The importance of mentorship is slowly gaining recognition in the world of leadership, but it is still something of a foreign concept to many business leaders. While mentorship programs have their place among employees, a mentor for a leader is a novel concept.
When people think of business mentors, they often think of a relationship they cultivate with a superior rather than a person they hire. If you are at the top of the food chain in your own company, however, you might need to hire a mentor – someone who will help you through tough situations and be a second opinion when it comes to making the tough choices. Here are 5 warning signs you should hire a business mentor.
1. When You Start To Feel It’s You Against The World
Like the old saying goes, it’s lonely at the top and the higher you climb, the lonelier it gets. While you may have started a business with a partner or partnered up along the way, but over the long haul people’s commitment level can vary.
When you start to feel as if you are all alone trying to put out fires and forge new paths, it might be time to hire a mentor. A mentor is not a business coach – they are someone who has walked in your shoes and has already navigated the terrain you are navigating. They are not another partner but they can be an invaluable sounding board.
2. When It Becomes Hard To Get An Unbiased Opinion
As much as everyone wants to deny that they have either biases or prejudices, the truth is, we all have them. In fact, if there is any type of intelligence that should be naturally unbiased, it would be artificial intelligence. But even artificial intelligence has to be programmed, and it turns out even programmers have biases they are unconsciously passing on to their programs. Getting a truly unbiased opinion may be impossible, but there are certain factors that make people more or less biased. The less of a stake someone has in your ultimate decision, the less biased their opinion is likely to be.
Your partners and subordinates all have a fairly large stake in your decisions, which makes it nearly impossible to get an unbiased opinion from them. They will most likely either tell you what they think you want to hear or whatever benefits them the most. Theoretically, a mentor should have nothing to gain or benefit from you moving in one direction or the other, so they can offer you the most unbiased feedback.
3. When Your Company Culture Takes A Wrong Turn
The key importance of a good company culture is that cultures are self-perpetuating. When you have a company culture that is based on encouraging each other rather than tearing each other down, your culture itself provides the impetus to make it through rough patches. If your company culture is based on learning to take harsh criticism, then it can make already difficult situations even worse. A good mentor is someone who has themselves built both good and bad company cultures. They have most likely had many painful experiences with having to suffer through a difficult culture they created. That gave them the wisdom and experience necessary to create a good company culture. Ultimately, by hiring a mentor you are paying to enjoy the wisdom gained by someone else’s failures. This can help shorten your own and make them less painful.
4. When You Need To Navigate Rough Waters
In a digital world, all businesses are susceptible to being rocked by scandal at any time. In some cases, otherwise reputable companies can be unknowingly or unwittingly participating in fraud or other types of criminal activity or even be harboring criminals within their walls. The larger a business is, the less likely one person is to know what everyone else is doing. Sometimes, it may be the business owner or CEO themselves that is unaware of what one of their partners or subordinates may be doing. When scandal hits, a good mentor can help you navigate rough waters and hopefully help you land back on solid ground.
5. When You Need To Press Forward Into Uncharted Territory
A mentor is (or at least should be) essentially a guide that can help you find your own best path. A good mentor will not (and in fact cannot) tell you what path is right for you, but they can give you some insight into several paths available. What was right for them in a specific instance might not be right for you, but a good mentor has most likely been down many paths and can help you find the one right for you, even if it wasn’t the right one for them. While they can’t tell you which one is right for you, they can tell you something about the potential pitfalls of several courses of action and some benefits to be gained from each one.
When choosing a mentor, it is important to ensure you are getting a guide that is more concerned with your growth than their own agenda or ego. A bad mentor can steer you from a bad situation into an even worse one. The best course of action when choosing a mentor is to cultivate a relationship long before you genuinely need one. You don’t want to rely on someone in the middle of a crisis only to find out they are not reliable. Better to test them out in calm waters than wait to see what they are made of in the middle of a storm.
Helen Eagleton, a freelance blogger from Boston, follows topics in the realm of education, technology, digital marketing, and business in general. When she’s not researching for her next article, she enjoys watching documentaries and exploring the nature. Reach her @eagleton_helen