Kerrie Dorman, Taruna Chauhan and Siobhan Lavelle joined me for a 24 hour retreat here at The Cider Mill in Monmouthshire (30 minutes north of Newport, 10 minutes from Monmouth).
We had arranged to get together to discuss mentoring and also to consider our experiences of reflecting on it, which two pairs in the ABM have done so far. Three of those people were here.
Here are some of the things that we learned and shared. To get a full flavour of the retreat you can click here. Or better still come along yourself!
What is business mentoring
We considered that, first and foremost, business mentoring is support to the considerable challenge of building a business. Mentors listen fully – paying Attention and being aware of their Intention to serve. Constructive questioning helps the mentee to learn, as do suggestions: unlike coaches, mentors can suggest courses of action, drawing from their own experiences while always acknowledging that the experience is almost never directly applicable and the decision is solely the mentee’s responsibility.
Our discussion widened and we looked at how we had developed mentoring, largely to augment our specialist skills. So we considered how capable we are when the issue is outside our specialism. We came to the view that “a little knowledge is a dangerous thing” only when the mentor thinks that she has all the knowledge.
We also considered how excitement can lead to over-sharing where we may seem to tell the mentee what to do. We can catch this and ensure that we are only giving advice. Advice is rarely 100% right and the advantage of an on-going relationship is the opportunity to iterate – see what has worked and what hasn’t and make adjustments.
We wondered if you can ask questions knowing what you think is the answer? Yes but you may not know the answer and you have to respect their answer.
We also looked at “Dialogue that moves mountains” –short direct statements that have a profound impact on us - phrases such as “there may not be another time”. We need to be in rapport with our interlocutor to do this effectively.
Our experience of reflecting to each other
We agreed that reflecting is different to having your own mentor, and have discovered, between us, several benefits:
It’s the perfect way to release frustrations with mentees, such as “magic wand syndrome” – those who think things will be better simply because the mentoring arrangement exists.
That what I say about me can be interesting and useful to them.
We can be inspiring, simply because we have been there and done it.
We can learn how to “gather the reins” –not to let the other control the situation.
It’s a sense check - professional support and fresh eyes on the problems that we are assisting with. It allows us to keep perspective and re-focus where necessary. Sometimes we get useful suggestions too.
Overall, after a period of time we can sense there is someone else in the room with us and work with more confidence.
We agreed that the ABM will improve its professional standing if each member is shown to be accountable to a fellow member with whom she has regular discussions and reviews meeting notes.
On reflection ☺, the retreat was a positive experience for everyone. As with the previous two, it is seen as a safe place, with no distractions, in which to contemplate things that are bubbling away in the back of one’s mind, and to have an open conversation. It’s a big ask to carve out 2 days but those who overcame the work pressure to get there felt that they had made the right choice. Will you?