Being a mentor at Geovation

It was a bit disconcerting scrolling through LinkedIn and stumbling across a large portrait of my own face in the timeline. But the shock was brief, as it was the good people at Geovation (an incubator for geospatial technology start-ups) who had just posted an interview with me.

If you don’t know Geovation, check them out. Originally founded (and funded) by Ordnance Survey, they have an amazing track record – more than 70% of start-ups that take part in their programme are still going strong after 5 years, which is almost unheard of for incubators. They must be doing something right!

Last year Geovation set up a mentoring programme for their membership circle of start-up founders, which I was proud to join. Entirely pro bono, it’s a great way for mentors to give back to their community, and so far the feedback from entrepreneurs has been great too. If you’d like to get involved (either as mentor or entrepreneur) get in touch with me, or contact Geovation directly. Membership is free and they provide great facilities and events in central London.

To find out more, below is the transcript from my interview:

60 Seconds with a Geovation mentor: Meet Thierry Gregorius

What have you liked about the Mentorship Programme? 

I love working with entrepreneurs – their energy and optimism is infectious. So far I’ve partnered with two people and they are very different in terms of offerings, business models and personalities. It is a cliché, but as a mentor it’s a true privilege to work with them – they are letting me into their worlds, sharing not just their hopes and aspirations but also their deepest fears and anxieties. There is a lot of trust, which is the way I like to work.

Going into the program, what did you hope to get out of it? 

I’ve worked as an executive coach for some time. Also, having been in the geospatial sector for 25 years it’s about giving something back to the community, making a difference, and learning about the challenges people face at the start of their careers and businesses. I never cease to be inspired by what people are setting out to do.

What do you think the ‘secret’ is to a good mentoring relationship?

Mutual trust and openness. Without that, you are dead in the water because you’ll never get to the root of any issue. Also, as a professional coach I try to be completely non-judgmental and give as little advice as possible. I ask a lot of questions to help people find their own answers. I’d never say “you should do this or that” because that’s proven to be completely disempowering and counterproductive, unless you’re acting as an advisor – but then it’s no longer a mentoring relationship.

What benefit do you think it brings to the community/members?

Coaching conversations are the most powerful conversations you can have. They increase self-awareness, understanding, empathy – and impact. Over time I’d imagine that the mentoring programme will subtly elevate the Geovation culture, because once you’ve experienced a good coaching relationship it improves all your other relationships as well (even if at first you don’t realise it).

What tips or advice would you like to share with those new to mentoring?

It’s natural to want to give advice or tell anecdotes, but if you find yourself talking more than the mentee you’re doing something wrong. Instead, use your experience to ask open questions to explore issues from different angles, and let people find their own answers. In case of doubt, say nothing and listen. Sometimes, people just need to articulate what’s in their heads and when they hear themselves say it out loud, it can trigger an a-ha moment.