“Why is it that people are treating having a business mentor as just the latest flavor in business and professional development?”
Poor me...one more time...I could not keep my big mouth shut, so I had to ask that question at a function I attended.
The attack on my intelligence, and my right to possess it was swift. LOL!
Most of the eventual answers were expectedly vague and proved very unhelpful to me and anyone else listening.
You see, treating business mentoring like another fashion item, to me undermines what could be an otherwise necessary and valuable process.
Perhaps, having any kind of mentor is not highly valued because it is viewed in similar fashion as asking for help. Asking for help is seen as a weakness and is only sought when you have no other choice.
Yet, when I talk to successful business people, they credit their success and leadership to having a strong business mentor who took the time to guide them.
And while I did not formally seek a Business Mentor until later in my business life, I’ve always had informal advisers that I could turn to for guidance.
So...what is a Business Mentor?
Before I go any further, let’s discuss what I mean by a Business Mentor. I am aware of the many, many definitions of “mentor”, “mentorship” and “mentoring”.
But for me, a Business Mentor is essentially a person who:
- has more insight and experience than you about the place where you want to take your business
- can see your blind spots and know who you must become to take your business to where you want
- has the confidence and maturity to shorten and smoothen the journey for you
This definition implies a one-to-one relationship in which a seasoned business owner is available to one that is now starting out, to give advice and support that could not be found in books.
It also implies that the mentoring relationship is open and honest with the mentor serving more as an “accountability partner” than a teacher.
Benefits of business mentoring
Having been mentored, and having served as a Business Mentor myself, I can tell you emphatically that they are incredible benefits for both persons involved in the process.
Apart from obvious benefits such as access to advice and guidance, here are some key benefits that a mentee can gain from the mentoring agreement:
- Reduced anxiety in taking big steps. Yes. Assuming you have chosen your mentor carefully, you have access to “been there, done that, knows what works!” This is an invaluable resource when you’re taking your next big step.
- Able to focus on achieving your goals. This is more likely when your mentor is good at being an accountability partner.
- You get to see your blind spots. We all have blind spots - those opinions of ourselves that are distorted and we have no conscious awareness of the distortion. A confident mentor will point these out to you and help you address them.
- Acquire heightened analytical and critical thinking skills. This comes from a mentor who knows how to ask you the questions that force you to think critically about a problem or issue.
- Develop the agility and leadership to rapidly scale your business. This comes from leaning heavily on the insights and experience of your mentor.
- Serving as a mentor also has its own benefits as well. For example, for me, it helped me to bring more clarity and focus to my business approaches, and to my coaching, training and speaking.
How to choose a Business Mentor
Getting the best value from a Business Mentor starts with the process you use to choose that person.
Here’s a 5-Step approach you can use. I figured it out when I searched for my own mentor and I’ve been teaching my client too use it ever since.
Step #1 – Be clear where you want to take your business and understand the type of leader you need to become to take it there. This requires complete, unfiltered honesty on your part.
Step #2 – Be prepared to put you little (big?) ego aside. A serious mentor will call it as he or she sees it and won’t allow you to piss about.
Step #3 – Decide what you can bring to the a process – it’s a two-way arrangement remember...
Step #4 - Search for someone who has most of the following attributes:
- Is further along the business journey than you are
- Have had or have been involved with a business that failed
- Possess worthwhile insight in business generally and in your industry in particular
- Own a fairly expansive network and willing to let you tap into it as necessary
- Have a warm and approachable personality
- Objective and impartial in dealing with people
- Possess great interpersonal skills
- Have a sound sense of humor
- Willing to commit the time and energy to mentor your
Step #5 – When you find someone who fits your requirements, polish your persuasive skills and ask them to mentor you.
Now that you have a Business Mentor...
Congratulations! I’m sure you made a wise choice. Now the real work begins.
By now you and your mentor would have decided on the form your mentoring will take. Whatever form it takes, business mentoring is your most professional relationship ever.
You need to ensure that you do not waste your mentor’s time. Show up to meetings on time and be prepared. Preparation includes being clear about the problem you want addressed and be willing to take notes.
Perhaps you have not thought about this, but your mentor can learn from you as well. So be willing to help your mentor in any way you can. After all, you will be a Business Mentor one day and this is a good foundation. It's also a great way to show your gratitude.
The key responsibilities of your mentor
We all pretty much have some understanding of the role of a mentor, and the value having one can bring to your business.
On the other hand, what I think is seldom clear, are some key responsibilities which I believe must be carried out by the mentor.
- Understanding that business mentoring is not an opportunity to show-off how much you know. Rather, it's an opportunity to allow the mentee to access your knowledge.
- Creating openness. Your mentee must feel comfortable sharing, so that she or he gets the best access to your knowledge.
- Not bluffing about anything. If you don’t know something, admit it up front. Then make finding out about it a small project which you both can work on.
- Being Frank. The greatest harm you can do to a mentee, is to withhold your advice, especially because you’re afraid to offend him or her.
- Being confidential. Chances are, you will be on the receiving end of sensitive information or insider secrets, during the mentoring arrangement. Do I actually have to say it should be treated as highly confidential? Yes, you must be completely trustworthy.
Your next “Business Mentor” Step
So there you have it!
My perspective on business mentoring and how to get the best value from having a Business Mentor.
I am a firm believer in mentoring and I always regret being a kind of “Lorna-knows-best” early in my entrepreneurship journey. I would have saved myself much emotional pain and real serious money if I had gotten a mentor earlier.
So, my advice to you is to use the information in this post to get yourself a mentor, especially if you’re now starting out. You will be amazed at both the professional and personal value the relationship can bring you.
If you already have one, use the information to review the relationship to make sure you’re getting the best value from it that you can.
And if you have lots of business experience, and you haven’t mentored anyone yet, now is a good time to start. You have enough help in this post to get you started.
Wherever you are...get on board with business mentoring, won’t you?