It was nearly 5 years ago now, that I first came across the concept of mentoring in a professional context. We were attending a small business expo where the New Zealand Business Mentors (www.businessmentors.org.nz) had a stand. They were offering help and advice with the issues that tend to trouble small and medium sized businesses.
What intrigued us was that there was no up front charge, so it was easy to say “yes, let’s listen to it”. In addition the quality of mentors was exceptionally good and targeted to our actual needs.
Since then I’ve made it a point to find myself a mentor for different aspects of my life and work. To give you an idea of mentors I’ve worked with and what they’ve done for me:
- one is a general business mentor and
- another one specifically helpful for processes and
- several helped me acquire a key skillset I needed to succeed as an entrepreneur (for example sales or marketing).
- I even found one (whom I particularly look up to) specifically for the business ethics he lives and stands for.
Since I had such positive experiences from being mentored, I slowly started to get into mentoring others. I then realized while my mentors had made it look easy it was much harder than I thought it would be!
However, it was also much more rewarding than I expected it to be. Initially I just wanted to do it to give something back, however what I discovered was that the mentor can get as much, if not more, value from the process, and here is why:
We learn new stuff every day. Or so we think. We spend a year working on something, getting to know new people in meetings and networking, making new experiences and we may even do some self-analysis along the way.
However, nothing comes close to “realizing that learning” when mentoring others.
This is personally very rewarding, not to mention that the sentence “the student has become the master” is absolutely true in a mentoring context. I’ve probably learnt equally as much from those I’ve mentored as from those that mentored me. One without the other (or taking without giving) is really only 50%, or less.
If there was one specific learning I could pass on from this process it would be to pay absolute close attention to what’s being said and how it’s being received. Most importantly is to listen more and to say less, and only say something when I truly have something to contribute.
Mentoring is a great responsibility, as is being mentored. It’s not like being in a brainstorming session where you can creatively throw some ideas around. For as much as you can miss pointing out something important, you may as well say something that’s simply too much and potentially even more destructive. As the old saying goes: “Words are like Water – easy to poor, but impossible to recover”.
If you’re keen on learning more (and) and haven’t tried being mentored or mentoring before, be aware that it does take time and you do have to give up other things to to take this on. But I, for one, highly recommend it to even the busiest entrepreneurs.
The more you can approach it with an open mind, ears and being alert on when your ego kicks in, the better results you’ll get. No matter on which side of the table you sit.
What are your experiences on mentoring or being mentored?
(Thx at Jonathan for the photo)