Working with a business mentor can be a valuable experience for small business owners, especially when they are staring out or going through a transition. A business mentor can share lessons about his or her successes and failures, be a sounding board for ideas, help generate business connections, and provide both encouragement and constructive suggestions.
Here are 7 Tips for Working with a Business Mentor
Establish Goals & Define Success
Set goals for what you want to learn and where you want to go with your business. This will give you direction for working with your mentor. Also discuss expectations for the mentoring relationship so that you and your mentor have the same understanding of goals and expectations.
Make Meeting Easy
You will be more likely to meet and get something out of the experience if meeting isn’t complicated. Find an easy place and time to meet and don’t plan to solve every problem in one sitting. Your initial meeting might last a while since you are figuring out how you are going to work together, but don’t expect a lengthy get-together every time.
Observe, listen, be honest, be respectful, and follow through on commitments. Expect the same. Remember that you are developing a relationship. If the relationship works, then keep meeting. If it does not, it is okay to decide that it is not a good fit and to look for a different mentor.
Don’t Fear Change
People are often reluctant to change because it requires effort and learning how to do things differently. If you are working with a mentor to try to do things better in some way, this means being open to change.
Listen, But Also Listen to Your Judgment
Listening to your mentor involves being willing to learn from another person’s experience and if the relationship is going to be a good one, you need to follow up on your mentor’s advice a certain percentage of the time. However, ultimately, it is your business or career and you are the one responsible for your decisions.
Acknowledge When It Is Over
Some mentoring relationships last for a relatively short period, others last for years. It depends on what both parties have to offer and to receive from the relationship. If there comes a point at which you outgrow the relationship, don’t feel obligated to pretend that is not the case.
When your mentor goes out of her way to share experience and puts thought and effort into giving advice, let her know that you are grateful and also how what she has shared has helped you. Everyone likes to be appreciated. When it is your turn to be a mentor, you will appreciate the same!
Laurie Pieper, Ph.D.