Following the recent articles on Adviser Lounge, and a bit of social media argy-bargy about the role of consultants, I’ve decided to take a closer look at the role of an ‘independent other’ that can give an objective view of your business.
As you face the challenges of growing your business profitably, you may be trying to evaluate the help that’s out there. I read an article recently from one of the world’s top executive advisers, David Carter, and have borrowed a few of his thoughts because I think they are helpful.
The Independent Other
Do you need a mentor, consultant, counsellor, coach or confidante?
Who does what?
Counsellors work on psychological issues, coaches on skills, confidantes on politics and culture, and consultants on operational issues. Only a mentor can straddle all of these areas and, as the owner of a business, all of these issues are likely to arise and be important as you grow. A good mentor will provide an objective view of what the real issues are. They will also know when another specialist is needed. So often I find my clients believe that their major challenges are in one area, only to find that after some enquiry and questioning that the real issues lie elsewhere.
Check them out
Anyone can provide a nice testimonial on a website. When selecting your mentor, I suggest speaking directly with their past clients. This will help you get under the skin of why they worked well with others, so that you can decide if they are likely to work well with you. Don’t be afraid to ask your potential mentor about their most and least successful clients. Why were they so successful? What didn’t work? This can be very revealing. David Carter suggests asking them what they are not good at and what they have failed at along with the lessons they have learned. As David says: “Anyone who hasn’t ever failed won’t make a great mentor…The mistakes they make and the lessons learned give mentors their insight. Besides, it shows they’ve taken some risks – not all of which worked out.”
From your point of view you need to be prepared to be 100% honest and vulnerable. The best leaders are self-aware, honest and authentic. If you can’t bring yourself to look deeply at the issues, and your part in them, it’s unlikely you will have a successful relationship and outcome with a mentor.
In the final wash up, there needs to be the the right chemistry on several levels:
- Do you like the mentor and does the mentor like you? Is there mutual respect? If not, things will come under pressure when the going gets tough.
- Is there complete trust? Does the mentor have any conflicts of interest or hidden agendas? If so, they should be up-front with you, just as you would be with one of your clients.
- What can you teach your mentor. This is a two way relationship. If they are any good, they should be equally open minded and learning while they work with you, often finding new and unique solutions perfectly suited to your business requirements. A mentor that’s worked with a diverse mix of clients will have so much more to bring to your relationship.
By Brett Davidson