February 2017 - TAB Corporate

Becoming a Mentor Can Make You a Better Leader

great leadership through mentoring

Chances are, most successful individuals have benefited from being mentored by a CEO, owner or another business leader at some time in their professional career. If you’re among this group, you’ll likely remember how valuable the experience proved to be.

Generally speaking, mentors work with talented employees because of a sincere desire to see them succeed. “The goal isn’t to master a particular skill, reach a specific goal, or bolster the company’s knowledge base,” notes marketing expert Jodie Shaw. “Although it can involve tasks and timelines, it’s really about helping the mentee grow and develop as a professional over his or her career.”

What about the benefits inherent in being a mentor?

Taking on the role and responsibilities of mentoring may seem time-consuming and lacking in any clear ROI for the business leader involved. But this is a narrow interpretation of what becoming a mentor actually means. In fact, sharing your wisdom and experience can prove to be immensely helpful and satisfying to the person in this role. Here’s a brief look at some of the benefits involved:

Mentoring requires that you stay up-to-date on industry trends. The skills and knowledge that enabled you to achieve leadership status can sometimes get stuck in place. Market conditions change. Industry trends come and go. Becoming a mentor means you need to reaffirm an interest in the most up-to-date events in your field, so you’re not dispensing inaccurate or unhelpful advice to the mentee. As a result, you supplement your own knowledge and experience at the same time.

In some cases, you may be mentoring an individual who has attended industry-related academic courses and/or gathered more recent with changing industry trends. In the course of your mentoring sessions, it’s probable they’ll share with you the latest developments in the field, so you’ll benefit from the exchange of views, too.

You’ll see your leadership skills enhanced. As a mentor, you may find yourself expressing views and insights in ways that might surprise you. During your mentoring sessions, “you have the chance to reflect on and articulate your own expertise and experience—something you probably don’t take the time to do otherwise,” notes business author E. Wayne Hart.

Also, Hart adds, mentoring may help you “view the organization with a fresh eye towards its functions, politics and culture.” Such insights may prove very useful in devising new strategies to change the workplace culture for the better.

Expand your professional network. A successful relationship with a mentee generally results in a broadening of the mentor’s own professional network. For one thing, if the person you mentor goes on to become a leader in his or her own right, you’ll have a valuable, high-level (and likely very grateful) contact that might result in more business for your organization.

Yes, mentoring requires time and occasionally some added patience, as the person you mentor struggles with his or her personal and/or professional challenges. But the benefits you receive as the mentor—personal satisfaction, greater industry credibility, an enhanced ability to listen closely—far outweigh those disadvantages.

A CEO peer advisory board is another way of mentoring—with tangible benefits for any business owner’s company. Contact a local TAB Board to learn more about membership.

 

Crisis Communications Tips for Small Business Owners

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As much as we’d like to believe it, a public relations crisis doesn’t always happen to some other business. In this era of instantaneous digital technology, even a small customer complaint can metastasize overnight into a full-blown crisis. But while it’s inaccurate to say that such a crisis is inevitable, nonetheless small business owners who plan ahead for the unforeseen are generally better equipped to weather the storm than those who have no crisis communications plan in place.

Here are tips to help you formulate a plan of action when a crisis strikes, as well as general principals to guide your conduct during a difficult time:

1. Engage with media and the public, rather than try to outsmart them. Let’s assume that the nature of the crisis—be it a product recall, surprise civil liability lawsuit against your business, alleged employee criminal behavior, etc.—meets the criteria for a necessary public response. In such cases, expect that the demand for information will likely include what happened, why it happened, what solutions are being considered and how your customers will be reimbursed for their troubles.

PR specialists like Sharon Cain of Quest PR sum up a business leader’s required actions this way:

  • Acknowledge the problem or crisis—say “we know what is happening and we are doing something about it.”
  • Stick to the facts and don’t speculate.
  • Be honest and transparent and don’t try to cover or obscure the issue.

In other words, tell the truth.

2. Select a single spokesperson to represent your business. In many cases, it falls to the owner or CEO to stand up for a company under media siege. Sometimes this responsibility is assigned to a media or PR representative. Whatever the situation, it’s imperative to select one individual to represent your business and to allow no one else to act as an “additional” spokesperson. Many PR mishaps only get more complicated when two or more people step forward to defend the organization.

3. Remain calm in the eye of the storm. It’s asking a lot of an individual, but the most effective public persona to strike in the midst of a crisis is staying calm. If you’re the spokesperson, you will be “bombarded by doubts, questions, negativity, and grievances as you struggle to lead your company and your team out of the morass,” notes PR expert Murray Newlands. Keep a steady hand on the tiller and “don’t succumb to frustrations, panic, or anger, as your staff is going to be looking up to you to discover a solution.”

4. Think before speaking out on social media. Platforms like LinkedIn and Twitter can be enormously helpful in getting your message out. But they can also be filled with perilous forums in which you and your business can get mired in seemingly endless negative chatter.

When a crisis strikes, you obviously can’t avoid referring to it on your social media networks. At the same time, remember to never get into back-and-forth exchanges with trolls or anyone else who seeks to bring further damage to your company’s reputation.

The best advice is to take a deep breath before composing and sending a message.

“Publish a neutral statement showing you’re aware of the situation and that you’re investigating the matter,” writes social media strategist Lesya Liu. “Do not go into details of what happened just yet, before you get the full picture, and don’t make any comments acknowledging or rejecting any fault.”

Of course, prior to holding a press conference or issuing a statement, you should consult with your company attorney. They might wish to err on the side of extreme caution, so the most effective approach may be to weigh their legal advice against the potential damage to your brand if you choose to say or do nothing at all.

Remember, your ultimate priority during any crisis is to preserve the trust of your customers.

Want more advice on crisis management or general advice from other business owners like you? Find out if a TAB Board is right for you!