THE BLOG

The Magic of Mentoring

18/08/2014 14:39 BST | Updated 18/10/2014 10:59 BST

Mentoring isn't magic but the effects can be magical

Good quality mentoring can be the difference between success and failure in business - it's as simple as that. Whether it's getting a new idea off the ground or gaining valuable guidance and insight from an experienced Mentor, the benefits should not be underestimated.

As a Mentor and Director of Mentoring for Start Up Loans, I have seen the Magic of Mentoring unfold time and time again, so let's look at the MAGIC formula;

Matching the right Mentor with Mentee is key to success. I mentor a small select number of people each year and I only accept mentoring clients where I feel my skills, knowledge, expertise and experience will be valuable to them. My aim is to make a positive and lasting difference to every business owner I work with and therefore, the time taken at the outset to explore if there is a good match is crucial.

A Mentor doesn't have to have worked in a particular niche or sector, as many business systems are transferable, however if someone is looking for a mentor to help with Export and you have no expertise in that area then I would suggest you decline or refer them to someone you may know who has experience in that field. Mentors need to be clear about where their key skills and experience lie and Mentees need to be clear on where they feel their skills and experience are lacking. Remember that a mentor is there to provide guidance and support. Responsibly for decisions and actions are owned by the Mentee.

Agreeing a way of working is crucial to meeting expectation and to the longer term success of the Mentor / Mentee relationship. Once you have found the right Mentor for you, you should first agree how you are going to work together; Confidentiality is fundamental, business ideas and key issues discussed must be kept in confidence by the Mentor.

Now that Confidentiality has been established, you should agree how often you are going to meet - Will it be face to face or over the phone? As a Mentee - are you able to contact your mentor between sessions if required and as a Mentor - are you happy to be available between sessions, is this realistic with your other commitments? You need to establish whether this is free or paid for and also to agree your end goal; what is it you are looking to gain from working with your Mentor and is this achievable? You should outline the cancellation procedure, how much notice is required to rebook or reschedule? By avoiding ambiguity in expectations and roles, you can go on to develop and maintain a professional working relationship that is beneficial to both parties.

Goal Setting is fundamental to the success of Mentoring. Each session should start with an update on the last, specifically on actions taken and then followed by an agenda or goal for the current session. This keeps the session on track and enables both Mentor and Mentee to establish if the session has reached the desired outcome. It is a way of working together harmoniously and is also an effective way of measuring progress towards end-goals. Having agreed the end-goal, the goal setting process is simply a sequence of stepping stones, which facilitate getting there. Another benefit to goal setting is the increase in motivation; Goals motivate when they are specific, realistic and measurable.

Integrity and honesty is a prerequisite to establishing clear communication and building trust. Free and open communication, trust, mutual respect and honesty are all key components. Both mentor and mentee have a responsibility to communicate concerns and questions before issues arise; likewise, both parties need to be receptive and respond promptly to situations that need attention or clarification. After all, success without integrity is failure.

Confidence is essential if you want to go from good to great and having a Mentor can increase both confidence and competence. Whether it's having the confidence to pitch for business, make difficult decisions or just simply to push yourself out of your comfort zone when it matters; it is confidence that will set you apart from your competition.

No matter how successful someone is right now, it's important to remember that they all started somewhere without any past success to give them any confidence. So while experience certainly plays a big part in confidence, it isn't essential and working with an experienced Mentor is a way to fast-track your self-confidence.

So that's the MAGIC of mentoring in a nutshell. I find my work as a Mentor to be a very enriching experience and I have learnt a lot about other industries from people I have mentored. Mentoring is a key aspect of growth and development for all involved, so put your plan into action, work hard and watch the magic start to unfold.