Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Warren Buffet, Jeff Bezos, and Richard Branson
What do these people have in common aside from being famous entrepreneurs? Two things.
- They all have had business mentors, and
- They attributed their success to the advice and guidance of their business mentors.
If business tycoons had mentors it goes to show how influential a mentor can be. But before we dive into the qualities of a good business mentor and the importance of having one, let’s start with the basics.
What is Business Mentoring?
A business mentor is someone who can provide valuable advice and guidance to help you succeed in your career. They might be an expert in the field or somebody with experience working at the same company to share insights into how things work there.
Business mentoring is a time-tested tradition. It’s the perfect way for individuals at any level and in any industry to learn about all aspects of the business from experienced professionals who have walked that road before them.
Mentors have been in the industry long enough to have enough knowledge and expertise to help you succeed. You might not know your next steps or if this career path will work for you. With their experience, they can see where other opportunities lie to get better in your field.
Why is it Important for Workplaces to Have Mentorship Programs?
Mentorship programs are essential because they help promote and inspire teamwork. They allow people with different experiences to swap advice and deal with challenges. Mentorship helps people build relationships outside their department or organization. Let’s look at why, to have a thriving workplace, you must have a mentorship program.
For the Mentee:
- Learning and Education: 28% of millennials cited lack of learning and development as one of the top reasons they want to leave their job. Mentoring programs are a great way to ensure employees gain the knowledge and skills necessary to succeed in their field. Mentors will help employees shorten the learning and development curve.
- Culture: Millennials are one of the largest demographics in the workplace today. They’re motivated by values and believe in businesses having a purpose beyond profit. By introducing a mentoring program in the workplace millennials will gain access to the many benefits it provides—one of which being that they see their value in their workplace. What’s more, 71% of employees won’t mind taking a pay cut to work in an organization with shared values.
Just so you know how important workplace culture is, it has been cited as the biggest asset for companies like Microsoft, Google, and other top fortune companies.
For instance, Satya Nadella of Microsoft, Sundar Pichai of Google, and Shantanu Narayen of Adobe all changed their respective companies’ workplace culture to get the huge success they have today.
- Career Growth and Development: A mentorship program is essential for 79% of millennials’ career success. 25% of employees engaged in mentorship programs get salary upgrades compared to 5% of those not in a mentorship program. Employees want to learn and grow where they work. Mentorship provides these opportunities.
- Employee productivity: Mentoring programs increase employees’ productivity (in a survey, 67% of businesses reported increased productivity). Mentors also help their mentees get back on track if they make mistakes or have problems. This means those with mentors can spend less time trying different solutions that could be better refocused elsewhere.
For the Organization:
- Onboarding: starting off on the right foot with new employees is more important than you might think. 69% of employees will stay for three years in an organization that gives them a great onboarding experience. Conversely, a poor onboarding experience can make people feel frustrated, disengaged, and more likely to look for a new job. That’s why a third of new employees quit within 90 days. Implementing a mentorship program will help new employees settle in and guide them in their early critical stages.
- Employee Satisfaction: A study shows that 90% of employees engaged in a mentorship program say they are happy with their job. Mentors have a huge impact on employees’ career trajectories.
- Employee Retention: By 2025, 75% of today’s workplace will consist of millennials. But, 49% of millennials do not intend to stay in their present job for more than two years. If millennials get good mentors through a mentorship program, they are more likely to stay in that organization.
- One study shows that 58% of these groups will spend more than five years with mentors. High turnover rates are often the result of employees feeling frustrated with their jobs. With mentors, employees will have someone to guide them through the thick and thin.
- Attracting Talent and Promoting Culture: Today’s professionals want to work in an organization that fosters positive cultures and enhances social interactions. In a study by the University of Southern California, they found that employees who felt more embedded in their teams were more likely to stay. They found that mentorship was a key way for organizations to increase embedded employees.
For the mentor:
- Career Progression: It’s not just the mentee who benefits from mentorship. The mentors gain recognition for giving back and also learn new skills that help them in their own job. For that reason, those who mentor other employees are six times more likely to get promoted than those who do not.
