STARTING WITH A MENTOR

Ok so your interesting in using a mentor how do start the right way so that you and your mentor understand your relationship needs. One thing to ensure is that you build your relationship first so that you feel comfortable sharing personal experiences and feelings. Secondly be aware of the difference between a mentoring and coaching to find the right person for you. Think outside the box to, a mentor can be found in many places like a close friend, a business club, work colleague or professional mentor.

Now it may be a fine line and there are so many unique businesses out there today that it can sometimes be difficult to spot what is for you, let’s look at what I feel the subtle differences are before we look at starting out with a mentor. I once saw a very good statement distinguishing the two: ‘Mentoring is relational while coaching is functional’.

The dictionary definition is ‘someone who trains you to accomplish a task or goal’ or ‘someone who teaches people to improve at a skill or sport’ also ‘helping them to prepare for something’.

So we have support, training and guidance, all good stuff. I believe that there are definitely a lot of good people that cross over the border between coaching and mentoring and as I say wear many hats.  My personal opinion at the extreme end of the coaching spectrum I see is often following a program of knowledge, or even a program set out for you to reach an end goal. The coach has practical tools and techniques or building blocks to use to help you achieve what you need and will hold you accountable to those predefined actions. Driving you to take action for results, your choice is to do or not to do! But what happens when you have other stuff going on in your life not related to the goal that you are being coached towards? I see many different outcomes when this happens.

So where do I see the opposite end of the spectrum in the mentoring role?

If we look at the dictionary definition for a mentor we find ‘an experienced and trusted advisor’ and ‘someone who gives you advice over a period of time’. You can say that it is to teach, support and give guidance, as would any coach. My feedback from clients is that I am a positive influence that inspires them and I would hope that when you pick a coach that this is true also.

Where I feel the difference lies is in the deep personal connection, helping you recognise the path or journey you are on both personally and in business and to clarify the vision you want to achieve. I am always looking at the person on a deeper level and spiritual connection the relationship has to be a good fit for both parties. As I said in my first blog a mentor teaches you to tune into your passion, strengths and core belief system, helping you to shine in the way only you can. Focusing on a mentoree’s total development.

A mentor will stretch you to just beyond your comfort level, not in excess so as to create stress and overwhelm but enable you to reach a potential beyond what you see yourself capable of. This is always where the magic happens! It is being able to recognise that what works for one will not work for another there is no system or course to follow it is all about your journey. ‘Instead of a bag of tools it’s just an empty bag of magic’ as one of my clients said.

My definition of a business mentor is “someone who strikes a balance between expert business advice and the empathy with the individuals personal journey and mindset; getting them personally ready for each step. It is a professional relationship where resources, knowledge and networks are shared to enhance the mentee’s professional and personal growth.”

So how can we make sure that both parties are happy from the outset?

1) Clarify in your head what you want out of the relationship

As best you can write down your expectations and the extent you want that person to play a part in your life. I always say imagine a newspaper article about you in 6 months time what would it be saying? What would you be celebrating and how? Is there anything that you need specific help with?

For example industry knowledge, networking, business skills planning and visualisong. Setting some objectives will ensure that you are clear to your mentor and they understand your personal and professional needs, helping them see if you are a good fit for them.

2) Make absolutely clear the commitment you are both giving

Once you’ve found someone who agrees to be your mentor, make sure you can give the same commitment and share the same passion for your goals and expectations. Your mentor is investing in your future also and needs to be excited by the prospect of working with you. Discuss and establish  a regular meeting and/or update schedule.

3) Make a draft plan to start off the work.

At the start there will be a lot of work around establishing where you are and building on what you want to achieve. If you have done your homework and established some preliminary goals/objectives make a list of topics that you would like to cover, areas you might like to discuss. These will prove to be great conversation starters and help you get into the new routine.

4) Talk about your skills.

What knowledge, skills, networks and abilities possessed by you and your mentor are going to benefit you most in achieving your current objectives.

5) Who will initiate the interaction?

Please be clear who is going to do the coordinating and organising, don’t wait for the other to ring being polite.

6) How will you know things are working?

Set up some parameters that you both agree to measure how things are progressing, define what success looks and feels like.

7) How do you handle conflict and feedback?

What would move you to terminate the relationship? A difficult one but an understanding that needs to be clear. It is important to understand that a mentor role is to give advice, but you are responsible for whether you take that advice or not and how you apply knowledge that is passed across. Your mentor must be ready for this; which is why I always say that a family member is not the wisest choice as a mentor. Choose your mentor wisely you do not want someone that is trying to produce a clone! You need to be receptive to constructive feedback on both sides.

8) Maintain confidentiality

The sessions are between you and your mentor, have an agreement in place to maintain that.

My final word is please honor your commitment, mentoring is a demanding job and responsibility so be appreciative of the time you are given Be timely in your responses and show up. Expect support not miracles, we do not solve all problems but the most valuable quality we offer is a different perspective and an eagerly listening sounding board. Why not come and talk to us about it www.white-tiger.co.uk/services/mentoring

 

Mentoring March – have you found yours?

