A mentor is: “An experienced and trusted advisor – one who expects more of us than we do”.
Mentoring, coaching, developing business people, and improving performance is a complex activity combining skill, knowledge, patience, values, and engagement. It is not one trait but the combination together with commitment and intent, which builds successful mentoring relationships.
I write these words as I complete a role as a mentor to three young entrepreneurs in a regional program. I have learnt, and still do, from many kind and wonderful people who have given their time and knowledge to help me. It was such a pleasure to pass on my knowledge and skills to help my small team.
My first true mentor was my Dad. Born in the UK, served in “Dad’s Army” as a young man because he lost his trigger thumb as an apprentice butcher; learnt other trades on the black market during the war; migrated to Australia in the 60‘s when the rest of this family said he was crazy; and worked for years as a small business owner, finally losing all his hard earned money by purchasing a pub, just before random breath testing was introduced. My values of hard work, being positive despite what life throws at you and always looking forward, is imbued with his values, approach and life observations.
In my early working life I have had many great managers that have challenged, coached, and supported me. They set clear development expectations with me, provided a series of assignments to widen my skills and competency, and ensured continuous feedback. The most valuable part of this experience was the ability to work closely with them, observing their approach; and values in decision making and problem solving.
The benefits from learning with the experience of the mentor include:
- Exposure to different ideas and perspectives,
- Insight into your own performance,
- Support in development,
- Avoiding and learning from mistakes,
- Intellectual stimulation from interaction with a trusted and knowledgeable person, and often,
- Increased visibility and an extension of influence within a community or group.
Where can you find a mentor? Mentors can be found both in the workplace and outside it. But first you must be clear about the reason you want or need a mentor, and then you can better identify who might help.
If you are just starting a business, wanting to do a business plan or marketing plan, you could start by using the mentoring services available through the various state governments.
If you are an established business and want advice on how to get to the next stage and access new networks and channels, join an industry association and network. Search online for an association or go to an industry conference and find out who the main players are. Take the initiative yourself and just ask.
Alternatively, try the informal type of mentoring, and think about your family and friends networks. Networking communities and university alumni’s are other good places to look for mentoring programs.
Mentoring is also good if you are facing difficult times. But maybe in this situation you could look at employing a business coach, management consultant to re-engineer processes, or an marketing coach to help with opportunity identification.
Finally, it’s important to observe the major ingredients in establishing successful Mentor/Mentee relationships, which are clarity of:
- Mentor/Mentee development relationship goals, roles, and responsibilities,
- Expectations and limits of relationship for all involved,
- Mentor key areas of experience, competence, and attitude both professionally and personally that contribute to Mentee development needs,
- Amount and length of time for development relationship,
- Measurement of development outcomes.
I am deeply grateful for the many men and women who have given me the benefits of their experience and skill, and that I in turn, am able to repay their investment by mentoring others.
Have you had a mentor and gained immeasurable value? I’d love to hear your story?
About the Author: Teresa Bassham runs Zenworkz Marketing, coaches and mentors small business in all aspects of authentic marketing. My website contains many useful and free resources:www.zenworkz.com
If you would like to know more about Teresa’s services, please contact her: mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org