Wednesday, 26 June 2019
Mentoring relationships have a host of benefits for entrepreneurs, but peer mentoring, in particular, is rising in popularity.
What is Peer Mentoring?
Traditional mentoring is usually a relationship set up between two people, one who has already lived through an experience – the mentor – and one who is generally more junior and is seeking guidance – the mentee. With peer mentoring, this relationship is a lot more equal and is usually between two people who are at similar stages of their career or entrepreneurial journey.
What are the benefits of Peer Mentoring?
Whilst an inspiring mentor who has already achieved your goals can be a fountain of great advice, it can sometimes be hard for them to relate to your specific business struggles. A founder who started their business 20 years ago might not be able to share your frustrations about social media, and someone who has a healthy turnover may have forgotten what it’s like to be struggling to find your first investment.
With peer mentoring you can almost guarantee that whatever you are going through this week, your peer mentor would have gone through last month. Having someone who is in the trenches at the same time as you mean they can offer great emotional support and relevant advice.
Peer mentoring is not only helpful for advice and support, it can also throw up some incredible opportunities for collaboration. As business owners at similar stages of the entrepreneurial journey, you will find that your respective brands can likely benefit from cross-promotion and strategic partnerships. This can be particularly beneficial if you are in the same sector or share a similar customer base.
Collaborating on an event, social media campaign, or even a new product, is a great way to position yourselves as brands that share values and believe in each other’s work. It is also an easy way to leverage each other’s networks – increasing eyeballs on your products and revenue in your bank account.
One of the biggest benefits of a positive peer mentoring relationship is that you will have your very own accountability buddy. When running a business, especially if you are starting out on your own, it can be difficult to stay motivated and easy to let projects slide. Being your own boss takes a lot of self-discipline so having someone who keeps you on track and holds you accountable for your plans is a key ingredient for success.
Through peer mentoring, you can agree to remind and push each other to achieve your goals and stick to your roadmap. Whether it’s a sales call you were supposed to follow up on, a pitch you were meant to send, or a website bug you promised you would fix, you accountability buddy will be there to make sure you get it done.
How to make Peer Mentoring Work
As busy entrepreneurs, neither of you will want to waste hours shooting the breeze when you could be doing something practical to help the growth of your business. You want to create an environment that is milestone driven and action orientated.
Be sure to set out clear objectives for each meeting and ensure that each time you are together you both come away with actionable insights that add value to your business. Bring presentations to sense check, practice a pitch, talk through designs for your new website – just ensure the time is used as a soundboard for practical aspects rather than just the big ideas.
Pay it forward
Paying it forward is all about opening your virtual rolodex and helping each other make useful connections – and this can work in two ways.
Firstly, be sure to recommend freelancers and consultants that could help grow each other’s businesses. Perhaps your fellow peer mentor needs someone to help with a web design project – point them in the direction of the woman that helped create you site. Or maybe they are looking to make their first hire, if you’ve had a great intern, why not introduce them? It can sometimes be tempting to hang on to our favourite suppliers, but for an effective peer mentoring relationship to work, you must be open to sharing the wealth.
More importantly, you should always be open to recommending each other’s services. Everyone knows a sales call with a warm intro is always more effective than going in completely cold. If you think your peer buddy could benefit from an intro to someone in your network, don’t hesitate to make it happen. A five-minute phone call could make a huge difference to their business.
Create a safe environment for sharing
As with all mentoring relationships, trust should be the fundamental building block of everything else.
There are a few things you can do to ensure you are creating a safe environment for your relationship to flourish. Trust is nurtured when you both feel you can depend on each other, so despite your busy schedules, try to always honour your appointments. When you are together, be present and listen actively. It might be tempting to check your emails or take a call but that’s not only disrespectful to your mentoring partner but counterintuitive if you want your time together to be valuable.
Peer mentoring lends itself to offering shared experiences rather than advice, which is great for building trust. This approach leads to less judgement and more openness, meaning you will both get way more out of the process. Allow yourself to be vulnerable and honest, this shouldn’t be about impressing each other or competing. Ditch the filter and share both the good and the bad of running a business.