- Better Developed Interpersonal Skills: You’ll build on the valuable interpersonal skills to help you become a better leader and manager in your career. Through mentorship, 87% of mentors and mentees experience a boost in their confidence.
How do You Choose Mentors and Mentees for Business?
The importance of choosing the right mentor for the right mentee cannot be overemphasized. It is the bedrock of a mentorship program. Without good rapport, the partnership may not succeed. Here are some practical insights to ensure you get it right:
Shared value with each other and company: When you’re looking to pair a mentor and a mentee, they must share the same values with the organization’s values. This will help them align more easily, benefiting all parties involved. However, these individuals might have some differences (and different perspectives are always helpful). Shared goals foster a sense of community and belonging.
Participants must have a say: Allow participants to have a say in choosing their match. Perhaps they could select from several potential mentors they might like to work with. Or you could use software that matches people by interests, goals, skills, and availability. For large organizations, tools to manage a mentoring program can make it much easier to run and scale mentorship’s impact.
Set goals and objectives and have detailed steps to achieve them: Develop detailed goals and objectives for mentors and mentees. The process will help the mentor know how to best support their mentees and give them some insight into what they need going forward. Then create a step-by-step plan to achieve those objectives that can be monitored by everyone involved.
Participants must be willing to build new relationships: Building a new professional relationship takes work, but it’s worth the effort. It may seem like you’re starting at ground zero when building this type of connection with another individual. However, there is no better way to grow and learn than investing in a business mentoring relationship.
What are the Qualities of a Good Business Mentor?
Mentors come in all shapes and sizes. Here are some qualities that make up a good business mentor:
Passionate about helping others: Mentors don’t get paid for their mentoring, so you’ll want someone who is passionate and finds joy in helping others. A good business mentor has faith that the process will be worthwhile over time.
A great communicator: Good business mentors are great communicators. They are not vague about what’s truly needed to succeed. They also do not advise because they want to be heard or feel insecure in their position. Effective mentors listen and speak empathetically. They know how to encourage new growth in mentees, inspiring and challenging them to be their best.
Guides mentees to answers rather than just telling them (spoon-feeding): A good business mentor is like a tour guide, pointing out important landmarks to their mentees without passing judgment on what to do. This way, mentees learn to figure problems out themselves, instilling confidence and new skills.
Recognizes the value of mentorship for both the mentor and mentee: Mentorship has many benefits, especially when you have a good business mentor. Both mentors and mentees have everything to gain.
Honest and candid with feedback: A good business mentor does not criticize harshly or otherwise mistreat their mentee. It is possible to deliver constructive feedback with a gentle hand. A sense of humour and proportion is needed to reach the mentorship’s goal.
Asks great questions: Mentorship is a two-way street; both mentors and mentees should feel free to ask each other questions. A Harvard Business Review article mentions five brilliant questions, including, “What is it that you really want to be and do?”
How to Find a Business Mentor?
Entrepreneurs and employees lack experience at the early stage of their business or career. They need shoulders to lean to fill the gaps in their experience, and there is no better way to do so than having a business mentor.
But how do you find these coveted business mentors? There are many ways, but having a process is important. Here are practical steps to find a business mentor that helps and guides you through the critical stage of your business. As you follow these steps keep in mind that approaching a potential business mentor with confidence and humility is key. No one wants to mentor someone who already thinks they know it all. Approach them with an eagerness to learn. Doing so may flatter them.
With that in mind let’s look at eight steps to find a business mentor:
1. Determine Why You Want a Mentor
Building a successful mentoring relationship starts with asking the right questions. What are your goals? How can you achieve them more effectively and efficiently with a mentor? Ensure your goals are written down in clear, simple terms. A study found that achieving your workplace goal is a function of these three key factors:
- Writing your goals down (it does help—you’re 42% more likely to achieve them if you do.)
- Commitment to actions that will make the goal plausible, and
- Accountability for those actions towards achieving the goal.
