Many businesses utilise a mentor/mentee relationship to foster personal and career development. With both parties involved gaining from the experience, it can be a beneficial training method to utilise – particularly within the workplace. Though it can be a long process and should therefore not be taken lightly!
A mentor will share their wisdom, offer support and guide their mentee towards an end goal. Not only will this enhance the skill set and job satisfaction of your employees, but by offering mentoring you can secure the future of your business too.
Mentor has become quite the buzz word in recent years, with many commonly referring to the term. But, what actually is it and are these people using the term correctly? In this article, we set out to provide you with the insight you need and clarify the definition of mentoring in business.
Where does the term come from?
The mention of the term ‘mentor’ may conjure up ideas of a white-haired wise man or guide – dare we say Gandalf? In fact, the origins of the word come from Homer’s The Odyssey; before leaving to fight in the Trojan war, Odysseus left his son and his entire state in the care of his friend Mentor, who then acted as a guide to the young Telemachus. Mentor, however, was only in his early twenties!
What is a mentor?
Before we move on to the definition of mentoring in business specifically, what actually is a mentor? Mentors will have extensive knowledge and experience that they can utilise and share to help other people develop their own skills; they often act as role models. Having a mentor you aspire to can motivate you to succeed.
Mentoring is often a long-term relationship, whether it be personally or professionally. This is not to be confused with coaching, which unlike mentoring, tends to be for a far shorter, defined period of time and will usually focus on one particular skill or issue that require improvement.
The definition of mentoring in business
When we move into the world of business, there are three types of guidance that many tend to confuse with each other: management consulting, business coaching and business mentoring. There may be some crossover but in essence, these are separate and can be defined as:
- Management consulting is based on the expertise, knowledge, skillset and technology of the consultant. The consultant’s skill set is focused on building their own internal resources, in order to apply them for the client company’s benefit.
- Business coaching assumes that the client has the necessary capability and helps them to discover it for themselves.
- Business mentoring targets the personal development of people who are well versed in their fundamental technical skills but need extra assistance in other skills areas, expertise or knowledge.
So, we can therefore see the definition of mentoring in business tends to focus on the professional development of people rather than coaching or consultancy which may see the implementation of a new strategy to grow a company. A mentor will share the wisdom and provide you with the expertise you need to confidently enhance their professional career; you can, however, combine mentoring and coaching together to form a fully rounded service where you’ll have access to tailored guidance and someone to transform the way your company operates.
What does mentoring actually involve?
It’s important to understand what mentoring will actually involve, whether you are the mentor or mentee. You’ll then be able to enter into a successful, working relationship knowing the expectations from the offset. A mentor will:
- Help you get past any obstacles that you wouldn’t have otherwise gotten through, and will provide you with the knowledge to do so in the future yourself
- Works with you to identify your career goals, thinking about how you can improve your performance and ultimately improve your skillset
- Acts as someone to talk to that you can understand and confidently confide in knowing they’ll be able to relate to your situation
- Inspires and motivates you to reach your goals, improving your confidence throughout the process
The mentor will be readily available to work with you, ready to listen to your concerns and assist with the mentee’s self-evaluation to ensure they continue to progress.
What are the benefits of a mentor?
Once you understand how a mentor will work with you in a business setting, we can understand some of the key benefits associated with this relationship. There are several benefits to working with a mentor from increased levels of productivity to a wide network pool readily available at your disposal:
#1 Focus on your goals
It’s very easy to become side-tracked professionally, with new projects and developments popping up around every corner it can be difficult to align your focus with your goals. A mentor can ensure you prioritise the right work and accomplish this to a high standard which will ultimately allow you to meet your professional goals whether this is a promotion or career change.
#2 Challenge you to do more
Within the workplace, we often begin to plateau or settle; you become comfortable with how things are running out. However, you may be majorly underestimating your own value, and a business mentor can challenge you to go the extra mile to improve standards and ultimately see you progress further than you could have imagined. They will help you develop your skills, increase your motivation and be there to celebrate your successes.
#3 Hold you accountable
Having a business mentor doesn’t automatically mean you’ll develop yourself! You will still need to invest time and effort to implement change, ultimately allowing you to overcome any issues along the way. But, a mentor will help you set goals and meet specific milestones as well as holding you accountable for delivering on these, on time.
#4 Offer guidance and an objective, honest opinion
Sometimes you just need a fresh perspective and having someone you trust to provide you with honest feedback. A mentor may pull you aside to offer guidance, and as a mentee, you are more likely to take this on board as you’ll value their opinion.
#5 Someone to listen and bounce ideas with
One of the key roles of a business mentor is to listen, stimulate and challenge your thinking. They’ll help you to develop your own ideas and arrive at your own solutions, encouraging you to overcome challenges at a faster rate by yourself. Having someone to bounce ideas off will allow you to be more self-assured and therefore, quickly develop your decision-making abilities.
#6 Expand your network
Your business mentor will likely have a vast network of customers within your industry as well as other professionals, and you’ll be able to build your own connections through this mutual relationship. By gathering valuable contacts, you’ll open up a variety of further opportunities in the future for your career – or perhaps you’ll serve as a mentor yourself!
Do you need a business mentor?
It can be difficult to understand if you really need a mentor or not, of course, many professionals are not willing or simply don’t have the time to work with another. But, if your answer is ‘yes’ to some of the following questions, finding a business mentor could see you making vast improvements within the workplace:
- Do you need to expand your network of contacts?
- Do you often feel you would benefit from the advice of someone who has been in a similar situation/circumstances but don’t know anyone?
- Do you feel you would benefit from the opportunity to talk your solutions through with someone who has experience and knowledge of dealing with similar situations?
- Have you identified areas of your own development that you would like to improve or change?
- Are you prepared to accept constructive criticism?
- Are you ready to consider you may need to make changes to your behaviours, attitudes and practices?
- Are you getting nowhere fast and feel like you are banging your head against a wall?
- Are you prepared to commit to dedicating time to your own self-development?
- Do you sometimes feel isolated or need some mutual support?
Mentoring in business: The conclusion
Mentoring can be an excellent resource to utilise within the workplace, allowing you to efficiently develop yourself professionally. Of course, it’s important to understand how the relationship will function and work with someone you aspire towards but, the expertise you’ll be able to draw on will be invaluable for your future development.
Perhaps you are ready to take the next step and meet a business mentor that you can trust to provide the right results? If you are looking to unlock the true potential of your organisation, I can help. Dedicated to you, I have over 30 years of experience as a seasoned business owner. With extensive knowledge and expertise, and with a proven track record of success to implement effective methods, I can help you reach your business goals today. Get in contact with me now at firstname.lastname@example.org or complete this contact form, and I’ll be happy to discuss how I can help you transform your organisation.