The definitions of what is a business mentor are many and varied. Mentoring and coaching are closely related and this often confuses the issue. Rather than try to define mentoring this post sets out to explain the services delivered by a typical business mentor and their value.
Mentoring is a one to one relationship between the mentor and the mentee. The mentor is a specialist in one particular area of business and generally much more experienced in that area than the mentee. A mentor is:
In their particular area of business, they will generally hold a range of relevant qualifications and have many years experience. It is this combination of up to date knowledge and practical business experience that is at the core of a mentor’s value to a business.
A Sounding Board
The first skill any good mentor should employ is listening and active questioning to get to the key issues, to understand the needs and aspirations of the mentee and to understand the real root of the problem to be addressed. The mentor is also there as a sounding board for the mentee to bounce ideas off and to obtain constructive feedback on those ideas.
The mentor should use their skills and experience to suggest the best course of action and to agree a way forward and plan for the mentee to implement. The mentor’s role is then to provide ongoing advice to deal with issues as they arise during roll out of the plan.
With the plan in place the role of the mentor is to hold the mentee accountable for their actions and to keep them on track delivering support and guidance as appropriate.
Depending on the seniority of the mentee the mentor may act as a role model. The mentor may also be required to act as a motivator and / or councilor to ensure the overall objectives of the mentoring service are met.
An often overlooked value of a mentor is their ability to arrange introductions to providers, suppliers and contacts of value to the mentee both in the implementation of the plan and in general. A mentor can often point to potential opportunities that may not be immediately obvious to the mentee.
A mentor can deliver real value to a business by developing the skills of the mentee who in turn can apply those new skills on an ongoing basis to benefit the business. A mentor can also deliver value by introducing both valuable contacts and opportunities that otherwise would not have been available to the business. However, it is critical to success that a mentor is chosen with the specific skills, qualification and experience that precisely matches the needs of both the mentee and the business.