I am often asked what makes a good mentor, or could I be a mentor. Here I explain some of the common characteristics of a good business mentor.
Business mentoring has become very popular in recent years. This is probably because of the increase in the number of new business owners who have taken the plunge and decided to “go it alone.” I have been mentored and I am now a mentor myself, so I have benefitted from both sides of the relationship.
Contrary to popular belief a mentor doesn’t have to be older in years than their mentee or client but simply needs to be more experienced in a particular sector. Similarly, a mentor doesn’t have to be a business owner to mentor someone who is self-employed, but it is a definite advantage to have knowledge of the challenges that a business owner may have.
I work with a large number of mentors. They have different styles, backgrounds and skills but they have much in common too. They all see their mentoring as a privilege and an opportunity to improve themselves.
If you answer yes to the questions below, then you should be a business mentor!
Do you enjoy helping others?
This is an obvious starting point. However, investing a little time in others FEELS GREAT. Seriously, when a client says; “you inspired me to take action”, “I feel supported by you” or even a simple “thank you so much” it feels fantastic. It is also frustrating to watch less experienced business owners make mistakes, especially when they are genuine and decent people. If you can help someone to save time or money by learning from your experience, and even mistakes, then you should.
Do you have a skill that others value?
Most business owners can’t be a Jack of all trades. Being a business owner can mean wearing many different hats: creative director, business development manager, service delivery, sales force, marketing executive, PR department, accounts manager….. and so on. You probably take your skills and experience for granted. However your advice, as simple as it may seem to you, can be the difference between success and failure to a business owner.
Are you a good listener?
Mentoring is not about you, it’s about the mentee. If you can ask simple questions and listen to the challenges of your client, chances are you will be a great mentor. Some mentoring sessions I have held can be described as sounding board meetings. A few weeks ago I met a client for the first time, a very experienced tax consultant who had been running his business for a number of years. I simply asked a few questions about his current challenges, asked him to prioritise them and repeated them back to him. That was enough for him to start a project he had put off for six months. The feedback was fantastic, yet all I did was listen to his biggest challenges and tell him what I heard.
Can you be confidential?
If you are the kind of person who loves gossip and telling tales then do not be a mentor. Being a trusted advisor is crucial. If you can be trusted, you can mentor.
Do you believe in sharing?
The knowledge you have gained is yours to keep, and share if you wish. What good is it to be selfish about your experiences? One of my favourite songs includes a phrase that really made me realise that I should share my failures as well as successes. “We are paid by those who learn by our mistakes” from The Working Hour by Tears for Fears. This is a truly wonderful lyric which sums up how mentoring can develop both ourselves and others.
Are you ready to try mentoring? Look for mentoring organisations that allow you to join their programme. The Business Growth Hub is a great place to start. Give it a go, what have you got to lose?
Andy Hall is a business growth mentoring advisor for the Business Growth Hub who has mentored and coached over 100 individuals and business owners.