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How to find a mentor

Business Life 08-04-2017

Even the most successful business people benefit from having mentors – people to help them focus on their goals and to glean new skills and experience from. Here, we give you some top tips on attracting a mentor to help boost your business.

Entrepreneurs face multiple challenges every day, from implementing major projects to managing employees. Rarely is there time to stay focused on long-term goals, objectives and growth opportunities. This is where a coach or mentor can help to maximise your business’s potential, acquire new skills and encourage you to develop yourself on a personal level. Mentors are the secret weapons for successful start-ups and established businesses.

What is mentoring?

A mentor is different to a coach but these fields often overlap. A coach, who may have specific skills, supports you to achieve certain goals and the process is often performance driven with a clear end point. Coaches sometimes use the GROW model – Goal, Current Reality, Options and Will.

Whereas a mentor according to Fariyal Wallez, a creativity and life coach for professionals (letyourbodytalk.uk.com), is “someone you can talk to about anything. They are an objective sounding board. They’re wiser and more experienced and don’t have a direct stake in what you’ll achieve.” The purpose of a mentor, she says, is to challenge the mentee but with compassion. “It’s about developing someone as a person, as well as a business person.”

Why enter into this relationship?

Confidence, wellbeing, goal attainment and productivity… These are some of the benefits that the $2bn coaching industry tells us we can achieve from regular sessions. Coaches and mentors can also help us get through difficult times and transitions, particularly crucial career changes such as preparing for a new promotion, moving on from recent redundancy, handling yourself and your team under a new manager with new ideas and making a next career step.

Fariyal’s clients are 80% women in the creative industries and one issue she tackles frequently is building self-confidence, for example, shifting the wrongly held belief that you don’t deserve to succeed in business.

Where to look?

Find accredited mentors and coaches on the European Mentoring and Coaching Council, and International Coach Federation websites (emccouncil.org, coachfederation.org). Each may specialise in various areas, for example, behavioural, spiritual, business, career, life and executive.

Or why not approach your hero who is adept in your industry? Be clear about why you’re approaching them and say what it is about them that you find inspiring. Often experts want to ‘give back’ and advise others, but if they say no or are too busy then nothing has been lost except that you asked.

Who to choose?

“The relationship is key,” says Fariyal. “People shouldn’t be afraid to talk to several people before settling on a mentor. You have to gel. It may take a few false starts to find the right person.”

When is the right time?

“A mentor is useful at any point in your life or career,” says Fariyal. Someone from outside the business can offer an objective slant on challenges you’re facing and is someone to share the truth with – this could be especially handy if you’re in a family business and need an unbiased opinion. “A mentor supports you to take responsibility for your own development. Our job is not to tell you what to do but to throw open to door to different opportunities,” she says. If you’re considering approaching a mentor you might want to think about topics you want to discuss beforehand and try to pinpoint any challenges you need advice on.

What to expect?

Every mentor will have a different approach. Fariyal starts by asking people to look comprehensively at their own life – family, work, relationships, money, health, spirituality, values and aspirations. Then she explores what their weaknesses are and how they create meaning in their lives. For example, if we start with the question of what success means and then look at the factors, such as increasing profits or selling more products, we may find that in fact what defines success for us is something quite different. Fariyal’s process is focused on bringing out clients’ creativity – she’s currently living in France, writing a novel and setting up a holistic retreat. Her advice to AWM readers is “do stuff simply because you enjoy it. Everything does not have to have an end goal.” Do like Google, she says, who give their employees a set time to pursue anything they like to flex the creative muscles, or get out and do an activity that has nothing to do with the business, even if it’s a walk in the park. This is vital to balance our lives, work is not everything, says Fariyal.

Mentoring can benefit individuals, executives, employees and teams to develop new ideas and aim towards best practice. Don’t neglect it. Get a quality mentor, sustain the relationship by meeting regularly and focus on critical business or life issues. Whichever direction you’re headed, mentors can help you be the best person you can be.

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