When you think of mentoring, what picture do you conjure up in your mind? Many people think of a picture of a mature executive providing guidance and support to a young, inexperienced person at the early stages of their career.
Whilst this more traditional image of the mentor-mentee relationship is not necessarily a thing of the past, it is a model that is rapidly becoming dated and replaced with new models. Let me share with you some of my thoughts and experiences of mentoring.
There are lots of myths surrounding mentoring, so let’s dispel some of them.
1. You have to find one perfect mentor
Wrong. People can have different mentors at different stages of their career and different mentors to help with different challenges. The value of a mentor lies in the help and insight they can bring to bear in the context of the needs of the mentee. I have needed a mentor to help me to explore how best to take Exponential into new international markets and how to develop a web-based marketing strategy. Rather than find the one perfect mentor, I found two.
Some of the best mentors I have had have not always ‘been there and done it’, but they have been able to apply their broad experience, skills and wisdom to the scenario. I have one long term mentor whom I meet with every couple of years and other mentors who I turn to for specific support.
2. Mentoring is a formal long-term relationship
Today’s world moves fast, people change jobs and careers more often and the range and type of issues people face change from week to week. Mentoring can be a one-hour mentoring session. Mentoring does not have to be a six-month or year-long event.
Instead of focusing on the long term, think of mentoring as something you access when you need it. I like to think of mentoring as being more like Twitter and less like blogging: I would rather have a series of short mentoring conversations or Tweets when I need them rather than having to write a regular and more lengthy blog.
All successful mentoring relationships whether a long term or a short term relationship are built on trust, respect and chemistry.
3. Mentoring is only for junior people
Rubbish, mentoring is for anyone who needs it! There have been lots of points in my career when I have benefited from having a mentor and I still use mentors.
I have used mentors to help me move from being employed to setting up my own business; to help me to develop Exponential’s export strategy; and to help with the management of complex personnel issues. I have also used mentors from my personal network outside of my business network such as the time I met with the vicar of my church to make some difficult business decisions.
4. Mentors tell you what to do
The poor ones might do, but the better ones help you to figure out what to do and how you want to do it. I learned a valuable lesson from my accountant. When I asked if I needed to change from a partnership to a limited company structure at the end of my Company’s first year of trading, he said it was too soon. One year later and faced with a massive personal tax bill, he said, “In hindsight, we should have set up a limited company”. I pointed out I did suggest this. He responded, “I only offered my advice, the final decision was of course yours!”
Effective mentors share their knowledge, skills and insight, but they do not make decisions, tell or impose. They challenge and act as a critical friend, but do not mistake their ideas, opinions or inputs as decisions – only the mentee can make decisions.
5. Mentoring is something experienced people do out of the goodness of their hearts
Yes, it can be an honour to ask someone to be your mentor, but it can be useful for both parties. Before seeking out a mentor, think about what you have to offer them. Can you bring valuable contacts or information that might help them? I have offered mentoring to people and organisations to help me with my own personal development. Working as a mentor to the Young Enterprise organisation in the UK served to help me hone my group coaching skills; mentoring a manager in an online marketing business enabled me to learn about how I could improve my company’s e-marketing effectiveness.
If the relationship is all one way, it is not working as it should.
Do you Need Mentoring?
Having dispelled some myths about mentoring, would you benefit from being mentored? The place to start is with self-assessment and to find out what challenges are in front of you right now and why. Then ask yourself, do you have the relational resources to handle those challenges? If you do not, then it may be time to seek out a mentor or several. Remember that mentoring can take many shapes and forms: the key is to find the right kind of advice from the right person at the right time.
Finally, for me, great mentors have a great chemistry with their mentees and also get something out of the relationship. Mentoring is increasingly becoming a management tool and therefore increasingly managers are equipping themselves with the skills to be able to offer mentoring to others as well as seeking out their own mentors.
Become a Mentor
If you feel you have something to offer and are interested in developing your skills as a Mentor then why not consider one of our Coaching & Mentoring qualifications?
Today managers need to be equipped with an array of coaching and mentoring tools and techniques in order to manage and support the performance of teams and individuals. Our qualifications are packed with simple and effective tools and resources, these professional coaching and mentoring qualifications are ideal for those wanting to become effective as a coach or mentor.