One Plus One Equals Three

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Mentoring can be a lonely business. If you’re not matching your mentors in pairs, you’re missing out.

Pairing mentors is a straightforward way to give mentors value beyond what they get from meeting one-on-one with startups. Mentor programs are ten a penny these days and programs have to stand out to get the good mentors to commit. Most programs struggle to explain the value their mentors – and often struggle to provide real value in practice. Pair mentoring is a powerful, but often overlooked tool.

Why pair your mentors?

Networking is an oft-listed benefit for mentors, but few programs do it well. It’s one thing to get to know each other over a drink at a mentor event. It is something else entirely to share a mentoring experience – and more professionally relevant than playing golf. Pair your mentors to help them get to know each other. Let them show off what they can do to each other as well as your teams.

Matching your mentors binds them to each other and to your program

It’s a powerful thing when your mentors say, “we met as mentors for X”. It’s even stronger when their common experience isn’t just tied to the teams, but to each other. The answer isn’t more barbecues or more beer. The answer is letting them to work together.

Create commitment

Pairing with other mentors to work with your teams can help drive commitment on a practical level. It’s one thing to cancel on a startup no one knows and another to cancel on a fellow mentor who you know.

Create connection through common experience

Team-building consultancies have known for years that making people do something together that is hard builds bonds. Some of it is cognitive dissonance: we often put greater value on things that are hard. We also tend to value things our peers value, and a second mentor at your mentor sessions can make a big difference in how your mentors experience your sessions.

Your mentor sessions can give mentors something meaningful, especially because they’re built on professional experience with more direct relevance than a building a two-rope bridge or paddling a canoe. The company they help may actually succeed. The lessons they learn may be directly applicable in their work.

Let your mentors show each other what they can do

We all know people who talk a good game over a beer, but then give vanilla mentoring advice. Any fool can tell someone their value proposition is unclear. Give your mentors a chance to show each other how good they are at explaining the options in a term sheet. Let them show each other how they improve a pitch.

Meaningful “In Real Life” experiences are always in short supply. Let your mentors show their skills and you’ll be giving them a unique opportunity. It will help them, your startups and your whole program.