What Mentoring Can – And Can’t – Do For Your Business

Achieving great things in business is rarely something that a person does in perfect isolation. There are any number of influences that can bring the best results out of an individual – their education, prior experience and also the trends that exist within business at the time. Often, one of the most important influences is the existence of a mentor in a person’s career. The mentor-mentee relationship can be formal or informal, but the role of a more experienced individual is often invaluable to a talented,
but raw, prospect.

Having a mentorship system within your business is likely to pay off, presuming that there is enough institutional experience to make it worthwhile. The obvious benefit of having a stalwart member of your workforce sharing their wisdom with a new recruit – or a struggling, yet obviously able staff member – is that they have been through all of the challenges their mentee will meet. They know how to traverse those hurdles and can unlock the potential of their junior – but it is also useful to know the limitations of a mentoring process in order for it to work as it should.


A mentor will show the big picture

Many people confuse, or conflate, the roles of a mentor and a coach. In truth, there are some similarities, but if you’re looking for the key difference, it’s a matter of scale. A coach will work with a staff member in an onboarding sense, or offer remedial support to help someone who has a particular difficulty, such as closing a sale or placating aggressive customers. If the relationship is working correctly, a mentor’s role will be to provide a holistic boost, helping the mentee ask the right questions and see the way forward for themselves.


But they won’t – or shouldn’t – give you the answer

If a mentor needs to show their mentee
how to get to the finish line, then there’s little value to the mentor-mentee relationship, because it tends to suggest that the person being mentored can only get where they need to go if they have that help on tap. The heavy implication of this is that you’re pulling someone who could be providing value themselves to try and get something more out of a junior staff member in the short term. That’s a waste of your time, the mentor’s time, and also that of the mentee, who won’t learn anything of long-term value and won’t even be providing what they are already good at.


A mentor can identify the mentee’s areas of potential

Climbing to the higher echelons of a business takes time and effort, and most of all it takes the ability to know what’s important when you see it. One of the ways in which inexperience can hold a person back is that they can see what’s in front of them, but look at it as an obstacle. Often, when they look back, they’ll wonder why they made such a fuss about a task they can now carry out in their sleep. A mentor can look at how a mentee works and see where their strengths lie, and how they can be harnessed – they won’t tell the mentee how to do things, but by accentuating their strengths will help them see how.


But they aren’t there to judge the mentee’s progress

Just as a mentor is not a coach, they also aren’t a manager, and it comes down to a manager’s judgement to see how a mentee is progressing. They can certainly ask direct questions of the mentor, and make plenty of use of software including a mentoring platform program to track what’s going well and what needs to be done. It’s not fair to ask a mentor whether they think the mentee has the goods to succeed – they can’t really answer that question in an unbiased manner anyway – because they are there to offer the benefit of their experience, not make fine-margin evaluations on another worker.

One way or another, most successful businesspeople have benefited from the influence of a mentor at one time or another in their fledgling careers, and including a mentoring program in your business is an excellent way to ensure that the influence of your best, most experienced workers keeps finding its way down the line to the people who come after them. You will need to be aware of the limitations of mentoring as a system – you can’t rely on a mentor to do things that are a manager’s job – but if you approach it with good faith, this way of working will benefit all of your employees, and your business as a whole.



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