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Leadership & Mentoring

National Mentoring Day: Mentors reveal their top tips for SMEs

Behind every successful leader, is a great mentor. To celebrate National Mentoring Day, returning for its third year on 27 October 2019, Andy Hall - mentoring relationship specialist at GC Business Growth Hub - gives a taster of insights mentors offer to SMEs seeking mentoring support.

We all know that having a mentor can make a huge difference to entrepreneurs, business owners and leaders. The most successful people surround themselves with those they learn from, so it’s no surprise that many of our aspirational clients ask for a mentor. 

I’d like to think that we know a thing or two about mentoring. Since GC Business Growth Hub launched, we have “matched” more than 800 mentoring relationships with more than 8,000 hours of voluntary support provided by the 400 mentors GC Business Growth Hub is able to call upon.

So, what have we learned from our mentors that is worth sharing with those looking for a sounding board of their own?

We asked five of our longer serving mentors questions about their experiences of mentoring, their style and techniques, how mentors can make a difference to people in business and any advice they can give to those looking for a mentor.

What is fascinating is how different mentors have differing opinions around the challenges and mistakes they have witnessed. From a lack of focus on the figures to having an inflexible business plan, from issues with leadership styles to problems with motivation: what does this tell us about business mentoring? Well, to me it’s clear there is no “one size fits all” way to be a mentor.

When finding a suitable mentor, we begin with the challenge the mentee is facing. Next, we look for someone who has experienced a similar challenge, then we ask our mentor if they would find the relationship fulfilling and in line with their values. Finally, we ask both parties to meet to explore how they can add value to each other.

Here I’ll share some valuable insights from our mentors. I’m sure we could all learn from a mentor figure, but we must always remember that one simply cannot sit back and be a passenger in a mentoring relationship: rather, a mentee should take responsibility for their own agenda, seek guidance and challenge.

What are the most common challenges your mentees face?

  • “Getting the ground rules sorted, taking ownership and understanding that they are the person who’s really going to make the difference, because they walk away from each meeting with the list of actions.”
  • “Feeling isolated and overwhelmed by the sheer breadth of knowledge that seems to be required coupled with urgency.”
  • “Business owners that are moving from controllers to leaders.”
  • “Don’t underestimate the length of the journey. ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day.’”

What are most repeated mistakes people in business make?

  • “Failing to focus on the numbers and key business metrics when times are good.”
  • “Persisting with an untried path of success - and repeating it time and time again!”
  • "Regularly checking progress against plan. Undoubtedly changes will be required on the way, but a plan helps you to be realistic and take corrective action rather than blindly stumbling into danger.”
  • “Not unlocking the incredible potential in people. Not asking for help.”

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve had from a mentor figure?

  • “Just do stuff.’ Sometimes, to get momentum into your business or your life you should stop thinking too deeply and just get on with it.”
  • “Think about what is really stopping you from doing it. Who can help?”
  • “Mutual trust and respect between the mentor and the mentee is key. Trust is based on integrity, competence and the ability to show that you care.”

What advice would you give to a mentee to make most out of a mentoring relationship?

  • “Be honest and open because that helps to surface the biggest issues quickly. Be realistic about what you should expect from the relationship - recognise your mentor isn’t there to give you all the answers but to help you find them yourself.”
  • “Like so much in life the amount you get out is in direct proportion to what you put in. Have an open mind and be prepared to be challenged.”
  • “Be yourself, remove limiting beliefs, and enjoy the ride!”

What techniques or approach do you use to make the most out of a mentoring relationship?

  • “Trying to avoid any judgement and pre-conceptions. As a mentor you’re not there to create someone in your own image but help them to be the person they want to be."
  • “Quoting personal or other areas which have been tried and are successful.”
  • “Challenge and support. Lots of open questions to examine options and consider outcomes, while offering support and encouragement.”
  • “Confidentiality- It’s really important that you respect each other’s confidentiality.”

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