These days, many business owners/leaders are interested in taking on a business mentor to help them achieve greater success.

Mentors differ from coaches and consultants in that they teach based on their own experience.  They have effectively “been there, done that and got the T shirt” and they use this knowledge to assist their clients.  (Think Mr Miyagi from the Karate Kid.)

Coaches may well also have this level of experience, but they have learnt additional techniques to impart this knowledge in more ways that saying “this is what I did, and it worked for me”.  A coach does not have to have been where you are going, but they have to understand fully the game you are playing.  Think of an Olympic athlete’s coach, who may never have won a gold medal themselves.

Consultants are more interested in the detail of how things work, and like to get on and help you fix things.  They tend to be very specialist in certain areas, and once the problem is fixed, they move on.

Finding the right mentor for you

The first thing to think about is, are you really looking for a mentor, or would a coach or consultant be more appropriate?  If it really is a business mentor you need, don’t worry too much if…

  • They aren’t from the same line of work as you – It can often prove an advantage if they don’t have a background in your industry.  They will have a different network to you, which can be a great benefit.  They can also offer a completely objective point of view.
  • They are younger than you – If they have achieved something that you also aspire to achieve, it doesn’t matter how many years of experience they have.
  • They’re not the same gender as you – Diversity is key when seeking a Mentor.  You need this to ensure you are getting a truly different perspective on things.
  • They think differently to you – Of course the relationship needs to be compatible, but the last thing you need is a clone of yourself.  You need someone who can push you out of your comfort zone, ask you challenging questions, and provide cogent feedback.

The best place to find a mentor is always a referral, so speak to your professional advisors or business colleagues and find out who they know.  If you can’t find them here, then try good old Google or social media. But a word of warning – ensure that your chosen mentor is experienced at mentoring or coaching,  If not, then you are not going to get the best out of them.

Look for mentors who are actively helping the business community, they are the ones who are going to be passionate about helping you.  Check out their websites for case studies.  Videos of them talking will help you see if their style suits you.  Also check out their connections on Linked In.  One big benefit of mentors is who else they can put you in touch with.

Then talk to them on the phone, Zoom, and/or face to face.  Remember though that this is going to be a professional relationship, they are not there to be nice to you!  You are going to invest time and money with them, are they going to help you get a return on your investment.

How to get the most out of your Mentor

 To get the best possible outcome from having a mentor, it is crucial to be open and honest.

Firstly, you need to discuss and agree on some ground rules, as well as setting goals for what you want to achieve.  Without goals, you won’t know how much progress you are making, or how to keep sessions focused and on track.

Tell them the full story of your accomplishments, goals, challenges and needs.  This will help your Mentor, to understand the best way in which to support you, in reaching your goals and overcoming challenges.

Don’t avoid tough questions or be afraid to ask them.  This won’t do you any favours in the long run.  The best questions are those that don’t have an immediate answer, and require some thought and consideration, in order for you to respond.

No one likes criticism, but you will need to hear some hard truths, and accept feedback to move forwards.  It’s meant in an entirely productive way to help you achieve what you want, however, you can give as good as you get!  It is ok to share advice, and offer your own feedback, it’s not breaking any rules. It will help strengthen your relationship  and build trust if you can give and take in a positive way.

Get clarity on the timing of meetings.  Weekly, fortnightly, monthly quarterly are the norms, but it really depends on what you want and how much time they have.  However, time does equate to money.  Mentors are often busy people, so your job is to get what you want from them and get on with it.  Cosy chats help nobody!

How to be a great Mentee

 Respect is a key part of your relationship, so ensure that you are punctual to meetings with your mentor.  Also don’t be tempted to ask them every question that comes into your head between sessions.  Only ask the really important questions, and save all the less important stuff for when you see them again.  This will show that you respect and value their time. It’s best to cover this as part of the ground rules discussion.

You should feel driven to learn, improve and grow, so be active!  Your mentor isn’t there to do the work for you.  If they have given you some advice to put into practice, make sure that is exactly what you do.  This relationship is entirely focused on you, so make sure you take advantage and reap the benefits.  Take up any opportunities that they can offer you, accept any introductions they can facilitate, and walk through any doors they can open.

Be prepared to feel uncomfortable.  Mentors should push you to be better that you would without them, remember Mr. Miyagi and the “wax on, wax off / paint the fence”.  They have faith in you to  push through the difficult times, you have to believe it too.

Whether your mentor-mentee relationship is long or short term, be committed to putting in the work, that will help you get the best results.  Like they say, ‘the more you put in, the more you’ll get out’.

Good luck with finding your perfect mentor, and achieving the success you desire!