What is mentoring? A focus on business and entrepreneurs.

What is mentoring? A focus on business and entrepreneurs - Blog Image

It’s human nature to be self-critical and second guess your decisions – good or bad. This is the same for even the best of the best. That’s why even the most successful people to have walked the face of this Earth acknowledge having had a mentor to guide them. In the business and entrepreneurship world, whenever people speak of a mentor, what typically comes to mind is someone who can offer you guidance and help you navigate some of your entrepreneurial and career challenges, usually because they have gone through similar experiences and challenges in the past. More often than not, people usually find a mentor who has been in the same line of work. The oxford definition of a mentor is ‘an experienced and trusted adviser.’ If you had an effective mentor in the past or at the moment, then you know that this definition doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of who a mentor is or what they can bring. In this article, we will unpack the common misconceptions of who a mentor is and the kind of value you can get from effective mentoring.

The definition of mentoring

At Mowgli Mentoring, we base our definition of mentoring on the formula provided by Timothy Gallwey in his book, the Inner Game. It highlights the power of mentoring based on 3 variables:

  • Performance
  • Potential
  • Interference

In his book, Timothy postulates that Performance = Potential – Interference. This formula assumes that everyone has potential within them. If interferences are reduced or removed, one’s performance can increase.

What are the interferences?

Interferences can be categorised into two: internal and external.

Internal interferences mainly centre around your inner self and can include feelings of inadequacy, feeling ill-equipped to take on challenges or not believing in yourself and your abilities. They are fears, insecurities, limiting beliefs and psychological factors developed from as early as childhood. Internal struggles prevent you from starting new projects, taking leaps of faith, bringing your best to a role/project or seeing your current projects through to the end successfully.

External interferences mostly centre around gaps in your knowledge and skills to carry out particular roles or tasks. In order to address these, you’d need to get some form of education or training by taking a course or reading books.

Whenever people think of unlocking their potential, most tend to focus more on the external interferences, leaving the internal ones unaddressed. If we go back to Gallwey’s formula, removing half of the inferences will not help you achieve your optimal performance levels. This is where mentoring and mentoring relationships come in.

What is the role of a mentor?

A mentor doesn’t only come in to help you remove your internal blocks and interferences. They bring in all-round encouragement, guidance and support – 360 degrees of support. They act as a confidante, cheerleader, connector to networks and opportunities, clarifier of your vision, sounding board for your decisions, conveyor of tacit knowledge, accountability partner and so much more.

Based on these descriptors, it is not surprising to see and hear how often the term mentor gets used erroneously as a catch-all term for trainer, business advisor, business coach, business manager and sometimes even business investor. While a mentor may offer one or all of these, there are differences in the work they do, roles they play and support that they give.

How do you leverage mentoring for success?

In order to truly appreciate and reap the benefits of mentoring, some basics need to be in place:

  1.    Having a trained mentor so that he/she can effectively guide you to unlocking you potential
  2. Being paired with the right mentor for you so that you can be able to build a solid and long-term mentoring relationship.
  3. Being open, honest and vulnerable with your mentor/mentee so that you are able to communicate even during the most challenging of situations and learn together
  4. Being available for your mentor/mentee

When you don’t set the pace for effective mentoring, you’re bound to have a subpar experience and achieve suboptimal performance. In some situations, it has been reported that marginal mentoring brings even worse performance than not having mentoring at all.

Ultimately, the goal of effective mentoring is to get you to come up with the best and right decision for you. Through questioning, active listening, giving feedback and sharing experiences, your mentor will serve a mirror for you to reflect and come to the right conclusion. They will not explicitly tell you what to do because mentoring is focused on you and building you as a mentee and your journey. However, even as they help you through your process, there is equally a lot of learning and reflection for them.

With all the mentorship prerequisites in place and aligned, mentoring has the potential to significantly amplify a mentee’s leadership and performance, and consequently impact the success of their business or career.

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