‘If you want to make the world a better place, take a look at yourself’ 

Start up leaders across all industries have inevitably listened to hundreds of pieces of advice, applying the most sensible or useful. Many have even participated in formal mentorship programs, gaining insight from a probably older version of themselves. While mentorship can be a powerful tool, leaders stand to gain the most from the honest, raw and compassionate counsel of a different kind of mentor: the mirror.

The mirror does not lie. It shows you all of your faults and imperfections; perhaps helping you to reflect on ideas to improve. It takes a special type of person to act as your ‘mirror’ and is often someone who is willing to give you brutally honest feedback. You might not like what they say but deep in your gut you know it’s the truth.

Mirrors differ from traditional mentors in that they do not direct you towards their own interests and goals. Instead, mirrors simply tell you like it is and remind you about what is important in life. A mirror will give you the full and honest truth about anything and everything.

For example, say you want to spark an electric start-up culture but you know your energy can be up and down at times and might sometimes be viewed as negative. So, you ask your mirror to monitor the consistency (or inconsistency) of your moods at work. Your mirror will tell you, without holding anything back, how you’re performing.

A mirror can tell you what to improve and also remind you about where you’ve succeeded, when you’re having one of those ‘doubt moments’ that can be part of start up life. They get the balance right by conducting a raw examination of you as a leader. Those in leadership positions tend to settle into their own ways and become idle. A mirror can help leaders to focus their efforts and intensity in new directions, which can be immensely powerful for personal and professional growth, especially in a start up where the end is not in sight.

Finding such a raw and honest person who you can trust may seem like a daunting task, but all you have to do is look to the people around you. It is likely that someone in your circle desires the same kind of personal feedback and growth you do.

Ideally, you should find someone who you interact with regularly. You should have a certain level of trust in your mirror. This is someone who you want to have no problem listening to and who will be able to hold you accountable to your particular areas of growth. To get the most out of having a mirror, meet with them regularly. Consider their honest feedback without offence. Listen to all of the details they bring to your attention, because any small issue could end up growing into a larger problem as your start up evolves.

Moreover, there is nothing that says you can only have one mirror in your life. Depending on your goals, you may stand to benefit from having multiple mirrors. If you have ever stood in a hall of mirrors, you know that the more mirrors surrounding you, the fewer blind spots you have.

But most importantly, be honest and compassionate with yourself. Everyone has imperfections, and sometimes it can be difficult for leaders to admit their faults. That’s why the best gift a start-up leader can have is a mirror. One that gives both the hard, cold truth and at the same time reminds you about how far you’ve come.

Go forth, be brave.

Ben Roulston – Start Up Junkie

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