Mentoring matters: what makes a good one

I returned, by unbelievable timing, to Melbourne from Florida USA in January of 2020 ,just in the nick of time pre-COVID. I spent 2018 and 2019 as a mentor with the national association of business mentors, called SCORE. This US National Association of Business Mentors, primarily of volunteer business experts, provided expert advice as mentors to small businesses seeking advice and direction to grow their start up or struggling established businesses.

Mentoring here in Australia has been available in private and public sectors in recent years with recognized importance. It is more important now, and is critical for growth planning, and advice to entrepreneurial business thinkers particularly needing pragmatic and unbiased ethical assistance. Regrowing our economy will come from new start-up businesses and young growing firms.

Businesses that may be in a phase of growth, not clearly knowing what’s best to get them to and achieve next phase will search for mentor sources. The benefits of engaging a mentor are myriad, from both the individual and company points of view. Unfortunately, since COVID-19 hit the business world, and resulted in many levels of employee redundancies, or job losses, or evening forcing early retirement for some, there has been an unexpected number of professionals move into the consulting, coaching and mentoring sector, with many of these people quite innocently proclaiming to be much more competent and business experienced than their reality acknowledges.

It is important to realise that mentoring is not a magic wand that automatically creates achievement or business success. A good mentor needs to be more than just a successful individual who has done well in each of the positions they held, in one or more companies in their careers, or the promotions they received. A “best practice” mentor must have personality qualities and the right disposition to develop people and planning with the disposition and desire to develop long-term relationships.  Upon competent referrals and testimonials from sound sources,

Mentors should have: 

  1. Current and relevant industry or organisational knowledge, expertise and or proven skills in practical terms not in conceptual awareness.
  2. The ability and availability to commit real time and commitment energy to the mentoring relationship; it takes time beyond good intentions.
  3. A pragmatic approach to share strengths experienced and developed, as well as to communicate how they experienced failures along the way, which both sides deliver value.
  4. A growth mindset will be open to learning. Business management would prefer to engage and be advised by professionals whose minds are open because they always look to deepen their knowledge.
  5. Fully conscious skill in helping others develop themselves. Included in this area should be very real skills such as active listening, asking powerful, open-ended questions, self-reflection, providing feedback and being able to share experiences including personal anecdotes, case examples and honest insights.

A mentoring relationship must be managed and nurtured. Since it is a joint venture, both parties must be actively involved and attend to its development of achievement. Each party must respect confidentiality, have laser like focus, accept constructive feedback, and have mutually set goals for accountability. These qualities, skills and relevant experiences will define what can be expected from the best mentor.

Jay Johnson, Director, Pelorus International

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