Scooby Doo to the (Mentor) Rescue

Remember those old episodes of Scooby Doo where the villain would be unmasked at the end?

The sweet old grandma was really a dirty rotten scoundrel. Ghosts were actually people and dirty rotten scoundrels. Monsters were actually people and dirty rotten scoundrels. All unmasked by Scooby and the gang before they could do any permanent harm.

Wouldn’t you love to have that same unmasking power when selecting and working with mentors?

I’ve had some fantastic mentors in my career. They’ve helped me get to the next level, heck the next five levels. I’m thankful to all past, present and future mentors for their insights and encouragement.

Sadly, I’ve also had a couple mentors who were really just wearing masks. The problem was that I couldn’t see the masks for a long time. My business, my vision, and even my self-confidence paid the price.

Read on for the cliff notes version of my lessons learned – Scooby snacks sold separately.

Scooby Doo’s Rules for Mentor Success

This post is part of the July Word Carnival. The topic is Business School of Hard Knocks: Real-life Cautionary Tales. Click the link to get a variety of perspectives from an amazing group of small business experts.

Mentor Rule #1 – Understanding Motivation

Shaggy’s Alternate Title: Like hey man, what’s with the helpful dude on the lonely road?

People offer or agree to become mentors for a variety of reasons, some are self-less while others are self-serving. Most fall somewhere in the middle.

A bit of I’ll scratch your back if you’ll scratch mine is fine. For example, if someone offers to mentor you for free in exchange for an honest testimonial on their coaching skills, why not? You gain a mentor, and they gain social proof.

There are countless ways you can (whether expected or not) show your appreciation to your mentor. Even something as simple as saying thank you will mean more than you may realize.

Beware the motivations that are toxic. Like the so-called helpful stranger on the road directing you to the creepy mansion on a dark and stormy night. Mentors that simply want to use you to showcase their success and expertise. Mentors that ask for something and infer you owe them. Mentors that are using the relationship to sell you a bunch of stuff. I’m sure you can add a few more here from your own experience.

Before agreeing to a mentor / mentee relationship ask about your mentor’s expectations. Listen carefully, both to the words and the sub-text. If your instincts start raising red flags, PAY ATTENTION. I wish I had.

Mentor Rule #2 – Masks Crack Under Pressure

Shaggy’s Alternate Title: Zoinks! The bad guy was masquerading as a sweet old lady.

This is one I’ve learned the hard way. Things seem fine until pressure is applied, then the mask cracks revealing the true person behind it. Since we’re all canine human, it’s important to make a distinction between honest misunderstandings and actions taken with deliberate intent.
Attacks on Your Professionalism
First give the feedback objective review. Better yet ask a few other trusted colleagues for their honest reaction. It took awhile for me to realize my “mentor” was simply responding poorly to my success. Short term it cost me dearly.

Attacks on Your Abilities
Does your mentor keep telling you that you’re not ready? That you have LOTS of work to do before you could even consider being ready? Do (s)he fail to provide concrete steps to get ready, or list so many we’ll be on Web 4.0 before you finish?

A mentor’s job is to help you grow, not hold you back. Feedback and suggestions should empower you, not make you more dependent.

Misplaced Disappointment
Comments can include, “I thought better of you.” or “I’m disappointed you didn’t support my position.” I find this one particularly painful. Aren’t we all hardwired to want people to like us?

Were your actions in keeping with your values? If so be sure to communicate those reasons to your mentor. However you need to consider what their motives are – see Rule #1.

Mentor Rule #3 – Make a Graceful Exit

Shaggy’s Alternate Title: Like how do we get out of this?

As tempting as it may be to tell your mentor what you think of them, don’t do it. A gracious exit leaves bridges intact, and demonstrates an appreciation for their time and effort. Acting out of anger or spite is never good business.

Here are a few ways to make it happen. Be sure to thank them for their time.

  • Indicate that you feel that you’ve outgrown the need for a mentor, or that this relationship has peaked. No one expects to be a mentor forever.
  • Point out how your business has blossomed, and that you need to focus on execution.
  • Allow the formal calls or meetings to fall off your calendar naturally over time.

Final Thoughts

Keep your faith in humanity. This will be hard after you feel betrayed by the very person who was supposed to be helping you succeed. I know, I’ve been there. But if you shut down you’ll miss out on a world of wonderful people who CAN and WILL help you.

Did Scooby and Shaggy miss any crucial mentor rules? Sound off below.

Nicole Fende is The Numbers Whisperer™. Her mission is to make finance fun and profit easy. Check out her recently released book, How to be a Finance Rock Star: The Small Business Owner’s Ticket to Multi-Platinum Profits.
© 2012 Small Business Finance Forum LLC | All rights reserved.



    • Yes, a worm on a hook. I don’t want to be fish food!

  1. I could totally hear Shaggy and Scooby’s voice as I read through this. It really hit home for me because I’ve had a few similar experiences myself. ALSO (and probably more important), I mentor folks as part of my biz and it’s a great reminder to watch my intentions.
    Tea Silvestre recently posted…Small Business Pickles: a True Tale of Trust and BetrayalMy Profile

    • Glad to hear it. Probably helps that my 4 year old has been on a Scooby Doo kick lately.

    • He he. Scooby Doo was my all time favorite cartoon as a kid. Love the idea of balancing out perspectives with a trusted peer.

