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Mentoring is an essential part of professional development

Mentoring encourages communication, connection and learning, and is a great opportunity for established businesses to play an integral role in supporting regional growth

A mentor’s experience and knowledge can help shorten the learning curve for a mentee

A life coach friend of mine suggests that rather than setting unrealistic New Years’ Resolutions, you should instead pick a word that anchors everything you do throughout the year. Then you’re not so attached to a set outcome and the word naturally links and elevates your actions.

I applied this to work for 2022 and chose ‘mentorship’ as my anchor word for the British Business Group (BBG).

As a result, mentorship quite naturally started to underpin a lot of our events, how we engaged with members and how we viewed our industry relationships.

This included a new series called Speed Mentoring, inspired by the fact that so many of our members were still working from home and missing the social interactions and observations from more experienced colleagues.

This was particularly the case in professional services and law firms where young recruits were isolated on video calls, rather than sitting within earshot of colleagues with different styles of engaging with clients, problem solving and approaches to day-to-day situations.

The aim of speed mentoring is to provide short and structured mentoring opportunities to encourage communication, connection and learning throughout the business community. Sessions can focus on particular sectors, demographics, skill strengths and gaps.

So far it has attracted a really diverse attendance, from past BBG chairs, to Dubai-based business owners at various stages of growth – some only weeks into their time here.

While we loosely suggest the mentor-mentee relationship, we also start each event with the guidance that everyone is a potential mentee, as we all have something to learn. The series has also proved successful for those who don’t really enjoy typical networking. 

A mentor’s experience and knowledge can help shorten the learning curve for a mentee.

If you are trying to get a new business off the ground or looking to grow a more established one, for example, the right mentor can offer advice, support and guidance. This can help you navigate through the quagmire of business set-up and also challenge you to think more broadly and for the longer term.

For many ‘solo-preneurs’ who may not have the luxury of a board of directors or active investor, a mentor is critical for sharing ideas and problems with and for acting as a sounding board to help make decisions with more confidence. 

In a survey of 200 small businesses, financial technology company Kabbage reported that 92 percent of small businesses said mentors directly impact growth and the survival of their businesses.

Most mentors are also in contact with a vast network of other experienced CEOs, CFOs and other key professionals in business and leadership, which means you can leverage their ecosystem to expand your own network, creating potential opportunities and further growth.

Mentorship and allyship are both terms that we often hear in our panels and working groups are critical for preparing and fulfilling leadership and board positions.

According to a Forbes study, 92 percent of people feel that allies have been valuable in their career. Whereas a mentor is often older, more experienced and more senior, an ally – just as useful in your career – is often a co-worker or colleague with a similar job title.

Allyship is a role that we can all take on without being asked for or formally structured – a great supportive employee behaviour that will invariably lead to an improved company culture and impact beyond the individual.

The BBG is celebrating 35 years in existence this year and we are enjoying the legacy of many changes of boards, business teams and leadership. The passing of knowledge and openness to learn and grow – our complete cycle of mentorship and allyship – has underpinned how we can support British business in the region. 

Katy Holmes is general manager of the British Business Group Dubai and Northern Emirates 

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