“Mentorship is not for me” and other mentorship myths

mentorshipBusiness mentorship can be a source of support, enlightenment and perspective for all parties associated in the relationship. Mentees will often commend their mentor for helping to both ground them and challenge them to take the calculated risks that will push their business to the next level. As a TAB Facilitator, I meet business-owners who have not yet incorporated mentorship into their business strategy and who hesitate to enlist the support of a business coach, which has led me to explore some misconceptions about business mentorship to share with you.

Mentorship is for junior people: Many people assume that mentorship is solely reserved for those just beginning their careers, where a seasoned person mentors a young, fresh individual. These days, people can change jobs and even career paths multiple times, meaning that mentorship can occur in every phase of your career or business ownership.

Your mentor needs to be within your industry: While it can be helpful to receive advice from someone who understands the intricacies of your industry, the benefits of a completely different perspective cannot be overstated. With a set of fresh eyes on your business, you can stand to gain insight into strategies you would have never considered for yourself.

As an expert in your field, you don’t require a mentor: Business owners undoubtedly have long and successful careers behind them, but as the business world changes and evolves, you may find you need to keep educating yourself on trends and best practices to keep your business on the cutting edge.

Mentorship is a formal, long-term relationship: Mentorship need not be a rigid, inflexible process! You can have many mentors, drawing on strengths you admire in each of them and learning from their diverse backgrounds. As well, you may decide to have an ongoing mentorship relationship or choose to have a short session over coffee. Mentorship can come in whatever format works well for you as long as you understand what you are looking to gain from the experience.

Mentorship is a one-way transaction: As a mentee, don’t discredit what you can offer your mentor. Mentors may be at another point in their career, but you can offer perspective, feedback and support to your mentor based on your skill set and experience. This can keep a mentorship relationship fresh and evolving so that both parties gain something valuable.

Are there any other reasons for being hesitant to engage with a mentor? If you have a mentor, what have you gained from the experience? I look forward to your comments below.

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How Do You Know When It’s Time To Bring In Outside Expertise?

Expertise

Every business owner considers bringing in outside expertise at one time or another; sometimes it is in the form of a financial, sales or marketing professional, or sometimes it’s a strategic business-planning advisor.

There are literally thousands of experts to choose from, but when is the right time to hire one and why?  In my 30 years’ experience working with business owners, I often hear how important they feel it is for them to have a person they can confide in and rely on to help them in making business decisions on everything from employee management practices and operations to office locations and strategic growth plans.

Business advisors can help your company in various ways—from guiding strategic thinking to helping you get “unstuck” in your business progress.  I’ve outlined five key reasons why you might want to consider bringing in outside expertise into your company:

  1. An unbiased party.  A good business advisor always invests time and intellectual capital in their clients.  They come to the organization without the “baggage” of personnel issues, board pressure, organizational history, or the impact of past decisions. Imagine the value of having an independent expert who has the ability to look at circumstances and situations without bias.
  2. Specific expertise.  An advisor is like a specialist that doesn’t reside in house.  This is particularly relevant if you have few staff as there will be times when, for instance, you need market research, a marketing plan, or a strategic business plan, and it just doesn’t make financial sense to carry that level of staff expertise on a full-time basis.
  3. Divergent opinion.  Advisors facilitate divergent opinions into a strategy or work plan much more easily than an internal person would because they have expertise gained by working with multiple organizations. They have formed opinions and can synthesize what they hear into something workable for your team. They can easily cross organizational boundaries or work between staff and departments to build bridges.
  4. A different perspective. Sometimes an outsider’s opinion is more valuable than those expressed by staff.  This is not necessarily because advisors have a better crystal ball, but rather because they provide a fresh look. Often, an advisor’s perspective is what’s necessary to convince senior executives to move forward on an issue that’s difficult, such as expense reduction or income diversification.
  5. An impartial and expert opinion.  Ever revisit the same problem with the same set of solutions? Because advisors are not attached to one organization, advisors see many different organizational models and many different solutions to common problems.  While you certainly should expect a customized solution to your particular problem, isn’t it intuitively better to tackle problems armed with the collective thinking of many organizations and the knowledge of their successes? An impartial and expert opinion by an advisor provides a “due-diligence” perspective that neither volunteers nor staff can supply.

 

Do you think it’s time to hire an external expert? If so, what has lead to this decision? If not, do you think you may consider this in the future?  I look forward to hearing from you in the comments below.