By Domenica Di Lieto, founder and CEO of Chinese planning and marketing consultancy, Emerging Communications. https://www.emergingcomms.com
Every day without exception, business leaders face challenges that can suck energy out of them, burn through precious time and slow down company progress. Difficulties can spring from nowhere in quick succession, and it can be difficult to work out how to deal with them. I found answers in mentors that helped overcome a variety situations.
True, no entrepreneur or business CEO is confronted by the exact specific scenario of another. But there are so many businesses, of so many sizes, going through so many stages of development that inevitably others have endured and mastered very similar challenges. These people are potential mentors, and they can transform the lives and fortunes of others.
I have used mentors to successfully navigate very different challenges, and not only that, mentors can be one of the great stress relievers that help establish a positive mindset. The value of having someone to share a problem with who can not only relate to the problem, but also provide or help provide a solution cannot be overstated.
For example, when I first set up an office in China, I had knowledge gaps. I knew how it would serve clients, but little about the dynamics of building a team in China. I needed guidance. I wanted someone who had been there before me, and successfully navigated the course. I basically hit the jackpot. I found exactly the right person who was prepared to help. Though no longer a mentor, we keep in touch and meet whenever I’m in China.
At the same time, I got another mentor to assist with wellbeing. I had a fairly good regime in terms of exercise and yoga, but with additional work pressure comes stress. I found a mentor that got my mindset into the right place. Later I got a mentor to help with the Chinese culture of personnel management, who is now helping me to improve my Mandarin.
My particular needs were unusual. If I could get mentors that were exactly right, then more generic demands are much more easily met. There is nearly always someone out there qualified to help, and do not be surprised how helpful people are prepared to be. Most of us constantly walk in the footprints of others, and those others usually have a great deal of empathy for those following them.
Do you need a mentor?
If you are unsure of whether you can benefit from a mentor consider whether you have a weakness that you would like to eliminate. Are there tasks you struggle with, the things you don’t like doing, the biggest business headaches. If any of these criteria apply you should consider getting guidance, whether the problem is at a personal level, or a function of the company.
Finding the right mentor
You have to do homework to discover the right person. Look at it as an investment, because that is what it is. It may take time, but the right mentor is likely to recoup it as well as providing solutions, money saving, plus relief from stress.
Often mentor selection can be decided on experience within a company of the same size and stage of development rather than being sector specific. Frequently help needed is about people management, finance, training, outsourcing, or other generic function.
The other consideration is chemistry. Being on the same wavelength more or less is important because you have to be able to communicate easily and freely, and you may spend quite a lot of time with a mentor face to face, on video or on the phone. You have to be able to create an effective working partnership.
Mentoring is for all management levels
Middle and junior managers can benefit from mentoring too. Management support structure is generally based on line managers assisting those more junior. It inevitably fails to work at times. People are too busy, and juniors are sometimes understandably reluctant to talk about problems.
Mentoring from outside is often the answer. Lessons can always be learned and improvements made by obtaining a third party perspective irrespective of management level. Mentoring is also cathartic, and reduces potential work anxiety.
Pay it back
After benefiting from mentoring, pay it back. At the moment I mentor two people running start-ups. I know it saves each of them time, stress and money.
If mentoring became a mainstream practice it would make a significant difference to the economy. But it is also a just good thing to do. I recommend everyone in business gives it a try.