need to gather con­text quickly. When you have years of ex­pe­ri­ence run­ning a busi­ness, as I do, you rec­og­nize pat­terns and can give good ad­vice, even if you haven’t been close to a spe­cific com­pany.

Men­tor­ing is dif­fer­ent. Part of the rea­son I give away all of my con­tent is be­cause the magic is in the last mile. It’s re­ally the de­tails and unique cir­cum­stances of a busi­ness or an en­tre­pre­neur that mat­ter. To use a foot­ball anal­ogy, I can al­ways get some­one’s busi­ness or ca­reer down­field by answering a tac­ti­cal or the­o­ret­i­cal ques­tion. But I can get it into the end zone if I’m given all the de­tails. In the same way, serv­ing as a men­tor or an in­vestor or ad­vi­sory board mem­ber dif­fers from merely giv­ing ad­vice. I want the out­come to work. I’m look­ing care­fully at ev­ery de­tail of a sit­u­a­tion, and bring­ing value and con­text, not just the­o­ret­i­cal sug­ges­tions. While ap­pear­ing on Ap­ple’s Planet of the Apps, I was men­tor­ing peo­ple who de­velop apps and seek fund­ing. Or try­ing to. One founder re­ally didn’t want my feed­back; she was too in love with her idea and couldn’t let go of it, even though I told her it was not go­ing to hap­pen. On the flip side, there were peo­ple who were un­sure of them­selves; I pushed them to­ward their goals. When I men­tor young en­trepreneurs, I don’t give blan­ket ad­vice. I give in­di­vid­ual ad­vice to each, about where he is in the mo­ment, or how her busi­ness is do­ing.

Way too many men­tors, and ad­vi­sory board mem­bers, hear some­one ask for ad­vice and think it’s about them. To be a true men­tor, you must de­ploy em­pa­thy and hu­mil­ity and re­al­ize it’s about the mentee. To be a use­ful men­tor, you have to be able to ad­vise with a gen­uine de­sire to help the other per­son. Man­ag­ing might feel close to men­tor­ing, but there is a nu­ance. When you are in man­ager’s mode, you have a team work­ing for you; when you are in a men­tor’s role, you’re work­ing for a pro­tégé. To be an ef­fec­tive man­ager, you must also serve as a men­tor and un­der­stand that your role is to help de­velop and grow your un­der­stud­ies, ver­sus en­gag­ing with them solely in bi­nary sce­nar­ios. All the best man­agers have men­tor­ship DNA in them.

My de­fault po­si­tion is to be a men­tor, head coach, big brother, leader. I stay close to peo­ple who have worked for me and moved on. Of course, the re­la­tion­ships change, be­cause I don’t con­trol the busi­nesses they’re in. But the en­ergy be­hind th­ese re­la­tion­ships in which I play the men­tor doesn’t change. What I want to do for them now is be a lis­tener, as I was when they were at my shop, so I can give them the best ad­vice pos­si­ble.

Ul­ti­mately, the rea­son I’m a fan of men­tor­ship is that it equates with legacy. Legacy is what peo­ple say about you when you’re not around. My hope is that the suc­cess of those I’ve men­tored will speak for it­self.

Gary Vayn­er­chuk

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