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The biggest mistake you can make as a mentor, according to a Shark Tank judge

RedBalloon Founder Naomi Simson on the number one error you can make as a mentor and what you should do instead. Plus, her tips on how to be an effective mentee.

Naomi Simson

As a mentor, one of the biggest mistakes you can make is constantly telling your mentee what to do.

“Everyone is on their own journey and they have their own experience,” Naomi Simson, Founder of RedBalloon and Co-Founder of The Big Red Group, says. “Just because I do something one way doesn’t mean it’s going to work for someone else.

“Especially for business owners, entrepreneurs and start-ups; no-one likes being told what to do. We’re all free spirits. As soon as somebody says to me, ‘You should do X’, I turn off.”

For effective mentoring, Naomi suggests the use of the Gestalt methodology.

“With the Gestalt methodology, you tell me what your challenge is and then I ask clarifying questions which might be, ‘Do you mean X or do you mean Y?’,” Naomi shares. “They’re not leading questions; they’re just clarifying questions so you’ve got the facts.”

In addition, Naomi encourages mentors to share from their own experiences. “People might hear something and think, ‘Yes, that makes sense to me. I could see how that would work,’ versus the mentor just telling them what they have to do.”

RedBalloon Founder Naomi Simson at the My Business Mentor launch
RedBalloon Founder Naomi Simson at the My Business Mentor launch

But what about being an effective mentee?

Naomi started online gift retailer RedBalloon from her home in 2001 after leaving the corporate life behind. “I was a professional marketer and I thought I could start an online business,” she says.

“The thing that I didn’t know was who to turn to for help, where to get advice, and where to get support. It was very isolating.”

Naomi highlights the importance of asking the right questions when you are a mentee.

“The most successful mentor for me has been the person who comes at exactly the right time with exactly the right answer,” she says. “It was up to me to ask the right question.”

Naomi shared her thoughts on successful mentor–mentee relationships at the Microsoft Store in Sydney’s CBD in March for the launch of the My Business Mentor program. The initiative, launched by the store, gives small business owners and budding entrepreneurs in Australia a chance to be mentored by Naomi.

Five business owners will be selected for individual mentoring sessions with the successful businesswoman. They will each have the opportunity to work on their specific business goals and challenges, as well as get practical advice on how to accelerate their business growth. In addition, one winner will receive A$15,000 for resources needed to take their business to greater heights.

As a former Shark Tank Australia judge – not to mention guest judge of The CEO Magazine’s 2018 Executive of the Year Awards – Naomi knows what she wants from a mentee; she says she is looking for passion, positivity, persistence and a sense of purpose.

“Hanging out with me won’t make you successful,” she comments. “It will be nice, we’ll have a lovely time, but it’s the work you do, what you learn and how you execute that will create a great entrepreneur.”

To find out more about My Business Mentor, head to the pinned post on the Microsoft Store Australia Facebook page.

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