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Scaling up with the right people

Why traditional mentoring isn’t working for modern business

To be a successful founder, you need the right support. Finding the right person, or people to support you provides a boost, a shortcut, a way to avoid some of the mistakes, or wrong turns that you might otherwise encounter on your entrepreneurial journey. Of course you can get there on your own, but the right support will just get you there quicker.

Many a runaway business success story features a business fairy godfather (or less often godmother!) that waved a magic wand and opened up just the right opportunity at just the right time. It’s no wonder so many entrepreneurs look for that one person that’s going to grant that one transformative wish, open that one locked door, share that magical one liner that makes all the difference.

Mentors are often mooted as a panacea for all founder ills, but I’m hearing more and more, especially from CEOs that the wrong mentor can actually slow you down and sometimes do more harm than good.

When we think of traditional mentors, we tend to think of someone who has successfully completed the journey before us. Someone that can give us some of the answers we crave, unlock some of the things that stubbornly elude us.

But what if that advice was actually repackaged nostalgia? What if all that experience actually meant your mentor lacked imagination about what was actually possible? What if they could only see things through their own lens? What if they thought that what you were trying to do wasn’t even possible – because they had never done it themselves?

For founders who are disrupting their industries, challenging norms, breaking long established rules, the right mentors can be hard to find. What’s more, in my experience, because they are ultimately engaged to share their experience, mentors can sometimes be reluctant, sometimes even stubborn, about seeing things from the point of view of even the founders they are trying to help.

The most common area that this falls down is a fundamental misunderstanding of the pace that disruptive, modern businesses need to be able to move at. With mentors counselling against risk taking and rule breaking rather than failing and, more importantly, learning fast. 

For all of these reasons, many founders and CEOs are turning to peer-to-peer mentoring as an alternative. These structured groups of like-minded business people with similar challenges but sometimes disparate experience is providing much needed objectivity and insight. Sometimes these are structured mastermind groups, sometimes group therapy, sometimes coaching or training programmes or as part of a wider structure such as an accelerator or incubator. 

This coming together of founders alleviates not just the need for advice and support but also the loneliness that can so often prevail at this level.

For founders who have either struggled to find either ‘the one’ or someone that truly ‘gets it’ these peer-to-peer networks provide a refreshingly modern alternative to the traditional, almost patriarchal structures that have gone before. Especially for founders and CEOs who don’t feel comfortable doing business on, let’s say, the golf course, these networks provide a strong and focussed alternative. 

If you find yourself resonating with any of these points but don’t know where to start, I would advise working out what the problem is that you’re trying to solve. You’re far more likely to find like-minded people that you can learn from and grow with if you’re honest about the issues or challenges you want to tackle. 

Asking yourself some honest questions is a good place to start:

– If I did find a fairy godmother what one problem would they solve?

– How would I like to feel differently about my work?

– What information would help me to do a better job?

Most people come up with answers that involve more time or more money on their first pass. Try to go down a couple of levels deeper and really think about some of the more fundamental changes that you would like to effect. Do you need challenge or support? What would motivate you most? What sort of people do you need in your inner circle that you don’t have right now?

Understanding these things about yourself will help you to target the right support. There are so many great peer-to-peer offers out there but as with any commitment it will take time to reap the benefits. Making sure you find the right group will mean you get out more than you put in. 

From group therapy sessions to more targeted ‘mastermind’ type offerings. Some are free and tend to be larger networks that are online and involve some level of input to get the most out of them. Some are paid and tend to be more targeted with a learning experience at their heart. There are large commercial groups such as Vistage and Critical Eye, and smaller, more intimate groups such as Supper Club. And let’s not forget industry specific groups such as Young Foodies and TechConnex Peer Group and lots of gender specific groups such as The Women’s Chapter and Sister Snog.

For many of these groups the size can be off putting so perhaps a smaller more targeted group could be what you’re looking for such as 3rd House’s peer to peer network, which is filled with ambitious like-minded people who will provide a safe space for participants to vent (and be understood) and listen to valuable alternative perspectives and fresh ideas. Ask your network for recommendations, as these ones tend to fill up quickly. 

About the Author

Rebecca Morley is an internationally recognised executive coach who understands what it takes to develop leaders who can step up and lead with clarity, vision and confidence in fast-growth environments. Recognised as one of the top 50 coaches in the world by CV magazine, Rebecca Morley recently introduced 3rd House, a new learning and development programme for first time CEOs and founders of fast growth and scaling companies to prepare for a post-pandemic world. Having successfully coached numerous clients through the ever-changing pandemic landscape, Rebecca Morley’s Leadership and Development programme, 3rdHouse, directly addresses the unique challenges that fast growth and scaling businesses face as they reset their vision for what comes next. Broken down into three six-week modules – Envision and Empower, Showing Up as The Leader You Want To Be and Creating the Conditions for Success – the programme is designed to empower and accelerate the development of CEOs beyond the steep trajectory of change, and provide a peer to peer network, filled with ambitious like-minded people. 

Award winning executive coach - Rebecca Morley
Award winning executive coach – Rebecca Morley

Rebecca Morley’s Website: 

Visit https://rebeccamorley.co.uk/3rd-house-programme for more information.