“Why is it that people continue to treat 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!
But here’s the interesting thing…
As I expected, most of the eventual answers to my question were expectedly vague and not very helpful to me and anyone else listening.
You see, when you treat business mentoring like another fashion item, it undermines what could be an otherwise necessary and valuable process.
And yes I get it…
Many small business people view having any kind of mentor as similar to asking for help. For them, asking for help is seen as a weakness and they only ask when they 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 in several areas.
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 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 give advice and support to one that is now starting out.
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
I have been mentored and I have served as a mentor myself. So I am in a good position to tell you that there 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.
- Get to see your blind spots. We all have blind spots. They are 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 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 has its own personal benefits as well. For example, for me, it helped me to bring more clarity and focus to my business approaches, especially my training.
How to choose a Business Mentor
Now this is important.
If you’re going to get the best value from a Business Mentor, you have to be strategic about building successful business relationships. In other words, you have to pay attention to the process you use to choose that person.
There’s good news on that score…
Here’s a 5-Step approach you can use to do it yourself. I figured it out when I searched for my own mentors and I’ve been teaching my clients how to use it ever since.
First step: 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.
Second step: Be prepared to put you little (big?) ego aside. Serious mentors will call it as they see it and won’t allow you to mess around.
Third step: Decide what you can bring to the process – it’s a two-way arrangement, remember…
Fourth step: Search for someone who has most of the following attributes:
- Is further along the business journey than you are
- Has had or have been involved with a business that failed
- Possesses worthwhile insight in business generally, and in your industry in particular
- Owns a fairly expansive network and willing to let you tap into it as necessary
- Has a warm and approachable personality
- Is objective and impartial in dealing with people
- Possesses great interpersonal skills
- Is observant
- Is confidential
- Has a healthy sense of humor
- Willing to commit the time and energy to mentor you
Fifth step: 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’ve made a wise choice. But wait! this is when the real work begins.
Now, you and your mentor have to decide on the form your mentoring will take. Whatever form you choose, business mentoring will be your most professional relationship ever.
One thing you have to consider is that 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 how you and your business can benefit from having one.
On the other hand, what I think is seldom clear, are some key responsibilities which I believe the mentor must carry out.
- Understanding the key role of business mentoring – it is is not an opportunity for your mentor to show-off how much he knows. Rather, it’s an opportunity to allow you to access his knowledge.
- Creating openness. You must feel comfortable sharing, so that you can access her vast knowledge and experience in the best way possible.
- Not bluffing about anything. If he doesn’t know something, he should admit it upfront. Better still, he can make finding out about it a small project which you both can work on.
- Being Frank. The greatest harm your mentor can do to you is to withhold her advice, especially because she is unwilling to offend you.
- Being confidential. Chances are, you will share sensitive information or insider secrets with your mentor. Do I actually have to say he should treat it as highly confidential? Yes, he 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 you can get from this relationship.
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 personal insight, and you haven’t mentored anyone yet, now is a good time to start.
How? You have enough help in this post to get you started.
Wherever you are…get on board with business mentoring. You can no longer afford to continue to block your small business success!