Mentor whiplash, and working through it
There’s something that happens when founders meet a lot of really smart people in a short amount of time with a purpose - to provide feedback on your business. Your brain begins to miss details, conversations blur into each other, and contradicting opinions bruise your ego. After a few days straight of this Mentor Madness, you’re probably feeling pretty down and exhausted.
These are some of the symptoms of a phenomenon called Mentor Whiplash - when you’ve met so many people, all of whom are very senior and knowledgeable in their respective fields, who are giving you their advice and opinions, you feel like you are mentally being jolted back and forth until you no longer know what is up and what is down! As with physical whiplash, this can take time to recover from if you let it take hold of you. Here are some suggestions I have to prevent it before it even occurs.
Have a note-taker and a question asker
It is very tough to successfully ask difficult questions, take notes on what another person is saying, and internalize everything. One easy way to ease to deal with this is by outsourcing one of the three tasks. The easiest one to outsource is having another person take notes. This leaves you free to drive the conversation where you want it to go based on the answers you receive to your questions. Believe me, it’s tougher than it looks!
It’s also a great learning opportunity for another person on your team, plus will provide you with another informed person to bounce ideas off of. Don’t think you can spare the manpower on your team for the entire time? Do some research on the people you’ll be meeting beforehand and choose a few days where the lineup is particularly useful to where your business is today.
Take time to reflect
I’ve mentioned before the importance of implementing periods of reflection into your company culture and workflows over the course of an accelerator program. Mentor Madness is a great time to begin building this habit. Not only is it good timing as you’ll build it from the start of the program, but it will also help ease Mentor Whiplash by forcing you to critically think about the information you’ve received on a daily or weekly basis (but I’d lean towards daily or every two days). The information will be fresher in your head, and you’ll be able to make sense of who said what much more easily and efficiently.
Talk about it with your team and create an action plan
This might be the most important step. I’d suggest you debrief with your co-founders every 2-3 days on the information you’re receiving from the mentors in order iterate faster, and dispose of the ideas you don’t like or agree on. Do this before an idea plants the seeds of doubt in your subconscious. Coming up with a structure for the debrief will also take some of the pressure off of you, and provide a framework of stability for you all to rely on. Good luck!
Read more about one of our portfolio companies, Eversend, and how they approached Mentor Madness here: https://medium.com/eversendapp/our-startup-life-at-techstars-berlin-mentor-madness-43e08400761f