Business Mentorship: Is It Luxury Or Essential To Success?

Ever wonder why people turn to mentorship instead of figuring things out on their own?

Without a doubt, self-learning and problem-solving are essential skills to develop and practice. And for the most part, that’s how we learn and develop as children and as adults.

At the same time, however, while mentorship may seem luxurious and unnecessary, there are significant benefits to working with a mentor.

This is true across all professions and is not limited to business mentorship alone.

A Definition

But first, what is mentorship?

In the most general sense, mentorship is a relationship between an experienced and knowledgeable individual, the mentor, and a less experienced and knowledgeable person, the mentee.

The purpose of mentorship is to provide advice, support, and guidance to help the mentee grow, develop skills, and ultimately achieve proficiency in their chosen field.  

Nothing New

Even though the term “mentorship” is somewhat of a buzzword today, the concept and practice of mentorship are anything but new.

Here are a few examples…

  • Apprentices …The apprenticeship system, a form of mentorship, has been used throughout the ages to turn out skilled craftsmen. A young individual would typically work with an experienced craftsman, such as a goldsmith, tailor, or blacksmith, for several years to learn a trade. It’s an effective system, still in use throughout different parts of the world.
  • Artists … In the past, perhaps even today, developing artists would learn under the guidance of a master, sometimes even living with the master and working in the studio for years to develop their skills. Two famous examples are Michelangelo and Leonardo Da Vinci, who studied under a master to help develop their craft.
  • Nurses …The field of nursing employs the mentorship model extensively to train nurses and help them develop throughout different stages of their careers. Most nurses complete a clinical mentorship and preceptorship, where students are paired with experienced nurses to learn different nursing skills and develop practical hands-on care.
  • Sports… There are no mentors in sports, but coaches are found at all performance levels. Sports is probably the one area where coaches, aka mentors, are commonplace, and the benefit of mentorship is rarely questioned.

Today, mentorship comes in many flavors.

They may range from informal, loosely defined mentor-mentee relationships to distinct and well-structured formal, even paid mentorship programs.

And while mentorship may take on different forms today, the guiding principle of sharing knowledge and experience to foster growth and development in the mentee has stayed the same.

Business Mentorship

Business mentorships are professional relationships where an experienced person (the mentor) teaches a less experienced person about business … nothing new or different here.

And, just as in other areas, business mentorships might be more informal, where an experienced employee takes the new employee “under their wings” to “teach them the ropes.”

Or they may be strictly formal, clearly defined, and well-structured. They may even include different milestones and testing to establish proficiency in the field of study.

Is it Effective?

Given the popularity of mentorships, one has to wonder if they are effective.

Yes, they are.

Studies across various fields have shown that mentorship is an effective tool for imparting knowledge and sharing experience and often results in greater job satisfaction and performance for the mentee.

For example, a review of mentorship in nursing found that mentorship resulted in greater retention rates and higher job satisfaction for nurses, in addition to developing skills.

Various studies in the area of business found that employees who had mentors reported greater job satisfaction and were promoted more often.

Studies showing the positive results of mentorship are common and are not isolated findings. Additionally, they can be found across all fields.

It’s clear that mentorship works and is effective.

Today, mentorship programs are growing in popularity, even though some individuals, including artists, craftsmen, and businesspeople, prefer to learn and develop skills on their own.

Why is that?

Pros and Cons

Let’s see if we can find why by looking at the pros and cons of mentorship.

Benefits of mentorship (this may be a bit repetitious):

  • Developing Skills:
    While working with a mentor, mentees can build on their existing skills and develop new ones. Most mentors freely offer insight and knowledge from their own experience.
  • Modeling Success:
    Being around a successful mentor allows the mentee to model their success: thinking about opportunities and problems, how to approach challenges, how to successfully negotiate, etc.
  • Network Access:
    Often, a mentee can expand their network by gaining access to the mentor’s network, leading to new connections and opportunities for the mentee.
  • Confidence:
    Mentees can strengthen and build their confidence and grow as individuals by gaining mentors’ support and receiving their input and feedback.
  • Guidance:
    A mentor can help mentees make far-reaching business and career decisions by offering insights and sharing their experiences.

Potential downsides of mentorship:

  • Overreliance on a mentor/loss of independence:
    Some mentees may rely too much on the advice and opinions of their mentor instead of relying on their own knowledge and ideas. As a result, the mentee may become too dependent on their mentor for decision-making and problem-solving.
  • Cost of mentorship:
    Today, many formal mentorship programs require a monthly or one-time payment and a significant time commitment. Participating in such programs may not be possible for some if the fees or other requirements are too steep.
  • Personality conflicts:
    Mentors and mentees may not always be well-suited to each other. This could lead to conflict and tension and is counterproductive to sharing knowledge and experiences. 
  • Bad Fit:
    Not all mentors suit all mentees, going far beyond personality conflicts. It may be that the mentee operates in a particular field, but the mentor has no experience in the area. While general knowledge and guidance are helpful, the mentee would benefit from specialized expertise.
  • Mismatched objectives:
    This happens more often than not. The mentor has a learning objective in mind not shared by the mentee. This difference in goals could lead to significant conflict between the two and get in the way of learning.

Now, let’s circle back to the original question…

Is business mentorship a luxury, or is it essential for business success?

Naturally, the answer will be different from person to person…

As you can see, not all mentorships are created equal.

  • Significant differences exist in the type of mentorships and how they are carried out.
  • The expectations, objectives, and level of commitment of both mentor and mentee will influence the effectiveness of the mentoring relationship and its outcomes.
  • The amount of time and the finances available to devote to being mentored also differ from person to person.

Ultimately, deciding if mentorship is essential to achieve business success is a decision everyone must make for themselves.

As for myself, I don’t view mentorship as a luxury.

It is a tool for learning, growing, and advancing in my chosen field of study; if anything, it allows me to fast-track results.

While I see the benefits of mentorship, I don’t think extensive mentorship programs are essential to success in business, but they won’t hurt either.

And today, there are alternatives to the traditional mentorship model. It’s something we’ll explore more next week…

But for now, let me close by suggesting…  If you can access some form of mentorship, why not take advantage of it?

What are your thoughts about mentorship? We’d love to know, just leave your comment below…

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