Often mentoring is something that just happens, most entrepreneurs are happy to take advice and surround themselves with a great team. So what makes a great mentor and how do you find one that suits you?

 

We hear so many different titles these days, life coach, business coach, growth and transformation specialists, sounding boards they are all there with a specific skill: what do you need right now just for you? What place are you at in your life? It is important to have someone who is in tune with you and your personal journey and that has the knowledge that you are seeking right now.

 

To find a mentor we often look to people we know, someone who has faced adversity in a courageous manner.

This is great, it is important to have people that inspire us, ask them how they make decisions, confront fears and move on. What about our personal business journey? My definition of a business mentor is someone who strikes a balance between expert business advice and the empathy with the individuals personal journey and mindset; getting them personally ready for each step. It is a professional relationship where resources, knowledge and networks are shared to enhance the mentee’s professional and personal growth.

 

Mentoring is definitely not the soft option we take our roles seriously becoming deeply connected and invested in the success of the individual. It is a long term relationship that is built and maintained even if at the latter stages only light touch. A good mentor is always looking to help empower the individual tuning into their strengths and core belief system, helping them shine in the way only they can.

 

Important: If you want a good mentor you have to be willing to invest in the relationship it is a two way commitment! A mentor is not someone that just holds you accountable, you must have a genuine interest and readiness to learn. You are not expected to adopt every suggestion but to listen and discuss to enable an open mind and new perspective on things to take your business journey forward. You are ultimately responsible for your business and a business mentor giving their opinion cannot be accountable for your actions – a good mentor will have terms and conditions set out so ask to see them.

 

So what do you need to look for in a business mentor?

 

  • Someone that inspires you – personal attributes that demonstrate success and knowledge.
  • Infectious enthusiasm and positivity – they need to motivate you (remember this is also 2 way and you also are a ‘weather creator’ in your life so always examine the shadow you cast)
  • A teacher – How well can they explain things to you? Not everyone has a natural ability to teach.
  • A good listener – essential
  • You have to like and gel with them – It may sound obvious but can you get to know them at a personal level and share your feelings, you have to feel comfortable.
  • Excellent communication and people skills – the ability to give constructive feedback and challenge you enough to stretch you to feeling achievement and not beyond your stress boundaries. It is no good to send you into overwhelm and affect your personal well being there has to be a balance. Being just out of your comfort zone is where the magic happens trust me.
  • Someone who sets and meets goals – leading by example how well do they respond to requests and answer your emails.
  • Time – Do they have the personal time to take you on as a mentee.

 

The truth is you probably already know someone who you would consider, looking to your peers is a good thing as you probably already have strong relationships formed. There is no formal system to follow and not one person that will be there for everything. You will need different people for different times and situations in your life and that just may mean a one off session to get you back on track. All of the above are ok – it is down to what you personally need so I ask the question again – What key challenges do you need help with right now? Remember we often focus on the urgent not the important to take time for you when you answer this.

 

I am confident that a good mentor can take you further on your journey than you thought was possible whilst protecting one of your most valuable assets – your mind. Try having those conversations that you only have in your head with yourself with a thought partner and see what is possible. Yes peers and relatives can provide valuable information and contacts but I believe that only structured mentoring can provide continuity in the level of support on an ongoing basis—in a manner that can have a directly positive impact on your personal growth and the growth of your business over time.

 

Here’s why I do what I do – my feedback from a one off meeting to help with clarity;

After just two hours with Angela I had completely decluttered my mind and refocused in a way that completely restored my energy and passion. I left with an action plan which I had confidence could be executed within the planned and necessary timescale. As a result I was then able to deliver the results required for business success! Thank you Angela for putting me back on track with a couple of extra skills gained that I will continue to apply in the future!

 

Do you know the difference between a coach & a mentor? Find out next week when I will also share some tips on the process of how to make onboarding a new mentor easier – clarity from the outset to move you forward faster.

 

The value of the process map during growth

A period of growth can be exciting and motivating, it can be a challenge but equally it can be a risk. If growth is to be sustained it has to be planned for and financed, under investment is a common failure which means building less capacity than is needed to serve the customers rising demand. This is the same with your business systems and processes, what might cope now will almost definitely need to be adapted for the future to mitigate risks. Technology is also accelerating the pace of business, there are so many routes to the customer now and every contact you have needs to reflect your brand and values. How do you ensure that this customer experience is controlled and every member of your team embraces it. When you allow your company to be under strain you put stress onto everyone involved, the chances of them being present and engaged to deliver this customer experience reduce. So how do we stop the decline and plan for our successful and sustainable growth?

Every turning Point or Revolution needs a starting point, I believe a process map is the answer.  There are many reasons for this but the visual representation of the business says more than words. It allows everyone to see the bigger picture and get that light bulb moment, following the road to customer satisfaction. People will start to recognise the business journey and want to improve it, find the best route.

Improving information and data flow through the business will also have a vast impact. As I mentioned above within the world of technology and connectivity there opens up more and more options available to streamline business operations.

