From the eyes of a Mentor…
Elizabeth Maloba’s Views on Mentoring
With the growing number of young entrepreneurs’ emerging, mentorship has become a great need. A mentor is that person who can guide you, help you, take you under his or her wing and nurture your career quest.
There is no right way to mentor. Every mentoring relationship is as unique as the individuals involved in it. However, no matter whom the individuals are or what shape the relationship takes, completing some groundwork can help create a stronger and more productive relationship. In March 2010, EPTF held its first mentoring workshop where mentees were linked to mentors. The objective of the forum was to provide an opportunity for interaction, set objectives and have relationships initiated. Elizabeth Maloba, a business development consultant in Nairobi signed up as a mentor.
Elizabeth is a businesswoman, who has years of experience in fashion and retail business. During the workshop, she linked up with a young aspiring entrepreneur in the fashion industry. “I recognize the need for mentoring since I am also a product of mentoring relationships,” she discloses. “A mentor acts as a sounding board and an advisor from experience. A mentor is also someone’s cheering squad, a friend as well as a prayer partner,” affirms Elizabeth. As a mentor, one learns as much as they teach and it’s a very good way of keeping one in check with current trends in the market. “My greatest joy is when my mentees do well, when they have succeeded beyond their expectations,” she adds.
One of the barriers of taking up a mentee is creating time though this can be overcome by clarifying objectives and goals as well as creating specific meeting times. Once the basics have been agreed upon, the two people in the relationship can agree on telephone or email communication as alternatives. “My schedule is not very flexible though I remain committed and open to various channels of communication,” she admits. The EPTF mentoring programme has clear objectives and is well designed to guide the mentor and mentee throughout the relationship.
Some of the advantages of being a Mentor include passing on lessons learned and success pointers to others. Having someone regularly turn to you for advice and direction can also help build your confidence. Acting as a mentor often becomes a refresher on business strategies and attitudes and you may find your mentee has skills or experiences that you can learn from.
A Mentee is however, expected to own this process. It is not the responsibility of the mentor to achieve the goals of a mentee. They need to have clear objectives and expectations of the relationship. An individual can have different mentors for different roles depending on what one needs to learn. “One should be very cautious when choosing a mentor and should not mix financial support with mentoring,” Elizabeth advices. It is also important for the mentee to be proactive and seek the mentor as often as possible.
There are also numerous benefits of being a mentee; a mentor can ‘jump-start’ your business and contribute enormously to a successful and satisfying journey. The self-reflection that results from a mentoring relationship can be a powerful growth experience and provide one with new insights about themselves. A good mentor will push you to do more with your strengths and help you discover and exploit hidden talents. Once a mentor trusts your skills and abilities, they are able to refer business to you.
To Elizabeth, mentoring is a learning journey that is not devoid of fears or challenges. However, it is also a richly rewarding experience that can be summed up in the words of Abraham Lincoln;“Die when I may, I want it said by those who knew me best, that I always plucked a thistle and planted a flower where I thought a flower would grow.”