Captain, My Captain

Captain, My Captain


Over the next few months Eleanor Scott, Executive Mentor at The Hope Factory will explore what mentorship entails, how to choose a mentor and what you need to know should you be asked to mentor someone. In this second blog of the series, Eleanor discusses how to choose a mentor.

Choosing a mentor does not have to be a complicated nor difficult process. In many cases a colleague, a friend or a manager could be a suitable mentor and you may already be engaged in a ‘mentor-mentee’ relationship without knowing it.

Additionally, a mentor – or someone who you feel plays a role in your life – doesn’t need to be someone you personally interact with. Assistance and guidance could come from attending a talk, reading a relevant book and the like.

Understand your intentions

The first thing to consider is why you want a mentor. You need to ask yourself, ‘What is the purpose of mentorship for me?’ And, you need to be clear about what you believe that this kind of relationship can do for you.

If your purpose is to find someone to solve your problems for you, you aren’t looking for a mentor, rather, you need a counsellor.

However a mentor can help you find solutions to problems by helping you to realign your thinking and you decision-making processes.

Let’s look at this in practice. Say you want to grow your business and to increase your customer base, look for someone who has done this successfully in their business.

While they don’t need to be an expert in your field, they will know how to achieve what it is you hope to do. Just as you would ask someone who you believe has a successful marriage for relationship advice; choose your mentor because they’re a good example to you in the area that you wish to develop.

Mentorship is all about relationships and although each mentorship relationship is different it is vital to find someone you trust, believe has integrity and who shares the same values as you do.

Empowering relationships

When you approach someone to ask if they’d be prepared to be your mentor, emphasise how you’ve recognised something in them that you don’t have and would like to develop.

At The Hope Factory we choose our mentors because of their knowledge, wisdom and experience in the various aspects associated with starting and growing a business.

Similarly assigning each mentor to one of the entrepreneurs on the programme is very important – we had to ensure we had the right fit for each individual and that the mentors were able to help grow the person and in turn their businesses. The relationship needs to be one of empowerment.

When the mentor leaves and the mentee has to implement what they’ve discussed, they need to be able to do so on their own and with confidence.

For me, mentoring expert John C Crosby said it best: “Mentoring is a brain to pick, an ear to listen, and a push in the right direction.” So, when making your choice, think about who could best assist you to reach your long-term goals.

Eleanor Scott
Eleanor Scott is the executive mentor at The Hope Factory, an established Enterprise Development organisation associated with the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants (SAICA). She has spent the past 20 years developing entrepreneurs in the field of Early Childhood Education and the Wellness industry. For more information visit