Mentoring is a relationship between two people with the goal of professional and personal development. The “mentor” is usually an experienced individual who shares knowledge, experience, and advice with a less experienced person, or “mentee.”
What’s the difference between coaching and mentoring?
A coach is trained to guide people in a specific field of learning, and to support their learners in reaching their goals. This is normally over a short or set period.
A mentor has experience rather than formal training. A mentor passes on skills, knowledge, and expertise by motivating and encouraging a mentee to achieve their goals through success. Mentors can provide a fresh perspective, as well as assess strengths and weaknesses. The main aim of effective business mentoring is to drive personal growth and focus on long term career development.
Does everyone need a mentor?
Everyone can benefit from having a mentor, be that in an employed role or self-employment. Many companies have in-house programmes, but it may only encompass graduates or senior level staff on a management programme who have the opportunity of a mentor. The difference a mentor makes to a mentee’s motivation and success is uplifting, and is a proven method of developing talent. Mentoring has the potential to unwrap the potential for untapped career success. How brilliant would it be to recognise staff at the earliest stages and grades of their career, including the most junior support roles? Staff in turn feel valued and bring out the best for their company. Take note if you’re in a role that could provide the opportunity within a larger business.
Within smaller businesses and sole traders, a survey by the UK’s Department for Business, Innovation and Skills found that 94% of SMEs using external support saw benefits. These businesses are more ambitious and have higher relative turnovers. Research has shown that 70% of small businesses that receive mentoring survive for five years or more. This is double the rate compared with non-mentored entrepreneurs, (source: FSB)
This blog discusses business mentoring. However there are many different types of mentoring, including personal mentoring, career mentoring, ex-offender mentoring, youth mentoring, child mentoring and community mentoring.
There is also reverse mentoring which is the opposite of traditional mentoring. A junior person will mentor a more experienced person, with that person becoming the mentee. There is the opportunity to address skills gaps, often with younger mentors being able to pass on new and upcoming skills. It is also a great opportunity to share their ideas.
How often does mentoring happen?
Each mentoring journey is unique and should be treated that way. The duration should be agreed from the start, along with the frequency and method of communication and meeting. With technology, mentoring can be done from afar however the best option would always be in person. There is no right or wrong answer – arrange what suits the circumstances best.
Who should be a mentor?
Good mentors are enthusiastic, reliable people, often experts in their field. Good communicators who enjoy the role they play in helping others achieve their goals. There are many qualities of a good mentor, a good listener, respectful of others, be able to provide constructive feedback and keen to avoid their mentee becoming overwhelmed.
Mentors tend to have a strong network of connections and be able to talk about failures they have had in their business journey, sharing open and honestly. Its vital mentors can commit time and effort to the relationship. Many people who receive mentoring go on to mentor others.
Where do you find a mentor?
Mentors can be found in all industries, and across all specialisms. Professional bodies, membership organisations specific to your role/industry/career are the best places to start. Check for mentoring through organisations you are already connected, as many workplaces, colleges and universities have a mentoring initiative.
When choosing a mentor, they should be a good fit for your goals. Ensure their values and style of communication work for you. Seek out someone who is a positive role model, someone you admire and respect, but is also relevant and available to you.
Avoid mentors who are controlling or judgemental. When choosing a mentor do seek recommendations, as you would when employing the services of any other professional.
My experience of mentoring
I currently have a business coach, rather than dedicated mentor. A coach who is aligned to my business, and I’m very lucky as Amanda Johnson of the VA Training Academy provides a hybrid approach being a trainer, coach, and mentor. As a new business owner, I respect Amanda’s industry knowledge and experience. I feel reassured whilst being supported and encouraged to be ambitious, and ensuring my business is a strong model with good foundations.
Through membership of a likeminded community, I receive (and provide) support from other members. We are encouraged to share weekly goals for accountability purposes, join weekly group coaching calls where questions and support is encouraged in a safe space. I have access to a library of resources and monthly online training sessions, as well as the opportunity to join additional training, as well as the option of booking individual mentoring sessions. Being an active part of the group and showing up and I know my business coach is following and supporting my progress. Amanda is available to provide mentoring support when needed.
Would I recommend having a mentor?
Absolutely, I recommend investing time with a mentor. I believe everyone could benefit from having a mentor – be that pre-employment, or in employment and self-employed. Mentoring opens doors in all situations be that a practical or desk-based role. Mentoring is not a new idea – the earliest trades in the world worked with their apprentices to pass on knowledge and skills.
The opportunity to unlock the potential of young adults starting their first job role, whom may not yet have realised their ambitions. Mid-career individuals stepping up the ladder towards executive level and beyond in reaching their long-term aspirations, can only be a good thing. Mentoring gives a sense of purpose to both sides of the relationship. It is also likely you will find long lasting friendship along the way.
If you haven’t got a mentor, consider getting one.
If you have built up skills, knowledge, experience, and success yourself, considering becoming a mentor.
Let me know if you enjoyed this blog.