Business leadership is inextricably linked with personal growth and people management. As a leader, you need to boost your skills and nurture your employees. There are many ways to do these things together; you can work on networking, read, and build skills through online courses. However, a powerful and necessary step that you can take is to find a mentor and be a mentor too.
Mentorship plays a critical role in any business's development. Studies show that out of an average of 587,000 new small businesses that are born every year, only half survive five years. But another interesting fact is that 70% of mentored businesses last more than five years.
Working with a mentor gives you the advantage of advice from an experienced person. You also get emotional and mental support that will build resilience. In the STEMM fields, mentorship is widely recognized as playing a key role in a student and young professional's growth. There are numerous studies showing that successful mentoring leads to:
A greater sense of belonging, self-efficacy, and identity with the field
Persistence in the face of challenges
Greater career satisfaction
Higher recruitment of underrepresented minorities
Mentoring offers mental and emotional support
Assistance with problem-solving
Mentors act as role models for behavior, attitudes, and values at the workplace
They challenge leaders and help them make decisions in difficult situations
Many people also benefit from knowledgeable advice on skill-building and starting new careers.
In this post, we'll use the same principles and apply them in two ways. One is finding mentors for yourself and two is being a mentor to someone else. Both are necessary since the previous points strongly indicate that mentoring others can impact how well people work. Even something as simple as appreciation can improve your employee retention rate and performance. Only 21% of employees feel strongly valued at work. Seventy-nine percent cite “lack of appreciation” as the reason for leaving a good job.
Use the information provided here to manage your own journey of getting mentored and to be a more effective mentor to another person.
How mentorship evolves
Research on how mentorship evolves in organizations tells us that there are four important stages that you can go through. Let's look at what they are and how you can expect a mentoring relationship to evolve. Through each stage, you'll get different opportunities to learn and move along your leadership path.
The start of a mentoring relationship is one of initiation. It's an opportunity to have open communication, to set goals, and to talk about your aspirations. It’s the same when you’re helping a mentee as well.
Create tentative expectations such as the frequency with which you’ll communicate and how you’ll do so. Whether it's via email, conference calls, or phone. You can even set up an email template with prewritten questions and simply fill in answers and hit Send.
When you and your mentor or mentee know each other more and set a rhythm to your meetings and communication, you begin the strongest part of your relationship. It's in the cultivation phase that you can get and give solid career advice and direct guidance.
At some point, you and your mentees will gain enough experience, exposure, and confidence to reduce or stop the frequency of your mentoring sessions. When you find that you want to make autonomous decisions and rely on your own instincts, you'll know that it’s time to begin the process of separation.
When the separation stage phases out, you’ll find that the relationship either changes or comes to a conclusion. At the stage, you may develop a peer-to-peer relationship with your former mentor or mentee. If you terminate the relationship, you can start a new mentorship with another person who has other advice to offer you. Or you can opt to retain your mentoring relationship and turn it into a networking one. Another way to leverage your connection is to build a mastermind group. Mastermind groups are where leaders can connect with other leaders and support each other to achieve their goals. It's different from a mentoring relationship as you’re in a group of more than two people. In this way, mentoring and networking can keep you focused and pull you out of any mental roadblocks.
Choosing a mentor
Since mentorship has a profound impact on your business's success and your own personal growth, finding a mentor is a critical step. Let's look at ways you can find the right mentor for your needs.
Leverage networks and trade associations
One way to find suitable mentors is to explore your own network. This can include people you work with, industry peers, and other people you can reach out to through your own contacts. Nearly all industries have trade associations that provide networking events and mentoring opportunities. Consider exploring these avenues to find a potential mentor.
Seek out retired personnel
The people who held your role or a similar role in your business or one like it can make excellent mentors. If possible, reach out to retired personnel or speak to senior executives for the right direction to take.
Look for online mentorship
With the current pandemic disrupting normal activities, you should consider online membership sites solely dedicated to mentoring. These are groups that exist for the express purpose of connecting mentees with mentors. You’ll be able to use their platform to get information, create content, and read helpful material. It's also not unusual to look up potential mentors on LinkedIn and Twitter.
Having said that, when approaching a potential mentor, keep the following in mind:
Avoid starting a relationship by explicitly stating that you're looking for a mentor. Mentorship requires considerable investment and asking for such a relationship at the outset without knowing each other is likely to lead to rejection
Look for persons whose values align with your own
Make sure that there's relevant industry experience but don’t say no to a mentorship with someone who's not directly involved in what you do. You will get interesting insights that people in your own area may not see due to tunnel vision
Take time to establish rapport and to work on your communication skills
Look for experience and success stories
A good mentor doesn't tell you what to do. They guide you in the right direction and spend a great deal of time listening rather than talking
Finally, a mentorship only works when you give as much as you get. Remember that your mentor is putting in the time and mental energy to help you. So, make sure that you carry out suggestions, ask questions, and show up.
It's very important to ask for help in your journey as a leader. You’ll find that there are a number of people who are willing to help and their assistance can make a significant difference.
Being mentored can make or break a business’s success. A good mentor can make you accountable, give you valuable advice based on their experience, and help you grow to your strengths.
As a mentor, you can share this same gift with people at work or with others who are further down the entrepreneurial journey than you. The experience of mentoring is a powerful way to grow as a leader and to boost your people management skills. Use the suggestions and ideas in this post to develop yourself through mentorship.