As business owners you need to take a step back and design your business for future growth.  Make sure you look at every aspect of your business process leave nothing out and no stone unturned.  Find your purpose and what you want to achieve,  then think about what day to day decisions you need to make to achieve this. Analyse the steps you take to deliver your goal and map it out, flow charts are very beneficial but you can start with a list of activities. Now you have your status quo recorded and can plan your new improved system.

Ensure you involve your whole team in this exercise and when you have finished you can talk about improvement projects to design the best way to accomplish each step with the people that matter most – your team. When you find the most efficient and effective way to accomplish your goals I would suggest  where possible you automate; take out as much human error risks as possible.

 One word of caution:

I see so many problems because companies have bought different software packages and apps to help them do jobs quicker then find – They don’t communicate. This leaves a very disjointed system that can lead to major issues and errors when the company grows. If you plan to use software packages do so with a holistic approach, consider the bigger picture and ensure that they talk to one another. They need to be able to grow with you, don’t put in manual data entry or transfer if it will not be sustainable when the company ends up 2, 4 or even 10 times it’s current size.

 

Selling Quality Management Systems to the CEO

This is an article I wrote that was first published by the Chartered Quality Institute in Quality World, they have kindly said that I can share this with my own followers as well as providing a knowledge piece for their members. Sometimes when we are experts in our field we forget that others do not carry the same passion for the subject nor speak the same language.  One of the many challenges we face today is putting Quality into the heart of the company strategy, back in the board room where it belongs.  Remember the phrase ‘Get better or get beat’; it comes from the US in the late 80’s when they had to do a real push for Quality following the Japanese market success.  The media today still seems to only focus on the quality profession when a disaster happens.  As quality professionals we understand that ISO9001 is a holistic approach, and that it can give a competitive advantage, mitigate risks and support growth.  So how do we convince the CEO to play his or her part?

ISO9001:2015 is very clear now especially through the leadership clause 5 on how the new CEO role is defined with regard to the Quality Management System. It is the role of top management and ultimately the CEO to make sure that the the Quality Policy and objectives are aligned with the business strategy and take full responsibility for these. It must be an integral part of the the business way of life not a bolt on as we see all too often these days which saddens me. Even this week I sat in a Business Excellence Forum and a keynote speaker said ISO is the worst thing invented and it just makes you write down everything you do, now that is being imprinted on 700 delegates in the room. My vision is to turn the tables and be the person up there telling Entrepreneurs the truth about the principles behind ISO9001 and change the bad press. As CEO’s or business owners they must promote the principles behind the standard especially the process approach and risk based thinking; encouraging and supporting everyone to contribute in an effective quality management system. They must also make clear the consequences if the company and team do not conform to the systems they create.

The Management representative role is now not a requirement but that does not mean the role and responsibility has disappeared nor does it mean that the role transfers to the CEO or other top management. In fact most companies that I talk to will keep the Management Rep role going. It is a focus change that we are looking at in encouraging the senior management teams and CEO’s to take ultimate accountability and understand what they need to do relative to the Quality management system. I could briefly define a CEO role as this:-

Provide clarity on the vision and the values
Promote and engage people
Create other leaders within the company
Direct and support individuals in their roles
Take responsibility for performance and effectiveness.
Now place the Quality management system in each of these sentences and the role doesn’t change just an additional focus to pay attention to.

The CEO or business owner understands that they must work on the business not in it, sound familiar?  After all a business is a commercial profitable enterprise that works with or without that owner. We therefore need to put ourselves in the same mindset and language mode as the business owner when talking about ISO9001:2015. Our job as I see it is to focus on the detail and the risks, helping the business owner plan for success; we should be their right hand man (or woman).  Company growth is great news but only when built on a great company will it be long lived.  Every CEO or business owner will have different priorities for their company and the skill is understanding and helping them interpret the standard and how it supports these company goals.  When we think about the likes of Google and Amazon there are key elements that make them world class. Some essential elements relate to the Quality Management systems; the question is how sellable these systems are to the CEO? If the CEO is not passionate about why the company needs a Quality Management System how can he lead with that focus? We support the purpose – the “why” the business or company exists – and ensure that there is a clear line of sight between this and the front line. This allows the right culture to grow, with everyone feeling part of a community; and  knowing that they contribute to something much larger for a greater cause or experience.

Successful companies don’t ignore anything, they innovate and when it works they systemise it. Systems don’t have to restrict they don’t cause these companies to stand still; they just help make every improvement a habit.  There was a quote in Forbes from the Dijwans leaders (this was a company that had a good product related to mapping networks of web content but it epically failed as a start up missing the detail).

“A good product idea and a strong technical team are not a guarantee of a sustainable business. One should not ignore the business process and issues of a company because it is not their job. It can eventually deprive them from any future in that company”.

I could go into why they failed but the purpose of this quote was for you to understand the message we need to convey to top management, and it’s this.

An effective quality management system supports the vision & goals of the business and enables the owners to lead from a position of authority.

In turn, this enables the right culture, which inspires people to achieve more than they thought possible.

They need only to understand the detail well enough to lead, and it’s still our job as experts to interpret that detail into best business practice for them.

In order for us to influence the business owners, we must therefore strive to understand the business vision and goals well enough to connect them to the value of a good quality management system.