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Three Tips to Help You Effectively Mentor Your Staff
  • 14 May 2018
  • Rebecca Delaney

Three Tips to Help You Effectively Mentor Your Staff

Take a few minutes to think about the start of your career as a small business owner. Did a previous boss or supervisor mentor you? Did someone help you navigate those beginning stages of entrepreneurship to guide you to where you are now? If so, you are probably in a good spot to pay that mentorship forward with some junior staff of your own.

When you mentor your staff, you can help boost employee morale and improve your company's culture. As you already know, running a small business is full of challenges. Maybe it’s not one of your own employees, perhaps there’s an aspiring fellow entrepreneur in your community that could really benefit from your mentorship. Working for yourself is rewarding, but you are responsible for the big decisions, such as whether to expand into e-commerce or how to handle customer returns. Following are some ways that you can mentor to help someone grow their own small business dreams.

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Nurture the relationship first

It’s important to build and nurture the professional relationship you have with the mentee. Be sure you both enjoy talking and generally like each other, outside of the mentor relationship.

A study on mentorship from the University of Wisconsin showed that employees who were in dissatisfying relationships with their mentors had the same attitudes toward work as those employees with no mentorship.

Take the time to get to know your mentee first by chatting over coffee and lunch. You may pick up some valuable insight that could help guide your mentorship and tailor the relationship to their personality or preferred way to work.

Get ready to listen

Yes, a large part of the mentor-mentee relationship is you imparting the wisdom you have accumulated over the years of owning and running your small business. But listening to your mentee is just as important, according to research.

In a study that analyzed the characteristics of effective mentors, the ability to listen ranked the highest among a list that included patience, knowledge of the industry, and leadership qualities.

You want the person to feel comfortable talking about their goals and dreams for their business and to ask questions. A mentee will not feel comfortable talking about themselves if you can't stop talking about your own career path.

Also, don’t discount what your mentee can bring to the table. The person might be much younger/older than you, or have a different business background – both of which could bring an interesting perspective to you and your business.

Set clear expectations

A good mentor relationship is one in which both sides know what to expect right off the bat. Take some time to establish the expectations you have of your mentee, and provide them the chance to voice their own expectations of the relationship. Set up a schedule of when you will meet, and when you will be free to respond to emails and text. Be sure to hold each other accountable. Maybe in your last meeting, you mentioned you could investigate a potential networking resource for your mentee. Be sure to follow through on your promises and have that resource ready for your next meeting. Also hold your mentee accountable for any tasks or "homework" that come up as well. You want to ensure this relationship is beneficial for the mentee, and not just a rote exercise.

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Mentoring is a great way to give back. Even if you've never been lucky enough to have a mentor lead you through the challenges of running your own business, you’ve overcome numerous hurdles to get you and your business where they are today. Share your knowledge and insights through these valuable mentee relationships. In the end, you’ll likely help each other as you tackle the unique issues specific to small business while you work to take your businesses to the next level.

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