Every day as a business owner you make decisions that have an impact on your business. Sometimes you are not sure what direction to go in or what option to consider. You could ask your friends and family, but do they really have the wealth of business knowledge that is needed to help guide you to make the right decision? What you really need is a business mentor!
Richard Branson, founder of Virgin group and arguably one of if not the most admired entrepreneur of our time once said that whenever he is asked what is the missing link between a promising businessperson and a successful one, mentoring comes to mind.
“Giving people advice on how they can best achieve their goals is something that is often overlooked. The spirit of mentoring should be embedded in all businesses and certainly is at Virgin. If you are looking to make your way in business, try to find a mentor. If you are in a position to share the skills you have learned, give something back by becoming a mentor yourself.” Richard Branson
In my personal and professional life, I’ve been privileged to be mentored and to be a mentor to others. Those experiences have allowed me to see the characteristics that make mentoring relationships work. And by “work,” I mean the relationship holds benefits for the mentor and the mentee.
Another entrepreneur who has been on both sides of the equation is Martin Martinez, Founder of APL and Author of the book, Freeconomics – Making Millions Giving it Away, Martin Martinez. After successfully exiting his previous business in 2011, Martin now spends majority of his time investing in new-start ups and mentoring entrepreneurs.
“Many people around the world get the opportunity to start their own business and become their own boss. Few are able to succeed and even fewer are fortunate enough to ultimately sell their business. A tiny number of those who start a business are privileged enough to turn their idea into the world’s biggest, best or create an industry that never existed before like Andrew Mason did when he launched Groupon, which created the group buying industry worldwide.
In my case, I was lucky enough to turn my idea into a successful company, invented a new industry where none existed and sold it. But going through this journey couldn’t have been done without making small, medium and large mistakes. One way that I avoided failure and optimized my opportunity was by surrounding myself with people that I could draw upon for experience and knowledge, those who mentored me through the ups and downs of business.
Since then, I’ve seen the amazing value that mentors have added to my personal and professional growth and I’ve decided to do the same for others who can draw from my experience to help them achieve their goals.” Martin Explains
There are many qualities needed to be a good mentor. However, there are a few that stand out that I would like to share with you. Here are the top 5 characteristics I’ve seen in great mentors:
- Great mentors are credible
Although a mentor isn’t meant to be your personal answer book, you do want a mentor who has achieved success in the area where you need support. Whether that success lies within a specific field of expertise or is based on a shared life experience, a great mentor has credibility to guide you in the best direction.
- Great mentors openly share what they know
Storytelling has long been the way people have communicated through generations. It is through stories that mentors share their experiences, insights and knowledge. They freely offer their personal stories as a means for their mentees to develop their own.
- Great mentors ask great questions
Many mentors would agree that open-ended questions are best. Instead of asking, “Did you have a good day?” a mentor will ask, “What was the most exciting about your day today?” Mentors look for more than the surface answers. Instead, they seek meaning, values and purpose in what you say because that’s where the catalyst to a mentee’s success lies.
- Great mentors offer fresh perspective
Objective feedback is a key benefit of having a mentor. A great mentor offers a new spin on your old ideology because she doesn’t live it everyday like you do. She offers a distant clarity that you’re missing because you’re too close to a situation.
- Great mentors think ahead
If the mentor is stuck in the past and only knows what worked 15 years ago, then the mentee will be severely limited in what he or she learns and takes away. Certainly some principles are timeless, but every teacher needs to understand the current business environment and changing trends in order to really bring value to the relationship.
What other characteristics have you seen in great mentors? Please share your thoughts and ideas in the comments below.
Alex Pirouz is an Entrepreneur, Author and Business Mentor who assists companies successfully start, grow and exit their business.
Image credit: CC by JD Hancock