This has been a good week. Mainly because it has involved lots of conversations with real businesses, real people and getting some proper, direct feedback on Government support.

Mentor

Sat listening to feedback that was both brutally honest and quietly reassuring in equal measure, three business owners all put the same thing on their wish list: a mentor.

That word covers all sorts of roles and forms of support, but it got me thinking about the mentors I turned to when I worked in the private sector. What makes a good mentor? And what differentiates a mentor from a kind boss or an inspiring presenter?

I’ve been lucky to work for loads of great people. Too many to list here, without causing lots of embarrassment and making this post even more tedious.

But the people I consider to be professional mentors are the ones who I find occupy my thoughts every week, if not every day. They didn’t just teach me a skill, or help me out with a project. The way they conducted themselves in business now forms part of my character. Or at least, I like to think that it does.

There are three mentors in my mind, each of them with very different, but never conflicting, attributes.

Richard

If I ever find myself short on motivation first thing in the morning, last thing in the afternoon, or any time of the day, I think of Richard.

Richard is one of those people with boundless energy. Not the silly over-caffeinated type that you know are artificially hyper active, but someone who can turn the most staid of office environments into an engine room.

He helped me realise the value of digging deep when to-do lists, clients, funds or time is stacked against you.

Ian

Its always easier to procrastinate, do nothing, blame someone else, or focus on another task.

Ian taught me that this only leads to failure. If I’m ever tempted to ‘park’ a big problem, or pretend that money is not my number one driver for going to work, I see him standing next to me saying: ‘you need to get from here to here’ (pointing at opposite sides of the desk), ‘we can either go straight across, or zig zag’ (still pointing at the desk). ‘Zig zags are more painful and there’s no profit. Which is it to be?’

Bernard

When times are tough, you need someone who can help you see clearly.

Times were very tough when I worked with Bernard. He helped me to take the emotion out of some difficult decisions. Cheques for huge amounts of money were simply that. They weren’t life or death. Spending time simply worrying about problems wasn’t going to solve them, either.

Now, I hope, I spend more time worrying about the stuff that really matters at home, and less about decisions at work.

These are my mentors. Recognise any of their characters?

Image courtesy of http://www.flickr.com/photos/afiler/