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What is a Mentor and do you need one ?

What does having a mentor do for you ?

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Many people use the terms mentor, coach, teacher, consultant and counselor interchangeably.  Are they actually the same ?

I have mentored many people over the years, some in the finance industry and many others in diverse and very interesting roles.

 In my view, a mentor is someone who provides a method for the person who is being mentored (mentee)  to discover their wisdom. Peter Cook from Thought Leaders often mentions the phrase “making clever people commercially smart”. 

What does all that mean ?

Helping Overcome Inertia

For most people, not only entrepreneurs and business leaders, the biggest challenge is self limiting beliefs. I remember learning physics at school and the concept of inertia. Inertia is (with being too technical) the force that is trying to keep things as they are. To create a change, often all we need to do is exert a force that is slightly more powerful than the inertia and that creates an unstoppable movement.

This is often the role of the mentor. Helping people to overcome their self limiting belief and exert enough force for themselves in the right direction to create movement.

Sharing business knowledge

 A mentor may be providing quite specific technical assistance to a person and that crosses the role line to coach and consultant. It all depends on the methodology used.  The biggest challenge for a true mentor is to avoid saying –“ I would do it this way”. The role of the mentor is to ask questions, to assist the mentee is reaching their own conclusions. Sometimes, however, the mentee may actually struggle to get the answer due to a lack of technical knowledge that the mentor may have. A simple example would a medical person wanting to grow a practice without detailed knowledge of basic business management tools. The mentor can provide guidance and specific advice on the topics where the mentee is lacking.

Be coachable

It’s a big admission, but it has taken many years of my life for me to become coachable. When looking at behavioral styles and analyzing myself (quite entertaining and eye-opening), I find that I have two very dominant styles, almost to the exclusion of the other styles. The behavioral traits of these styles (whatever system they are in) are dominance and influence. These two required mentors over my life to communicate in ways that resonated with me and communicated with my “behavioral style”

In my book, “Dive In – Lessons learnt since business school” – there is a chapter on mentoring that begins with the following :

One of the tag lines of the ‘MasterChef’ TV show (Australia) is[C1] ‘extraordinary cooking from ordinary cooks’. That is my view on many of the people I have met and who have influenced me. There were some incredible high achievers revered by society, who helped and assisted me in numerous ways. However, the day to day interactions with people are often more important than the high achievers.

I have always been fiercely independent. I have never been able to follow a mentor to the exclusion of all others. However, over many years in business I have had countless influencers and mentors.

The idea of a long term mentor is one who provides a framework for the mentee to be able to grow.

What has your mentor shown you that changed your life ?


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