Wednesday 10 January 2024

What Makes A Good Business Mentor

What Makes A Good Business Mentor?

Mentoring grows people by Richard Gourlay

Business mentoring supports people at all levels of a business. It used to be seen as supporting people in need or going through dramatic transition, but is now recognised as a key support element in people development throughout progressive companies. Business leaders benefit from mentoring programmes in a number of ways, as do the company's they work for. 

key benefits from mentoring include:

  • Confident motivated leaders
  • Reduced churn of senior staff
  • Higher employee engagement 
  • Succession planning  

  • Increased productivity  


Being mentor is about more than just having some experience in the field, although that helps, as does being genuinely interested in the people and the challenges they are facing today and likely to face in the future within their role. 

Mentors have to bring more than just experience and know-how, they need to have energy and be able to transfer that energy and enthusiasm to their mentees.  Mentoring requires a positive attitude to enable mentees to grow and develop faster than they would organically in their role. 

Mentoring Value

Mentoring adds value to companies through a whole range of added value reasons, often unseen on the profit and loss account, but scoring highly on the balance sheet. The above list of key benefits is a good place to start with do not show up on a P&L spreadsheet, but do when you look deeper at the balance sheet. 

Confident leaders are essential in business today. People who make the right, often tough calls at the right time on where and when a business should be going. Likewise reducing staff churn, and especially senior staff churn is vital for a business to be able to succeed, with replacement times and costs impacting upon corporate capability. That itself links directly to levels of staff engagement, for example high churn reduces confidence and engagement levels as rapid unplanned change unsettles entire working environments and ecosystems with customs and suppliers. That also connects a direct link which uncertainty brings to the lack of planned succession planning and its impact on increased people churn also damages productivity as well as purpose and accountability.  

This cascade effect impacts upon a company's culture. For many leaders and senior people within a company todays' workplace can be an isolated one. Work from home, delayering, global disparate teams where connection is via email, text, business call or online meeting and the odd and infrequent face to face meeting leaves many senior people emotionally alone. Mental health and team culture are an important element for leaders to be engaged with people.   

Mentoring Supports Positive Growth Mindsets

Mentors provide several great assets to a company, one of the least appreciated is the outside view. That is the non aligned, impartial neutral viewpoint. This provides the rationale voice to someone who is being mentored, removing or at least balancing up internal company or personal biases which might exist in the decision making process.  

When leaders look for growth, often it is through an internal prism which is not reflective of reality. The external mentor should be able to provide insight, balance and motivation to the individual as to how they can grow as a leader within their business. 

Good mentors should look to deliver a positive mindset in supporting their mentees grow and develop. Being realistic with them on timescale by setting horizon goals rather than sprint finishes.  


People grow over time, so good mentors develop a clear understanding of how to support that growth and supporting it into new areas, enabling mentees to succeed outside their comfort zone by taking on new challenges, developing new skills with enthusiastic and measured support of a good mentor.  

Creating a 'can do' attitude encourages mentees to develop the complete set of skills rather than just reenforcing their existing skill base. That enthusiasm is about developing and supporting people with a purposeful plan of support.  

Mentors must be able to communicate clearly 

Good mentors are real listeners, not only listing for what is being said but also what is not being said. Growth of people requires mentors to focus on the whole picture not just the good bits. Learning from failure is an essential part of knowledge transfer, so good mentors don't brush that under the carpet.

Leading mentees to the answer is where they learn, but that only happens when mentors are good listeners. If all they do is regale stories of their successes or agree with their mentees, they maybe great people to have beer with but are they going to grow their mentee into an even more successful leader? Good mentoring is all about listening, qualifying and then leading their mentees to the answers they need.

It's not about telling or selling, but about supporting leaders learning. The best mentors can break complex situations down into simple decisions, pulling out the critical from the noise and irrelevant, helping mentees learn how to distill situations down through objective analysis so that hey discover the solutions by themselves. For experienced business people to mentor it is always too easy just to give them the answer but without the learning their is no lasting value in just the answer if they have not learnt how to achieve that outcome themselves.

Honest is at the Heart of Good Mentoring

It's easy to be nice, but better to be honest with people.  Even when it is phrased in a positive sandwich, good, could have done better, but that part was good. Good mentors should not be trying to be popular, they should be shaping their mentees understanding of what is good and what is not. 

When a mentee makes a mistake, a good mentee will draw out the thinking process and the decision making rationale and identify the consequences, while the average mentor will want to draw a veil over the topic as quick as possible and move on. But there is no learning in moving on. The learning comes form the self assessment, not being told, but the self analysis of the whole process not just the outcome. It is the thinking process that the mentee went through which they need to review if they are going to learn and not just repeat (or avoid) the situation next time.  

Good mentors ask good questions, not just he obvious ones. They get to know their mentees and and get them thinking outside their usual thought process patterns and challenging them to look at themselves and others through different lenses.

Mentoring Shapes Leaders

Good mentors bring their skills and knowledge to the table. They share insights and do background research on their mentees. They are there to share and shape the mentee through positive engagement, providing a sounding board and a springboard for the mentee. Somewhere the mentee is safe to discuss key issues them without judgement and who they can develop a positive relationship with that grows the mentee successfully.

For a mentor making a difference to how someone approaches and deals with their workplace issues is the outcome from their work, developing a new approach, or a different viewpoint moves a mentee into a new place which they would not have got to without the mentor.  

Good Mentoring 

Good mentoring grows people to succeed. I hope this article shows you what and how good mentoring delivers to people, the mentees and to the business who supports and champions mentoring ship within the company. Like to know more about mentoring by Richard Gourlay then get in touch for an informal first discussion: Richard Gourlay 


Ben Johnson said...

Nice post, really helpful tips for business success tips. I have also visited a website called business success solution where Loren provides growth accelerator tips.a

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