I consider myself to have been really lucky to have worked in an organisation where training and development were taken very seriously. People were seen as the driving force behind the organisation meeting its goals, so emphasis was given to ensuring people had the right skills to do their job.
I worked in a role helping local businesses to develop their own goals through their people. We were a Government funded organisation and some of our services were national schemes which required us to be externally verified in order to deliver them to clients. Throughout my employed career, this was the main catalyst for receiving coaching and mentoring.
I remember my first mentoring relationship very well - I was training to become an accredited Investors in People Adviser. It was rigorously assessed and ensured all Practitioners undertook continuous development to underpin their skills. I was mentored by a highly experienced Practitioner for about 8 months. In that time I learnt SO much. It’s one thing to learn the theory of something (which I had with professional qualifications) but the value for me came from seeing how things work in practice; how to react in different situations; what tools to use and when; how to conduct myself as an adviser, etc. I continued to develop my skills long after this mentoring relationship had finished – and went on to mentor other team members in the same way in addition to my day to day role of advising and mentoring businesses.
Our internal team thrived on learning and development. Our manager believed that any opportunity was a development opportunity and I’m so grateful to him that he taught me to view things in this way. He pushed us all - develop, develop, develop – and it felt like the norm – only being in a client facing role made me realise that actually it wasn’t, so many businesses don’t value staff development.
I went on to receive more mentoring over the years. And then, even though the work I did with clients included an element of coaching, I encountered the receiving end of my first coaching relationship when I was working toward another accreditation. I thoroughly enjoyed the process - the sessions were enquiring, thought provoking and challenging. The learning comes from within and the advantage of that means that it stretches your mind to find the right solutions.
Employed life, as I knew it, came to an end after a change of Government. Colleagues went their separate ways. I was on maternity leave at this time and took the opportunity to be a mum to my little boy.
But in time, I realised I needed to earn some money and do something for myself again. I decided to look into starting my own business but having been out of things for a while and inevitably having lost some confidence, I wasn’t sure what to do – in fact looking back, I was a dithering wreck about the whole thing!
I happened upon a lady who was a Virtual Assistant – and I thought ‘oh, I could probably do that!’ She offered a mentoring service to help others start up and so I got involved. She taught me so much about the ‘online’ business world – a world that was completely alien at the time – I didn’t know a great deal about having my own website, email marketing, sales funnels, etc. She mentored me through my startup journey and held my hand until I got my first clients. I’m so glad I found her – it all would have taken so much longer if I’d had to figure it out for myself! The irony being that I’d been advising businesses for years but doing it for yourself is quite different.
So there I had my business as a Virtual Assistant but on the side, I also offered business advice and mentoring – because that’s who I was, what I knew and where my passion lay. But the two were streets apart and I ended up doing more and more VA work for clients and not getting round to marketing my Consultancy services.
I had to have a re-think. VA work wasn’t making me happy but it was work, it was a successful business and I found it filling my working week – I wasn’t giving myself the opportunity for change. Things often feel very closed when you’re busy working in your business. I needed time to step away and look at things holistically in order to make the changes I desperately wanted.
A couple of months prior, I’d found a business coach who I liked and gelled with, so I decided to invest in another coaching relationship to help me develop my Consultancy. 12 weeks of coaching developed my mindset, enabled me to regain my confidence, both in myself and my abilities, and put the structure in place to build my Consultancy. Since then, I’ve joined a number of membership communities to help me further develop my skills to be the business owner I want to be.
So this, a whistle-stop tour through my working life - I wanted to express how coaching and mentoring relationships are not the luxury they are often perceived to be – many say ‘oh, I’ll invest when I’ve achieved X…’ They’re a vital part of getting to where you want to be and help to take the stress out of the sometimes, quite complex, journey.
I love being in business but it can be a lonely place! I’ve found, having a network of support is vital for business success. For me, in the early years it enabled me to progress and be successful in my chosen career and in these latter years it’s enabled me to move away from employment, develop my skills, climb my own career ladder and be the professional business owner that I know I can be.
So what are your experiences?
I would love to hear your thoughts on how coaching and/or mentoring has helped you – or how you would like it to help you in the future of your business. Please do reply in the comments.
And finally, have you downloaded my 3 part free resources on developing your own successful business? You can find out more information here.