Every business should have one!
Mentoring has never been an option for me, it has always been an essential part of how I work. The only time I was ever confused about what I needed was when I was first told by a boss that it would be good to find a mentor. The internet wasn’t in full use at that time, so I couldn’t even google to find out what a mentor was or did. So I did what seemed logical to me at that time and I contacted someone who worked in a senior role in the same company and asked them to be my mentor. She agreed, we met and she confessed she didn’t know what a mentor did and had never been asked to be one before. So while it was a case of the blind leading the blind, she provided me with some helpful steer and insight when I shared my aspirations and plans. Although it felt like I was out of my depth or dangling from a rope at times, I had someone by my side.
Whether you run your own business or you are employed, mentorship is invaluable. I now take a different approach to finding a mentor, in that I identify the shortfalls in my business and then I seek out mentors who can assist me in filling the gaps. As a mentor for many individuals and businesses myself, I know how to identify what I require for my own business, but I appreciate not everyone has knowledge of how to do this themselves. A core part of mentoring a business is helping them to identify their specific requirements for mentoring and this is something I always undertake thoroughly. There is no other way of ensuring your work with them is adequately tailored. This is not a time for generic advice which can be accessed from books and online courses.
Depending on the mentor you work with will determine what specialist skills they share with you in addition to the basics. However, it is probably fair to have some core expectations from your mentor. These are likely to include helping you to:
(1) Identify and address gaps
Review current activity and address any shortfalls in knowledge, experience or support
(2) Understand your challenges and the context in which you are working
Be clear on the challenges you address, the unmet needs elsewhere you can fulfil and the context in which you have to operate
(3) Access tailored help and support
Mentoring should be matched to your requirements to provide expertise, feedback, insight and steer on the next steps. This includes your mentor referring you to others in their network as required.
(4) Be focused
Creating focus and setting priorities by working on your business and, in my language, the impact you are developing.
(5) Plan and take action
Plan next steps, commit to activity and be accountable
In addition to the above list, my own speciality, helping people to be an impact player in business, involves you being supported to:
(6) Know your value
Reduce overwhelm, feeling stuck and reconnect with the value you already connect for others
(7) Reflect and learn
Participate in exercises to gain insight from yourself and others to inform strategies and plans
(8) Demonstrate your value
Determine the best way to demonstrate the value of your contribution for scale and to maximise opportunities
(9) Build all the foundations for impact
I am writing a book to go through these in detail, the qualities every impact player in business display and these are, not surprisingly, many of the things I share in my blog.
Running your business or team can be a lonely place and peer support is another valuable asset within your support network. However, a mentor will keep you focused, on track and connected to a wider network of expertise tailored to your needs at any one time. Can you afford to be without one?