Business professionals fill many roles, some where they are the teacher and some where they are the student. On occasion, they may assume both positions in a single relationship, teaching a colleague about one area of expertise while learning from that same person in regard to another subject.
In Being a Business Mentor, I discussed the importance of developing your employees and helping them reach their full potential. But the life of an entrepreneur is a lonely one, and it’s vital that you also find people to whom you can reach out when you feel lost or need guidance on a decision you have never faced before.
I think it is essential that entrepreneurs pursue both kinds of relationships, striving to develop those who work at lower strata in their organizations while constantly seeking self-improvement through continued education. These opportunities come in a variety of forms, so it is also vital to be open to learning in every situation you encounter. Be proactive about education as well. Sign up for seminars, attend conferences and show those with whom you network that while you are an expert in your field, you are also eager to learn more.
I thought Alexandra Levit, a former business columnist for The Wall Street Journal and current entrepreneur, made a great point in her recent contribution to the OPEN Forum blog. She discusses the value that attending an entrepreneurs’ conference can present to business owners, who often have to give guidance to everyone else but rarely have someone to do the same for them. Meeting with other entrepreneurs provides an opportunity to step away from the often-demanding role of mentor and manager and learn some new management skills and strategies.
While entrepreneurs often focus on networking with people who could become strategic partners or clients, it is also wise to connect with other business owners who can be a source of support and wisdom. Conferences are helpful, but you do not have to leave your home town to get many of the same benefits. Consider reaching out to entrepreneurs in other industries in your region or joining the local chamber of commerce. Here at The Covenant Group we work with a number of professionals who have formed study groups of like-minded individuals. The groups add significant value to your personal and professional development. Our role has been to facilitate such groups and provide the framework necessary to create an effective learning environment. We believe study groups are a great opportunity to address challenges in your business and engage with others to identify best practices.
Seek out individuals who challenge you to improve and are a bastion of strength when you inevitably run into challenges that seem insurmountable at the time. It is likely that you will be able to do the same for them in the future.