  2. Wow, sounds like you might have had some crummy experience with mentors? It stinks but unfortunately not everyone is trustworthy and sometimes we have to learn the hard way. To your first point about trading for testimonials or something of that nature… I’m always super wary of anything that doesn’t involve value-for-value. I realize a good testimonial ha value but probably not quite to same as a full-on mentorship that takes time and energy?? If I feel like I’m making out on a deal then it’s probably going to be a bad deal! Good advice here for someone looking to find (and trust) a mentor.
    Carol Lynn recently posted…Small Business, Big Lessons: How To Learn The Hard Way And Live To Earn Another DayMy Profile

    • You learn from the bad mentors too. Mostly what I don’t want to do. For me I think being a mentor is about giving back and / or paying it forward. I had an amazing mentor in college. while I’ve thanked her, she’s retired, so I view mentoring others (not for money) as a way to give back.

  3. I have a hard time picking mentors. Mostly because I usually can’t really vibe with any authority figures. Not one. I find them all harbingers of doom and outmoded thought.

    Maybe I haven’t met the right mentor, but I tend to trust my own experience and then seek out my idols (even fake ones – like Captain Kirk, Captain Picard) and suss out what they would do in any given situation.

    I imagine if I held mentors in a higher regard, I would be more willing to take one on. I do love the advice to avoid toxic motivators. Totally prevalent in coaching! Great post! :-)
    Nick Armstrong recently posted…And the horse you rode in on…My Profile

    • First of all Nick – you couldn’t possible go wrong with Kirk, Picard or Janeway.

      Perhaps its more about respecting their knowledge versus viewing it as a subordinant role. Remember, the biggest room in the world is the room for improvement.

  4. Some great Rules Nicole. I think #3 is tough but needed.
    I would think the same rules apply to mastermind groups too.

    • Yes, #3 is hard, especially for those of us who are fairly blunt, cough I mean forthright. But it can be done, and pays dividends in the long run.

    • Oh yes, our egos. My ego made me do it is not just a punch line.

  5. What an interesting subject for this topic. I love it! I have had experiences that run gamut of your insights as well as some of the comments. The few times I have been involved in mentor-ish (never formal) situations, I always walked away thinking — I learned more of what NOT to do and to trust myself more. Which is still learning either way. I also echo Nick’s comments — I don’t tend to think of others as an authority but more in the sense that they just have different experiences and perspectives than I do, so that can sometimes be challenging. Most important to note — I LOVE your comparison to Scooby Doo, because its so apt and so relateable!
    Katrina Pfannkuch recently posted…Learning the Tricky Balance of “Doing” and “Being” in your BusinessMy Profile

    • I don’t necessarily think of a mentor as authority ie having power over me. I think of a mentor as having authority, ie expertise, in a subject. And when doesn’t Scooby Doo make things a little bit better?

  6. I have had a mentor – well official mentor once in my corporate life and it was the worst experience ever…wrong motivations I suppose and I did not know what my role in it was, which I think is very important. I think this post is a great way for people to set the correct expectations….Thanks Nicole!
    Michelle Church recently posted…How Being Productive in Social Marketing Is Key To Attracting VisitorsMy Profile

    • Yes corporate mentors are not exempt from this. But I think Shaggy might be forced to learn a bit of corporate speak.

  7. I totally agree with you in this one. There are a lot of so-called mentors who are out there to help people screw up in whatever they are doing. Good thing that you have shared some tips on how to react when you get to be associated with one.
    Bruce recently posted…best guitar song booksMy Profile

    • Bruce – just remember, exit with grace. Since I see you play the guitar, imagine fading off versus banging it down (unless you’re Green Day)

  8. I feel blessed that I’ve had fantastic mentors when I was starting out with my career. Very good thoughts, thanks for sharing them!
    Crystal recently posted…signs he wants to breakup with meMy Profile

    • Glad to hear it.

  9. Wow! I can totally see myself in some of your points. I too had been confined by a terrible mentor for more than two years. She managed to nearly break me and stripped me of every little bit of self confidence. I’m still paying the price for it, although I’m slowly recovering. All I can say is: Get out as quick as you can!

    • That’s awful. I’m glad you’ve broken free. Any tips on what was your wake-up call?

  10. Nice blog here! Having a mentor is such a great way to fulfill the good things you might do. It should be in a positive thinker mentor so that the flow of your plans will be effective and probably right. Thank you for posting.

  11. The decision to participate in a mentoring relationship needs to be deliberate and well-thought out. Choosing the right mentoring partner is critical to achieving successful outcomes. It is easy to zero in on chemistry when meeting a prospective mentoring partner. Rather than relying on chemistry alone, focus on “learning fit.” Is there a match between what the mentee wants to learn and the attributes, skills, experience and expertise of the mentor?
    Nolan recently posted…Argan Oil Care Uses pt.3: Argan Oil for Face – A Step by Step ProcessMy Profile

  12. Hi if your going to use a mentor choosing the right person is probably one of the most critical things you will do. Because if you get it wrong. You could end up spending a load of time going no where.

    Thanks lee
    Lee recently posted…AEG Ergorapido – Day OneMy Profile

    • Hi Lee – yes a bad mentor is like any bad relationship. It can lift you up or drag you down.

  13. Pretty good insights you brought on this article. Having a true mentor sometimes is quite difficult to find due to some circumstances that you have to consider if that mentor ever fits your ideas and most especially with your values.

  14. Hi Nicole,

    This is the first time i visited your blog and can’t stop myself from commenting.

    T really liked the way you have explained such a nice thing using a cartoon character it was fun to read as well as full of knowledge.

    I will regularly read your articles.
    Sneha recently posted…51 New and Beautiful Social Media Icons SetMy Profile

  15. What an interesting subject for this topic.I totally agree with you in this one. There are a lot of so-called mentors who are out there to help people screw up in whatever they are doing. Thanks for sharing – and for the trip back in time.



  1. Business School of Hard Knocks: Real-life Cautionary Tales - [...] Fende, A.S.A. of Small Business Finance Forum: Scooby Doo to the (Mentor) Rescue @NicoleAFende [...]

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