Many business owners feel that mentoring their employees is part of their job, particularly when hiring millennial junior staff, but I caution you against doing this as it can have detrimental effects on your business. When you are in a position of power, and responsible for hiring, evaluating, disciplining, and firing, if you blur the lines of this employee-boss relationship into a mentoring relationship, you give up this power and therefore must live with the consequences if something was to go wrong.
When you need an employee to perform for you, how can you possibly mentor them? A mentor, as I outlined in my last blog, “is a trusted “go-to” person with decades of expertise and a deep interest in helping you succeed. They take a personal, active, and thorough interest in your growth and work in partnership with you to provide the support you need.”
Although many owners provide guidance and business expertise, it is to help their staff learn their job and to familiarize them with the industry. It is, in fact, to help them grow in their role and with your company.
I discuss employee mentoring all the time with business owners because it can have serious consequences to your business. I have outlined a few myths about mentoring employees that I hope will provide you with some insights to help you better understand the issue.
Myth #1: As a business owner, mentoring your employees helps them perform better, improves morale, and can help your business succeed. The opposite is true because an employee you mentor begins to see you more as a mentor (there to help them) rather than a boss who is there to teach them, ensure they perform well, and also discipline them if something goes awry.
Myth #2: Being a supportive boss is a type of mentoring. Being a supportive boss is a fantastic managerial style, however, do not mistake this style with mentorship. There always needs to be a clear line between an employee and an owner. If the relationship becomes too casual, you could run the risk of favouritism, or providing biased critiques, and this could lead to performance issues and profit loss.
Myth #3: My staff needs a mentor to show them the ropes. A mentor does not show employees how to do their job; rather, they encourage them to reach their career goals. If you need your staff to learn the ropes, then what they need is a good manager, or senior staff to job shadow.
Myth #4: I know what my employee needs to succeed. As an expert in your field, you may have some insights as to what your employee needs to succeed, but your role is to help them succeed in the job for which you have hired them. If, for example, their career goal is to work overseas, are you willing to help them meet this goal as a business owner when it runs counter to their employment with you?
Myth #5: The best bosses are mentors that help an employee grow. Being a good boss with a supportive management style will help your employee grow. As a business owner, you can help your employee grow by reaching their goals of the job, and challenging their boundaries to success; a mentor helps employees grow their careers, reach external goals (e.g. moving overseas), and support them regardless of performance in their current role.
As a business owner, if you want to mentor someone, then I would suggest looking at external opportunities. If you want mentoring to take place within your organization, then I’d suggest you could hire an external business mentor or ask your senior staff if they are interested in mentoring some of your junior employees. If you hire an external business mentor, they could also mentor your senior staff.
There is no doubt that mentoring offers huge rewards to everyone involved, but as a business owner you need to be clear when and where you should be mentoring because you could be setting yourself up for blurred lines that impact communication, discipline and ultimately loss of respect.
As a business owner, have you mentored your employees? How did this help or hinder your business? I look forward to a lively discussion!
After careful consideration and research, you have decided to enlist the support of a business mentor to help you and your business. You have found a coach with plenty of experience, who is easy to talk to and interested in embarking on this journey with you.
So what now?
How do you ensure that you reap the value of your business mentor, and see improvements and growth in your business? Unsurprisingly, this is where the work begins. Before you meet with your mentor, you must be prepared to take a good, hard look at your business and be ready to make objective observations about how it is performing. Take some time to decide where you want your business to be in a year, five years or ten years, because thorough reflection will ensure that your business mentor knows how to challenge and push you to reach your goals. Take inventory of the strengths and weaknesses of your business so that you are prepared to discuss and tackle issues that need improvement as well as ways to further strengthen your attributes.
In short, you must do your homework before every meeting with your mentor in order to make the most of the time you spend with him or her. This ensures that this time is spent instead on learning from their experience, asking thoughtful questions and developing tactical steps to reach your goals. I’ve compiled some questions that could be helpful for provoking conversation with your mentor:
1. What advice can you give me in developing or improving my business plan?
2. From your experience, what lesson did you learn that would be most valuable to me?
3. What are the ways that will help me determine the risks and benefits of an important business decision?
4. From your observations thus far, what do you identify as my areas of weakness?
5. What does my business do well?
6. This is where I am, and this is where I want to be. What needs to change for me to get there?
7. With my goals in mind, how should I be spending my time?
8. How can I help you?
The last question, while different from the rest, becomes just as important because it signals the strength of the relationship between mentor and mentee. Mentorship is never a one-way street and by investing in this relationship and looking to contribute to it, you are communicating your commitment to the mentorship process and ensuring your mentor sees value in playing the role of your mentor.
What other questions would add value to a meeting with your mentor? Do you think that taking time to reflect on your business beforehand enriches the mentorship process? I look forward to your comments below!
Business 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.