One of the Hub's growth mentors, Andy Hall, shares his thoughts on the questions you should ask yourself before deciding whether a business mentor is what you need.
“Show me a successful individual and I’ll show you someone who had real positive influences in his or her life.”
It’s no secret that successful people surround themselves with experience. The most famous entrepreneurs consistently refer to the support they’ve received along the road to success − whether that’s specialist, business coach, peer or mentor-shaped.
When Richard Branson discusses his biggest career influences and mentors, he almost always mentions English airline entrepreneur Sir Freddie Laker for helping him to develop and grow his enterprises like Virgin Atlantic, Rail, Money and even signing artists for Virgin Records. But he also acknowledges his Uncle Jim for having a profound impact on the way he thinks about the world.
My point? Inspiration can come from many places. Quite often it’s a meeting of minds. At the Hub, we encourage productive and successful mentoring relationships where we have helped entrepreneurs and business leaders make a great ‘Mentor Match’ to drive their business forward.
In fact well over 90% of our clients and mentors have told us that we got it right first time and that they’ve mutually benefited from their mentoring relationship, which I’m pleased to say is a result of us doing things a little differently.
It isn’t a case of “Computer says yes”. We dig deeper to uncover the challenges the individual has within their business and what keeps them awake at night. We search for a mentor from our “pool” who we know has the relevant experience, the right motivation and, just as importantly, the right personality to help our client grow.
So how do we do it? Well, we need to know as much as possible about the person who is looking for support to understand them and decide if they need a mentor or another form of support.
Here are some the questions you should ask of yourself if you believe a mentor is for you;
Start with 'Why?' Just as suggested by the brilliant book by Simon Sinek, ‘Why?’ (or take a look at this video) should be the starting point behind any incentive you have.
WHY do you want a mentor?
Is it right for you? Mentoring is suited to those who want guidance from someone who can be a confidential sounding board. Someone who’s been through, or has experienced the same challenges that you are either encountering or envisage down the road. It’s a great way to learn from someone else’s examples so you can decide, together, the best way forward for you.
If you want technical skills − go on a workshop, get some training or hire a consultant!
WHAT will the mentor be like?
A good way to look at this is to picture yourself in say a year or so, how would you like to be different? What specifically will you have learned? This helps identify the sector your mentor has worked in or what role they had.
What will you talk about? Mentors can be your sounding board for your growth plans. When approaching your mentor they’ll want to know how they can help. Just remember, a mentor isn’t your counsellor. Focusing on topics such as how difficult business/life is etc. is unproductive and unrewarding for you and your mentor.
WHEN is the time right, now?
“You can’t have too much of a good thing,” they say. That’s not always strictly true − working with an advisor, a consultant, a coach, a trainer and your mentor can be counterproductive. Too much conflicting information can lead to confusion, indecision and leave you back where you started.
Consider whether it’s better for you to meet your mentor up front to set your goals or at the end when you are ready to reflect on them.
HOW do you want to be mentored?
Do you want to be challenged? Or do you prefer to listen to the mentor’s experience? Will that take the shape of ‘homework’ or more informal catch-ups over coffee? Often, your mentor can be an invaluable sounding board, a critical friend and a coach rolled into one.
You also need to consider how often you want to meet, fortnightly or monthly, and for how long? In my experience 1-2 hours a month works well.
WHERE will your ideal mentor be from?
Consider specific sector experience, level of achievement or even geographical location.
And where will you meet? Will you be most comfortable at your place of work, theirs or maybe a coffee shop? I recommend a mentor meets their client at their workplace, at least once, to understand the environment they work in. I also strongly recommend moving away from the “coalface” in favour of somewhere neutral to help promote a clear mind and to encourage creativity.
As simple as that
By asking these questions you can decide if mentoring is the best course for development and how to select the most suitable mentor. Sure having a meeting with Richard Branson would be great, but he may not be the best mentor for you.
As a general rule, I recommend that business mentoring takes place every few weeks for around 90 minutes, give or take. Review progress after each meeting, and don’t forget to set the date for the next meeting there and then. Then, after three or four meetings, review again if both parties have achieved their aims and agree what happens next.
The Hub provides a fully-funded mentor matching service for its eligible clients. All our mentors are volunteers; they do it for the satisfaction they get from helping others in the business community.
We appreciate the amount of time our mentors spend sharing their wealth of knowledge and experiences – therefore we do our best to make sure that their mentee is fully engaged with their own development and the relationship is rewarding for both parties.
If you would like to explore having a mentor through our mentoring programme, sign up for a support service through Enquire and Grow.