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Edition 403 – Flicker of Hope

I’ve been working with small and family businesses, and their owners, for more than three decades. It’s been an insightful and enjoyable journey, where I’m always grateful to have the opportunity to be invited into their businesses, their homes and their lives.

Most business owners are driven people. They often have a technical skillset that leads them into taking an entrepreneurial leap into a new world. They want to make an impact in life, and build a better future for their family, and believe the best way to do this is through the ownership of their own business.

As the years go by, and people settle into business ownership, some of them lose sight of why they’re doing what they’re doing. Ambition takes over and, sadly, one of the key roles that I believe business owners should perform, either never rises to the surface, or slips away in the quest to build a bigger empire. That role is that of Mentor.

One business owner that I’ve known and worked with for almost a decade is a little different to most. There’s a semi-tough exterior that hides a soft inside, where he genuinely cares for the people that work for him. From the outside looking in, he takes on the role of mentor as much, if not more so, than he does that of employer.

I’ve seen this business owner take people under his wing, whose journey up to that point has been somewhat challenged. They may have fallen on hard times. Or, they may have been heading down the wrong path, and made some poor choices, but are looking to now get on the right track. Sometimes, these individuals are people that may have not been given a chance by many others, except for the compassion and foresight of this particular business owner.

Sometimes, broken people can’t think anything positive of themselves. Yet, this business owner sees a flicker of hope and mentors the individual, not only in the technical aspects of the business, but in life itself. He gives people a go, and invests time in developing them into better people, not merely a more productive employee.

This individual is not just an employer. He’s a mentor that believes in the ultimate good of people. Occasionally, one of the mentees reverts back to their old ways, and can’t be course corrected. In these situations, it’s rarely a one-off that leads to the assessment of whether the ongoing mentorship should continue. However, without fail, they’re “let go” with compassion, some words of encouragement and with the belief that, perhaps in that particular situation, the match between mentor and mentee wasn’t quite there.

Whether you’re an owner or a manager in business, how much time do you dedicate to, and how invested are you, in the role of the mentor in the lives of the people that work with you?

This Week’s Tip

If you see your employees as people, not as a resource, how does that change your outlook in terms of their ongoing development, not merely as employees, but also as individuals with a path in life they’re following?