We have recently begun one to one mentoring sessions with Natasha McCreesh of PIP To Grow Strong. Although we are now well established and starting our 5th year of business at KC Communications, our business needs are changing, and the individual staff objectives and goals are essential to our overall team success.
It is well known about celebrities and sportspeople having coaches, but more recently we are hearing of a lot more business people having a coach or mentor. It makes sense really, as having one helps you to perform better, through being challenged and learning how to deal with difficult situations.
By talking about our goals, aspirations, challenges we face and our overall vision, we can start to develop an action plan and begin to implement it. Small businesses often struggle to succeed when employees become disengaged and demotivated, and sessions like these can only help to avoid that.
You might not have ever considered having a mentor or simply don’t think you need one. But anyone can benefit from mentoring. Who do you know that has it all sussed? Mentors are a trusted advisor, challenger and supporter, so they can be relevant and beneficial at any point in your life or career. Imagine you are succession planning, experiencing resistance from your team or merely considering your next opportunity… Having someone that you trust offering counsel and asking motivating questions can be both empowering and reassuring.
As a small business ourself, it is great to get an outsiders point of view on things, and Natasha is going to form a big part of our retention and growth strategy this year.
What are the mentoring methods that you use and how each of these can help develop individuals – and businesses?
The most powerful method that I use is listening. As human beings, we often just need to be heard. We know the answers to our questions, so being given the space to express and articulate what is rattling around in our heads is often all that is required to make progress or gain clarity.
The secondary method is motivational interviewing, an approach whereby the mentee finds their own solutions through questioning, using open questions, my most effective questions begin with “what……”. When someone sees their own solution, they are naturally more committed and engaged with the actions that they might subsequently need to take to move forward.
The third method is the sharing of experience, as a mentor you are generally in a position of being a bit further ‘down the line’ than your mentee. I share my experience, my mistakes, my shortcuts, my wins. It’s important to remember that mentors don’t have to be experts; generally mentees are simply looking for someone who knows more than them, you don’t have to know everything!
What forms of mentoring would you suggest within a workplace setting? What are their business benefits?
Peer mentoring is great as it generates a culture of support and service to each other. Formal mentoring with more senior team members can be beneficial when there is a focus on progression and succession planning. Cross-functional mentoring is a powerful tool in enabling different parts of an organisation to connect and understand each other, creating more engaged and cohesive teams.
Can you give any case studies/personal examples of where you have seen mentoring in action, and the benefits achieved?
I can speak of my own experience of being mentored informally at a time in my career when I felt ready to step up a notch but needed to develop personally. One of the directors of the organisation I worked at was generous enough to share with me ways that I could improve how I handled tricky situations and challenging conversations. He shared the kind truth about some aspects of my body language in meetings that might not be creating a positive, leadership image. He also raised my aspirations regarding what my future career potential was by being open in his belief that I could be in higher earning roles than him in the future. For someone in leadership to express that confidence in me was game-changing and I went on to apply for, and succeed in getting, a role that was double my salary at that time.
What are the common misconceptions about mentoring? Are people ever resistant to it, and what would you say to them?
A common misconception is that the mentor will wave a magic wand! The mentee has the accountability and answers within. A mentor simply helps to bring that to the surface. People are generally only resistant if they feel that mentoring has been imposed on them if they have a perception that they are being mentored because something is wrong, or they haven’t been involved in choosing their mentor. Sometimes people are resistant to taking the actions, making commitments or being accountable. To those people, I would say come back when you’re ready to do the work!
What would be your top tips to a business owner seeking to use mentoring effectively within their company?
Give people the opportunity to choose their own mentor, someone they trust and connect with. Developing informal peer mentoring as part of the organisational culture is positive and empowering, so training staff on mentoring approaches is a valuable investment.
Most importantly I would say that the business owner needs to engage with their own mentor so that they can experience the benefits for themselves and become a walking talking ambassador for mentoring.