If you run a successful business in any other leading industrial nation, the chances are you will have a mentor, a confidant, an experienced business person with whom you can share and discuss issues that you need to address both inside and perhaps outside of your organisation. Within the UK on the other hand, business leaders view having a mentor as some sort of admission of failure and that they need help. Mentoring is seen purely as something for start-ups and sixth formers and not for serious and successful business people.

I believe that every successful business leader should have a mentor and to understand why, take a look at ‘The Nature of a mentoring Relationship’.

As a business leader, a mentoring relationship is about providing yourself with the opportunity to reflect upon both yourself and your business with the benefit of an impartial perspective from another with wide and extensive business experience. Mentoring is about mutual trust and respect and is a two way relationship – you both get the chance to learn new things and develop new skills.

The confidential nature of a mentoring relationship provides both the client and the mentor a chance to be entirely frank and open about issues and concerns, and can be very empowering, helping to unlock and maximise your own performance.

Every mentoring relationship is different, but each will present the opportunity for both to learn from each other.

What should a mentor do?

An enterprise mentor is normally someone who has wide and extensive entrepreneurial business experience and will:-

  • Act as a trusted confidant
  • Provide an outside perspective on both the client and their business
  • Listen to the things that may be concerning the client about their business
  • Help by sharing their own experience of both failures and successes
  • Give friendly, unbiased support and guidance
  • Provide honest and constructive feedback
  • Be a sounding board for ideas
  • Facilitate decision making by suggesting alternatives based on personal experience
  • Provide contacts and networks to further personal and business development
  • Inspire the business owner to realise their potential
  • Provide ongoing support and encouragement

What shouldn’t a mentor do?

There are many different business support roles which all have their distinct place in the world of business development and improvement. As described above, mentoring is only one aspect of business support and therefore a mentor will not be expected to:

  • Provide a counselling service or offer therapeutic interventions
  • Provide a training service
  • Sort out all problems
  • Take the responsibility for making the business successful – the ultimate responsibility for making the business successful is down to the business leader

Adapted from the Mentors Toolkit published by the Institute of Enterprise and Entrepreneurs

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