Today I wanted to blog about being a mentor for a therapist setting up her new business. So many businesses have been affected by the flooding in the UK that owners may need a boost in energy to get them moving again.
A mentor is someone independent of the business who can offer support, suggestions and a fresh pair of eyes to help keep the business owner moving on the right track. Mentoring is an important way to pass on skills, empowerment and to provide a sounding board for new ideas. These positive benefits encourage a sharing of knowledge & support for someone who wants to develop their work or business skills further. Mentoring can be used at all levels of an organisation or business to develop the skills and experience of future leaders, managers and business owners. Success in mentoring brings economic and personal growth for all the participants.
A key part of becoming a mentor for me has been to offer guidance, support and advice to my mentee. There is a difference between mentoring and coaching that it is worth pointing out as it is easy to become confused at times with these two roles. Whilst coaching is focused on performance and improving it, often over a relatively short timescale, mentoring targets the development of an individual’s capability over a longer term or a career, as well at various stages in the development of a business. I see my remit as a mentor being to act as an adviser, supporter, researcher, champion and evaluator depending on the needs of my mentee over time. These will be delivered through our developing relationship.
So I have a key responsibility to conduct the relationship is a positive & empowering way so that my mentee feels able to use my support and build her business with confidence in her own abilities. I also have a responsibility to ensure that we work to an agreed contract. This will help to set & manage our expectations of what the relationship will provide for both of us. At our first meeting we discussed how to conduct our sessions, what we would each be responsible for and how often we would meet until she had completed her business case to secure funding.
It’s also important to note that there may be others who are involved in the mentoring process. Acknowledging the expectations, roles & responsibilities of other parties helps us, as mentor & mentee, to be clear about who else needs to be considered in our discussions e.g. the government funding institution supporting my mentee will expect certain things relating to her business plan proposal.
Mentoring always involves a wide range of skills, including coaching, consulting, counselling & teaching. I feel that I can be most useful in using this tool kit of approaches as flexibly as possible. However, a tool kit is only useful if skills can be communicated to and transferred to the mentee. So a priority for any mentor has to be effective communication. It is possible to build the mentee’s self belief and confidence only if there is a positive way of communicating encouragement, ideas and expectations.
Sometimes it’s necessary to present ideas or suggestions that will challenge the mentee’s thinking or plans so that the mentee can be sure that she has made the best business decision for her circumstances. Being able to communicate at these times is essential. Building a rapport with my mentee will help to do this. I feel that it is important that I can speak my thoughts clearly, with an understanding & empathy for my mentee’s views; that I can actively listen to her views and reflect them back positively; and, that my attitude & behaviour reflect positive values towards my mentee. Finally, I feel it is also my responsibility to offer praise and encouragement. Finding things that have worked can often boost a mentee who might be finding making progress difficult at times. Recognising progress, however small it might be against a business plan, or my mentee’s expectations, can help both of us to set managable goals to get through a more challenging period.
The mentor contract is a useful way of managing our expectations of each other when working to grow the mentee’s business. It gives us a framework within which to manage the time we can have together. Since it is a key way of setting up the purpose of the mentoring timescales, responsibilities and how we will keep in contact can be clearly understood. It’s also important to work ethically together as we will be setting business & mentoring goals that may cover commercial or confidential information. The elements of the contract also need to acknowledge what we can’t provide to each other – especially if I don’t have the required knowledge or skills e.g. about reflexology or massage.
Sometimes when setting up an holistic business finding a good mentor feels like a challenge. However, there are many people with some or all of the necessary skills who would be happy to help. Ask around. Look outside your particular profession (the freshest pair of eyes might actually be from another specialism altogether). Don’t be afraid to ask people if the would mentor you. If you are asked to be a mentor consider saying yes. Together we can all grow each other as people and businesses.
Day 47 of my blogging challenge.