Whether you’re a young business or an established company, business mentoring provides valuable insight and guidance to help support your company’s growth and development.
Pamela Anderson, owner of Sounding Board Associates and a senior HR consultant for Square Circle HR, has a wealth of experience behind her when it comes to business mentoring relationships.
She believes that the success of a business mentoring relationship is strongly linked to the strength of the participants’ personal relationship.
Here she explains her 'holistic' approach, and shares her top tips on maximising your relationship with a business mentor.
1. Be clear about what you want to achieve
In order to get the most out of a mentoring relationship, Pamela suggests it’s a good idea to identify the reason you are seeking mentoring – whether it’s down to a specific business matter, or something to do with where you are currently in life.
For something related to a particular business issue, she recommends seeking out a mentor with the kind of relevant experience or distinct skill such as finance or sales.
However, she adds: “If you’re looking for some help because you don’t know if you’re in the right place anymore – if you feel uncomfortable or that you should be moving but you don’t know where to – then more holistic mentoring, such as mine, could help”.
Your mentor will be giving up time unpaid, so make sure you are clear about how much support or time you expect from them each week or month. Try to keep to pre-determined windows for advice and discussion.
Of course, there may be emergencies that require urgent attention from your mentor, but try to ensure that the majority of your communication happens at a time that is convenient for them, agreed in advance.
2. It’s about the ‘professional’ and the ‘personal’
“If you address someone’s personal development, they will do a better job within the business and, therefore, the business will move forward", Pamela says. "I know that some people don’t think that way, but that’s generally how I view it”.
It’s not surprising then that Pamela finds herself more often in a 'mentoring match' with business people who want to look at their personal development as a way to move their work life forward.
3. It’s okay to feel the relationship is not going to work
Like any other relationship, both sides must be invested in order to make business mentoring work. Being able to consider things from other people’s point of view is essential, both to good mentoring and to successful business relationships.
When you consciously and deliberately seek out a mentor, you should look for someone who genuinely cares about you on a personal level, and who really wants you to be successful in your venture or your career. A degree of emotional investment is key to achieving a fulfilling mentor relationship.
Pamela says, “Sometimes you might not be able to tell if the match is right straight away. It could be a suck-it-and-see kind of process, but that’s OK too.
"At the end of the first session I would ask the mentee if they feel that it would be worthwhile meeting again or not – there’s no compulsion at all. It may be that it’s not quite what they’d hoped it would be.
"But even that’s not really time wasted", Pamela explains, "as it helps to clarify what they are really looking for and the kind of help they might need.”
4. Be open and willing to hear other points of view
Many people view a mentor as someone more experienced who takes the time to personally offer guidance and advice while taking an emotional investment in your success.
Mentees don’t always consider this process as requiring an equal effort on their part, both in nurturing the relationship, and really listening, without being defensive, to advice given.
5. Take the initiative and lead the relationship
Your mentor should not be driving your business, or expected to provide critical feedback on actions taken or missed.
Business mentoring is most effective if the entrepreneur proposes the agenda and drives for specific insights, but never forgets to press the mentor for broader or related implications.
The mentoring process begins with an initial meeting - typically monthly - for both parties to see if they are comfortable with the arrangement, and outline what they are hoping to gain from it.
Pamela is always keen to establish that the people she works with feel that the relationship would be beneficial and that they are happy to lead the relationship.
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