How to choose a business mentor

How to choose a business mentor

A trusted business colleague of mine regularly talks about ‘the right mentor for right now’ and I have to agree.

In looking for a mentor, you need to choose someone who can offer you what you need right now – if you’re in business already, this may be very different from what you needed 12 months ago or when you initially started up your business.

Gaining a mentor can be a life-changing process, but always ensure that you choose wisely.

So how do you go about choosing the right mentor for right now?

  1. What are you actually trying to do?

Firstly, figuring out what it is you are actually trying to do will help you define the criteria for the right mentor.

Try answering the following questions to get clear on this:

  • Are you looking for help in relation to specific aspects of your business?
  • Are you trying to take your business to the next level?
  • Are you looking to develop your business strategy for the next five years?
  • Or is it more about getting a mentor for you personally, as the leader of your business, whether you are a business of one or manage a team of people?
  1. What mentoring relationship would you like?

The next stage is to identify how you would like the actual mentoring relationship to work. This could include:

  • Will it be formal or informal?
  • How often do you want to meet and where?
  • Do you anticipate paying for your mentor?
  • What sort of person do you enjoy working with? Are there any specific values that are important to you in a mentor?
  • How do they approach the mentoring process and how comfortable are you with this approach?
  1. Are they the right mentor for you?

Finally, take some time to identify whether someone is the right mentor for you (and whether in fact you are ready for a mentor) by investigating the following:

  • What is their experience as a business owner?
  • What is their experience as a mentor?
  • Have they done what you’re trying to do?
  • What other factors matter to you?
  • Are you ready to ‘get real’ with yourself?
  • Are you ready to be challenged and stretched outside your comfort zone?
  • How open are you to considering suggestions and guidance from your mentor?
  • Are you prepared to make changes to your business and/or yourself if that’s what’s needed to achieve what you are aiming to do?

The feeling of being listened to is one of the gifts that mentoring brings. It can be a powerful force in supporting you to think, decide and take action.

As well as being mentored myself, I have been an experienced mentor for over 20 years. In my experience, the following attributes are important in all great mentors:

Listening skills

Sure, everyone can listen, but true listening skills take focus and connection. Great mentors listen with all of themselves, not just their ears. They also should be fully present with you in the moment. The feeling of being listened to is one of the gifts that mentoring brings and it can be a powerful force in supporting you to think, decide and take action.

Questioning skills

Great questioning from your mentor will broaden your thinking, help you analyse and reevaluate, challenge you to consider other options, and develop your self-understanding. Therefore, your mentor should be skilled in questioning techniques to unveil possibilities. They should also use their intuition to ask the right question at the right time.

The ability to challenge you to stretch yourself

And ask you the questions that you may not normally ask yourself! This will assist you in gaining clarity of what you are really capable of, and also challenge your thinking. Remember, mentoring should be about growth, taking you beyond what you do and who you are now and into the whom-you-can-become zone.

Experiences to share

Each mentor brings their own wealth of experiences and should be willing to share their lessons. Some of the most valuable experiences are where they may have made mistakes and what they learned from them.

Encouragement & support

Mentoring is a partnership and both the mentor and the mentee have responsibilities. Part of the role of the mentor is to support and encourage you as they need to believe in you.

Gaining a mentor can be a life-changing process, but always ensure that you choose wisely.

Remember, in addition, you can always select multiple mentors to assist you in different areas of your life or business.

Stacey Ashley, leadership coach and mentor, Sydney

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