Monday, February 4, 2013

Getting The Most From An Executive Mentoring Relationship

As a small business owner, having an expert on your side can make a huge difference. Many experienced entrepreneurs serve as mentors to beginning or struggling business owners. A mentoring relationship can be extremely worthwhile. However, both parties must invest time and effort to create a positive outcome. Learn how to identify and work with the right mentor to achieve a variety of business goals.

Personal development through a mentoring relationship can increase the value of a business and the income it generates. Whether entrepreneurs operate from corporate offices or work from home, they can find effective mentors. Before identifying any candidates, determine the areas where help is needed. A clear objective is required to find the right person to fill the role. Business experts have strengths in different areas so align these with identified outcomes of the professional relationship.

Good mentors want protégées who learn quickly and want to grow. This requires continued study and effort but no excuses. Practice is the best way to learn from the guidance provided. Make effort to understand what is being taught and implement this within the business. Report back on the results and seek additional guidance to improve these. The mentor will appreciate the initiative and should be willing to continue the relationship to achieve the desired goals.

Many mentors have their own businesses to run so do not consume too much of their time. Schedule small blocks of one-on-one consultations and prepare for each meeting by creating a list of problems and issues to discuss. Use this as the meeting agenda and lead the discussion, requesting insights from the mentor. Do not expect this expert to drive the business…that is your job. Mentors should also not be expected to provide critical feedback regarding missed or captured opportunities. However, their insights should be solicited regarding related or broader implications.

A mentor is neither a friend nor a business coach. Friends tend to say what the recipient wants to hear. Business coaches help improve general skills. A mentor provides situation-specific guidance and says what must be heard, not what the protégée hopes to hear. Recognize the role of this individual and keep it in mind throughout the discussions. If the mentor seems to be of a different mindset or is unresponsive, find someone else to fill this role, being careful not to antagonize during the change.

Finding a mentor requires identifying an individual who cares about you as an entrepreneur and wants the business to be successful. This concern and emotional involvement are how the mentor adds value. Mentoring relationships should always be positive and as productive as possible given the time constraints placed upon both parties.

Some entrepreneurs believe they can only learn by making mistakes. However, research reveals that following advice provided by others who have succeeded in business is the fastest way to become successful. Find a good mentor, learn, and practice, practice, practice. Within a short time, the business should begin to improve, climbing its way to the top.

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