Finding a business mentor: A sociopath’s guide

Sociopaths can make great business leaders (says, well…quite a lot of research) but even these cold-hearted egotists need a mentor’s guiding hand sometimes. So it’s reasonable to assume we could all use a sociopath’s skills to bag ourselves a business guru, right? Right?!?

Superficially charming and masters of manipulation, (some) sociopaths make great salespeople, lawyers, journalists, actors and business chiefs. It’s said as many as one in 10 CEOs are said to have psychopathic tendencies (and about one in 25 for everyone else).

But even they have to mine the knowledge of others occasionally.

Need a mentor? Should you think ‘what would Patrick Bateman do?’


1. Pfft…you don’t even need a business mentor

“The opinions of others cloud your judgement (which is magnificent by the way) and create unnecessary noise.”

Or start with some introspection. Think carefully about why you want a mentor. To learn about start-ups specifically or just insights into an industry you’re new to? Also consider your strengths and which areas that need help. As Ellen Ensher writes, in order to target and connect with mentors, ‘know thyself’.


2. With charisma, the rest falls into place

“Rock up to a networking event, use that God-given magnetism and they’ll come-a-flocking. You’ll have a mentor eating out of your hand before they can say ‘why, yes, I have been working out, thank you for noticing!’”

Nope, randomisation is a time-waster. Make a list of businesspeople you admire. Who’s successful in your field or has knowledge you lack? Multinational bosses are great but also think local shop-owners and old or current colleagues too.

Plus, there’s nothing wrong with having more than one mentor. A catering start-up might need accountancy, food, and health and safety advice. One person unlikely to be able to fill all those shoes so get a full set of feet to help you out.

Oh, and don’t forget older doesn’t necessarily equate better. Who’d turn down advice if Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg or Joseph Garrett was on the radar?


3. Research your prey

“Study the person as a lioness would stalk her prey. Note weaknesses, they may come in handy when you need to inevitably take them down.”

While we would in no way condone this behaviour, there’s truth in good research. For one, you’ll discover any similarities between you and the potential mentor to better twig if they’re a good match. This is a partnership, not a battle.

Check their website and LinkedIn profile to research their education, former workplaces and especially any connections you may have in common.


4. Dishonesty is the best policy

“Creating intricate stories to butter them up is your way in. If they like gardening, try ‘Funny, I was just at my ALLOTMENT *wink* reasoning how the successful growth of my petunias is so very much like that of entrepreneurship…’

“To continue this narrative, it’s probably good to already have a broad understanding of entrepreneurship. And petunias.”

Be open at all times (that isn’t to say some mentors don’t appreciate a little ‘creative storytelling’ now and then).

In the main, mentorships are built on trust: you expect honest advice and critiques, it’s unlikely they want their valuable time wasted by deceit. You can’t buy integrity.


5. Be pushy

“Send an email detailing your past successes, backed up two hours later with a phone call confirming the email was received. Be pushy, fierce and never take no for an answer. There are thousands of other hungry lionesses out there, make sure you’re the first to feed.”

There’s a difference between being assertive and aggressive; confident and pushy.

Use your research to reach out to the mentor. You’re likely to have a much higher success rate chance through warm intros from friends and colleagues than battering the phone with a hard sell. Stay patient, this process takes time.

If cold calling is absolutely necessarily, you can still impress with a calm, professional, succinct and sincere conversation.


6. Grab all you can: the world is yours

“Take that knowledge and leave them burning behind on the road to success. ‘In America, first you get the mentor, then you get the power, then you get the women.’ (Tony Montana, Scarface – 1983).”

Actually, like all relationships this should be a two-way street: mentors offer advice, what can you offer in return? Is there an old or new industry technique you’ve learnt? Would you be able to volunteer at one of their events? If you’re a craft-maker even offering one of your products for free is a friendly gesture.


And if you do find the right one…

Set some boundaries.  Will the mentoring be strictly about business or personal life? How will you communicate and how often is expected? How will the mentorship end? How will progress be reviewed? CILIP has some great information on this.

You may also want to consider programmes such as RockStar Mentoring Group and Aspire Women, which’ll provide mentors for you.

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