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Every year, I have the pleasure of attending a number of conferences and events around the world and have yet to attend one where the topic of mentoring doesn’t come up as a key to success. This is because mentors and trust-based mentoring relationships are essential in guiding entrepreneurs through the various stages of their journey by acting as sounding boards, perspective givers, cheerleaders, and confidants.
The Role of Mentors
Today, I have seven mentors in three continents that I reach out to regularly. Because I believe that the essence of life is to learn and pass on knowledge, I surround myself with positive people who I can trust as friends and mentors who can influence my professional and personal development.
As part of my giving back, I not only mentor my own team but a number of entrepreneurs and non-entrepreneurs as well. Seeing them grow and lead their lives to the fullest extent often gives me more satisfaction than from my own growth.
So why do I feel that having a mentor can transform your life? Here are my top five reasons:
1. Mentors help you discover your true self
We all have blind spots and many of us shy away from showing the world our true talents, personalities and capabilities. Whether it is because we don’t know that they exist, or we chose to ignore them, we only hurt ourselves by failing to really utilise them.
Mentors act as safety nets and an extra pair of eyes that enable you to see and address your blind spots, whether they be positive or negative. Why is this so important? So that you can learn to grow and become your truest self for your family, workplace, and community.
Sometimes the mere acknowledgement that mentors give you can spark inspiration and confidence to try something – if it wasn’t for my mentors who believed that my voice was worth sharing on a wider scale, I am not sure that I would be writing this article today.
2. Mentors can spark inspiration if you listen
Inspiration can be found in every nook and cranny when we are genuinely open to listening. Mentors who share their true personal and/or business experiences provide a continuous channel of inspiration to those that they mentor. Mentees have so much to gain by listening, including clarity, perspective, and belief that they can take a leap of faith to push the boundaries one’s comfort zone.
Sometimes, even the smallest and insignificant words of advice by mentors can spark the biggest and most transformative inspiration. The trick for mentees to really capture these nuggets is to really listen to what is being said and not said.
I am a self-confessed life learner and optimizer, so I actively seek inspiration at all times. When I reflect on how I fully gain from my mentors’ bits of wisdom, it is when I consciously float a relevant topic or challenge with each of my mentors. Even as I receive these inputs, I know that how I take things forward is ultimately my choice, and they will support me. This process is a sure way of ensuring that you never stop learning or growing.
3. Mentors help you network effectively
Mentors are often sought out for their diverse network of contacts – this is undoubtedly a great value-add. However, mentors can contribute much more than just an introduction or two, but it takes real work to reap these rewards.
Deep, trust-based mentoring relationships can enable you to gain maximum value from a referral since your mentor not only knows your true self but also because they are invested in your career and life journey. Taking time to truly sow the seeds in the right mentoring relationships can give you significant returns in the long run.
For those of us who are shy and dread the thought of walking into a conference room and not knowing anyone, be open with your mentor about your fears and insecurities. They may have faced the same issues in their early days and can share valuable insights into how you can overcome these fears and gain maximum leverage from your networking efforts. I myself faced this very challenge and continue to work on this area.
Overall, I have learned that the more mentors I have around me, the more confidence I have in taking the next baby step by trying a variety of new approaches and finding what works for me.
4. Mentors help you stay on course to your destination
Before setting off on any journey, it is beneficial to map out the directions to your destination. In this process, it becomes instantly clear that journey often has multiple crossroads that force us to make choices as to which routes we want to take. Life is no different and a mentor can help you not only define your direction, but they can also help you tune into your inner compass so that you can choose the right crossroads. They do this by helping you to understand your values, goals, and priorities while keeping you on track to your end destination.
By sharing your journey with a mentor, you can gain valuable help in resolving certain challenges and overcome roadblocks that make it difficult to stay on path.
5. Mentors have your back
Friends and family can make up a great support network. However, they can have an emotional bias that skews your thinking and decision-making. This is why having an emotionally unbiased mentor who fundamentally believes in you, your success, and your happiness is so invaluable.
Mentors eradicate loneliness by providing a safe space for you to share your ideas, feelings and thoughts, whether it is to cry over your failures or brag about your successes. Rather than judging you or turning their back on you if you make a mistake, they will be there to help you get back up and ultimately learn for the future.
In times like these, their feedback might not always be positive. But in my experience, honest yet constructive feedback wins every time and does you the greatest service.
Kathleen Bury is the Chief Executive Officer of Mowgli Foundation, a UK-based nonprofit that supports entrepreneurs creating future jobs in the emerging economies of the Middle East and North Africa.