How Everyone Benefits From Mentoring
By Tim Elwin
It’s quite amazing how quickly 30 years can go by… I only just realised a couple of months ago that I’ve had almost 3 decades of learning in the real world! It kind of shocked me at first because I really don’t feel that old, but alas, I am. On a good note, with age comes knowledge, quite a lot of it actually, as those 30 years have been across a number of industries in a variety of roles, for various sized businesses.
I have worked for startups, I’ve worked for corporates, I have worked for not-for-profits, I’ve consulted to a number of businesses and have founded a number of businesses, some successfully, and some which failed dismally. I’ve worked with the most amazing teams and I’ve worked at companies where the culture was so bad that my staff were conspiring to get rid of me, even before meeting me. Why? Well, my arrival would often mean change, and when you’ve set up a nice lazy role for yourself, change ain’t good! In other cases, staff had applied for my role and then been pissed off they didn’t get it, so disliked me instead of trying to learn why I got the role over them. Some I turned around, others not. But I digress… I have also worked with some of the smartest people I have ever know and have worked for some of the dumbest (don’t ask me to list them).
One thing is for sure, every single experience and every single minute and every single dealing with every single person over the past 30 years, both the good and the bad, has instilled me with the skills and knowledge of what I am today, a Mentor (well part time anyway)! Yup! I help those looking for business support! And it’s so rewarding! On many levels.
Mentoring is a crucial part of life in many aspects, but especially when transitioning into something new in your career or business. Guidance in new skills, knowledge, experiences, attitudes and networking are all so important on the path to success. To get this support at the time you need it is a proven method to driving both personal and professional growth.
It must be a soundboard for advice and guidance, not an environment to enforce your ideas or views. It is imperative that the mentee chooses their own path, and uses the guidance and advice you pass on, as they wish, if they wish, at their own pace, and with their own agenda. Because, if they simply do everything exactly as you say, it will ultimately stifle their innovation, and it will stifle their personal and professional growth. They must be placed in a creative, safe environment to question, to discuss and to decide which path they will take for their business/career.
Matching a candidate with the right mentor is also paramount when mentoring, as the right mentor will shape the mentee into the best they can be. So, if the match isn’t correct, they won’t get what they need to out of the program. As is the arrangement of engagement, for example: is it an informal, ad hoc relationship where the mentee reaches out every now and then, or a more structured program? I chose to register with the latter. An associate recommended that I check out a program called Inspiring Rare Birds. This program is not your general mentoring program, this one is specifically designed to empower female entrepreneurs through mentoring, events, grants and much more. On registering for this program, I have committed to 4 hours a month for 12 months and donate this time to the program.
Jo Burston and her Rare Birds team have created an amazing program delivering intelligent matching. Admittedly, 2 months ago when I was first matched with my mentee Dee, I questioned the match. Dee is a smart entrepreneur who runs a marine satellite sales and communications company. Marine? Boats? Sure, I grew up sailing but stopped that around the same time my professional career started almost 30 years ago! How could I help her? What could I possibly know more than her within her industry?
However, after my first meeting with Dee, everything fell into place, It was quite clear that there was so much of my past experience & knowledge that I could share with her to help Dee get the most out of her goals. My experience has already greatly helped her shape her path, hopefully, to even more success!
But I have realised something else over these past 2 months. Being a soundboard for Dee, sharing my experiences, sharing my time management skills, sharing with her the fundamentals of marketing, finance and operations, the best and the worst practices for business, and a number of contacts in my networks, all of this has given me a refresher course for myself. After doing something for so long we often forget the fundamentals and often forget that through fresh eyes, engagement and communication come ideas and innovation.
Since becoming a mentor, my professional life has also been enhanced. It’s reminded me to refine my approach to my latest business venture, as well as giving me a massive amount of self-empowerment, as I do this not for money, but for the pure satisfaction of supporting another through the turbulent life of being your own boss. It’s a powerful thing, for both of us!
Tim Elwin is Cofounder & Managing Director of Altspc