Archives for posts with tag: Guidance

I’ve been mentoring for a few years, to a range of SMEs, and I’ve learned a lot. Here are 5 of my distilled thoughts on mentoring. It’s not intended to be a how to, more a set of observations.

  • Listening more than talking. As a sounding board, I think our job is to listen and absorb, then to suggest, rather than to tell
  • Focus on the few. Any business has a thousand things it could do, so I try to focus on a small number of key points. If you end up handing out loads of pointers, then your mentee goes away confused and overwhelmed
  • Process is important. When you’re in the thick of all those entrepreneurial factors, it helps if someone external is helping you with simple approaches to process, structure, and priorities for execution
  • It’s easy to say, hard to do. It’s all very well for consultants, mentors and advisers telling people what they should do. We then get to walk away and leave it to them to do the difficult bit, which is executing. I’m acutely aware of this, which is why my company’s ethos is to focus on using my experience to being responsive and practical in my recommendations
  • Be humble. Generally you’re advising someone who’s getting out there and giving it a go with their own business. They deserve a ton of praise for that alone. They’ve put themselves out there and it can be a nerve-wracking, lonely existence. The last thing they need is arrogance or haughtiness. They need empathy, constructive criticism – which comes from our experience – and encouragement

Mentor can mean teach, but for me it’s better to think in terms of advise and support.

The number system is a handy thing. You know the sequence of it and this helps you navigate life and work in an incalculable – pun intended – number of ways.

It’s only when the numbering system becomes unpredictable and lets you down that you feel helpless and want to exclaim ‘WTF!’ very loudly.

Take the numbering system in the estate I live in. Calling it maverick would be like calling a serial killer troubled. You struggle to fathom why they did it that way. I swear people never give a thought for how someone – possibly at some point a customer or buyer – can find it so hard to find a place for the first time. I don’t know a resident of the estate who understands how the numbering works. Our postman¬†does, but that’s his job after all. You get visitors coming in asking ‘excuse me, I’m looking for number 37?’ and you have to say ‘I’m sorry, I do live here, but I don’t know. The numbering system is a mystery. You might try down there, but no promises.’

The other day I was travelling to the new London office of a client for a meeting. I had in my head a picture of where the office was, but when you emerge from the underground you rarely know which side of the road you are. There tend not to be helpful exit signs like ‘High Holborn – south side’. As a consequence, you don’t know which direction to go. Try asking someone which way is east, west, north or south – so easy in the US and engrained in city-building and thus people’s heads – and you’ll get a confused look as if you asked them what the chances were of seeing a Hutu tribesman on the south Pole.

I was advised to go in one direction, which I did for a few minutes. Following numbers is harder than you might think, as few offices or shops display their number, possibly because they don’t want you to find them the first time. After a while I¬†realised that the numbers on both sides of the street were heading in the wrong direction. So I did a one-eighty and headed the other direction, but suffered the same fate. Worried that the bank of offices I needed were in fact held somewhere in a parallel universe, I enquired again and was sent back the original way. Sure enough, the numbering went against me again, but then after 5 minutes started to move in my favour.

Why on earth would you make it difficult for people to find you the first time, people who want to give you their time and money? Madness I tell you, madness.