We spend a lot of time talking about mentoring, advising, and helping companies. Not just at Seedcamp – the whole startup ecosystem is trying to figure out what the best way to grow and support a startup is.
Obviously, there are a lot of people who want to get involved – be it for fame, money, or benevolent motives. In the end, and this is aimed more at you startups out there than anybody else, you need to find out who will do you good and will be good to work with.
With the help of Juan, the founder of Traitperception, I managed to come up with a very simple measurement that can be used to at least roughly figure out whether a person is someone you should or want to work with.
Traitperception is working on a methodology to compare people based on their traits, which might be used for evaluating various things like likeability, a fit for a given position, etc. One good example where it can be used effectively are 360 degree reviews – which by definition, are very relative in nature. You answer a couple of questions about your colleagues, they do so in return, and then everybody gets a rough idea where they stand.
The key about this is the relative nature of rankings. Too numerical or absolute rankings are usually difficult or at least controversial, so TP went a different route.
When you compare people you work with, their smarts are undoubtedly one of the key points you will think about. However, does it really impact you how intelligent someone is? Yes, it makes for insight and sometimes learning, but it doesn’t say much about how that will rub off to you (hint: not much). Not a good measure.
People who help out most and are always available are the best advisors and mentors. Really? When someone is always there for you – will you learn things on your own? Will you still make your own decisions? Is any help good help? This last point is a sure no, and as anyone who went through a set of mentoring sessions can tell you – a good chunk of advice is not necessarily good for you or your company. Not a good measure.
Much like helpfulness, a lot of doing and making isn’t always the right thing. Intros, feedback, work, and opinions can sometimes be too much, and it’s hard to stop when you don’t want to stub someone’s toes. Not a good measure.
Being nice is, well, nice. Being treated nice is nice too. But too often people hide their real feelings or opinions because they want to be nice, and not too honest. Especially in the startup world, everybody is a winner, and everything is “awesome” most of the times. This is why a lot of feedback is watered down and not very straight forward, and why a lot of have to’s are disguised as should maybe’s. It’s easier to be nice, but not always right (I am quite a blunt person, so that’s just my own blunt opinion). Not a good measure.
You already know what’s next:
What you really want to measure is the impact of that raw smartness, niceness, and helpfulness on you and your project, company, or business. How can someone change the business for the better, and use all of the above measure to do one thing: improve the situation you’re in. In line with the 80-20 rule and the GTD and the PMinventssomeratio rule, impact is a pretty easily graspable concept that you can apply in many situations. Of course, it is again very relative to the situation you’re in, but that’s the beauty of it.
While likability and helpfulness are great, they only measure a superfluous trait of a person, that is irrelevant of the situation. Also, both can often stand in the way of someone giving you good, or better, advice than when disregarding those factors, as I made the point above. A great measure, and a relative one at that, is empathy: The ability to understand and share another being’s feelings. In this context, the ability of a mentor to realize what will make a founder or team understand and appreciate his insights, is probably an apt explanation of the rather academic definition.
The ratio: Impact and Empathy
Here we go, with a simple ratio as the outcome of all this thinking: When you measure people around you on the scale of their positive impact, and their ability to show empathy towards your situation, you will hopefully be able to identify those that are both able to help you get to your goals more efficiently by being impactful, and more effectively, because they are able to aptly connect to you and your team.
Tell me what you think, and how you think about people you work with in a relationship that warrants measuring impact and empathy. I am sure this can be applied to all kinds of situations, like coworkers, personal trainers, and much more.