How Do You Mentor? Insights from Simon Court, Head of Networks & Influence at New Zealand Trade & Enterprise
Simon Court stepped into his role at NZTE without industry-specific expertise, just a broad, eclectic background across many industries. Primarily an ad-man, fitness junky and trouble-maker, Simon finds that he is often sought out for his human insight and ability to find simple solutions in complex problems. Likely this is exactly why he was hired to re-imagine how NZTE works with a network of mentors and advisors, recruited to help New Zealand companies grow internationally. Having been recruited into Simon’s global web of mentors, I have experienced first hand his search to find peoples best-selves and how he connects the dots to bring amazing people together.
Like all great network builders, Simon knows that by getting the right people in the room (or on the project) magic happens.
1. How do you define “mentor”?
Someone who you trust implicitly and has the right skillset, to guide and develop you in a manner to reach your best self. It is your journey you need to take, they are your guide.
2. What’s your approach to seeking mentors and being mentored?
I always have a few mentors, each serves a different purpose. I look for people that embody the skills I wish to develop and have the ability to guide me in my own self-discovery of my version of those skills. Someone who wants to bring out the be ‘me’, not a mini ‘them’.
3. How did you come to using this approach of seeking advice from mentors?
I have worked with people before who have a good reputation or are good on paper. Some I paid a lot of money for. These were quite often professional ‘mentors’. No one mentor can give you everything you need. I am a firm believer that you are the sum of the people you associate with.
4. Can you give me an example of guidance from a mentor that has made a difference in how you’ve approached your venture, or solved a problem?
My current boss was a mentor prior to working for her (serial entrepreneur, Claudia Batten who is now Regional Director for North America at NZTE). While she was working with me I was building a new start-up looking at relocating to the USA. This was a big idea and I was very green. Claudia got me to step back and out of the weeds, she guided me to look at what I needed to do and the networks that I needed to have to get there. Through her advice I looked for the ‘open door’ to step through, knowing that it may initially seem like a pause button. Rather, continually to hack my startup on the side while working full-time has turned out to ultimately be an accelerator as I am better connected than I could have possibly imagined to pursue my startup.
5. Who is your dream mentor?
Richard Branson. I know that may seem like a cliché, however, ever since I first encountered the Virgin brand on a holiday from NZ to Australia I fell in love with it. It felt like a brand that no matter what would accept me for me with no judgment.
6. How can someone obtain mentoring from you?
It’s funny, I have amazing mentors now and never think that I could be one myself. Then I look at my life and realize that I have a couple young people I am actively working with. I am available for the right people. I have a niche and I like to work with youth, especially gay youth.
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