As you write out your goals, it becomes easier to see what needs work and the specific steps to achieve the end. According to neuropsychologists, we are more likely to recall information that we create better than information we read
2. Explore Your Personal Network
A mentor is a person who has been successful in their field and can help you achieve your goals. Explore your networks of professionals within industries or fields, then find someone who matches your needs.
Also, look at other professionals with whom you share a common interest; these people can help guide you to achieving your well-spelled-out goals. Ensure you communicate the “why” of your goals with these individuals, making it easier for them to own some of the passion and responsibility for achieving those targets.
3. Make a List of Leaders You Look up to
You want a mentor committed to you and one who cares about your success. When you are looking for people, pick someone who shares similar interests with you. This person might have graduated from the same school or have a similar side interest/hustle as you do.
On the other hand, sometimes it’s good to pair up with someone who is your complete opposite personality-wise. A shy person can help a boisterous person see the value of subtle communication. At the same time, an extrovert can model more outgoing behaviour to a person who prefers not to be very vocal. When crafting your list ask yourself if you’d like to follow in their footsteps. Follow that up with “do I truly admire this person or do I just admire their resume?” These questions can help clarify who you should reach out to.
4. Craft an Outreach Message to Them
Try to make it short and sweet when crafting an outreach message. People are busy, and they have other things to attend to. Ensure you research them properly before sending an outreach. And make sure it is a personalized message. Make it clear to them that you are reaching out because you genuinely want to learn from and about them.
It should be said that reaching out to someone you don’t know and asking them to be your mentor is a tough ask. Consider starting a correspondence with them by asking them for their advice on a particular topic they’re an expert in. Tell them you’re passionate about their career and want to follow in similar footsteps. Show that you’re a beginner and eager to learn from them. This is much more compelling. If you do get a response from them to meet make sure to plan for that meeting.
5. Set up a Video Call to Talk About Work and Ask Questions About Their Career
If you are successful in setting up a meeting with your potential mentor now’s your time to make a good first impression. The potential mentor may be flattered to share their expertise and help someone else. Let them know how grateful you are for them for taking the time and give them context on why you reached out to them in the first place.
It may be a good idea to leave out the fact that you’re looking for a mentor at this stage. Being a mentor implies some commitment so at this stage you want to keep it casual. Only after you start to build a relationship with them by asking good questions, applying their advice, and following up with them should you consider asking them to be your mentor (more on that in the next step). Additionally, a video call to ask questions and discuss work is a great way for both of you to get to know one another. Video calls take less time, don’t require you to be in the same location, and can be more efficient.
6. Follow up With Them to Tell Them How You Applied Their Advice
A mentor-mentee relationship has to be earned. The best way to do this is through follow-ups. Don’t forget to follow up with them after you apply their advice. A thank you note goes a long way. You should ask for feedback and share what you’ve learned from their advice, which will make them feel good about helping you again in the future.
7. Ask to Meet Again
Thanks to an established mentor-mentee relationship, you may politely ask to meet with your mentor as needed. Asking to meet again is a natural course of any relationship. You may politely ask your mentor if they can see you later in the week or at some other time without interrupting their work schedule.
8. Make the Pitch for Them to be Your Mentor
Just sending an outreach to them doesn’t automatically make them your mentor. You have to make a pitch to request them to be your mentor. But please do not ask them in your very first message to them. Building rapport takes time.
How to Know if You’re Ready for Business Mentorship
The best way to know if you’re ready for business mentorship is by asking yourself “would I’d love the opportunity to get an expert’s guidance in my field and learn from them as they’ve gone before me?” If yes, then get started today.
To grow and succeed in a competitive workplace, it’s essential to find someone to mentor you. If you know your goals, are eager for growth, and feel confident that a business mentor can facilitate your growth, you are ready for business mentorship.
You can reach out either individually or by asking leaders at work if there is room to set up a mentorship program for employees. Together’s platform has more resources to decide how best to start a mentorship program.