Are there times when as a business owner, you feel alone? Are there times when everybody is looking to you for an answer, but you don’t have any? Are their times when you know how to do your particular job, but don’t feel as though you’re trained to lead a business?
If you have ever run a business, you will know only too well the feeling of frustration of not being able to ‘fix’ a problem in it. Most issues that fall into this category of being ‘problems’ rather puzzles are a real challenge, and generally, fixing them comes down to employing the right people.
These are the times when having a trusted group of advisors is worth its weight in gold. These are the people you can simply pick up the phone to and talk through a problem, and they will give their honest assessment.
But with collaboration being central to success and problem solving, is there a way to turn casual support into something more structured and mutually beneficial? Through using group mentoring combined with action learning, you can dedicate time each month in a way that will directly benefit your business. I’ll discuss how you can apply both in the article ahead.
The power of group mentoring
Group mentoring for business helps you develop vital interpersonal skills including questioning, listening and coaching. These transferable skills will help you become a better leader and, over time, the change in your approach will make for a better run business, as your coaching style can empower your employees to start to think for themselves under your guidance.
Group mentoring for business also allows you to benchmark yourself against your peers. It enables you to assess the areas you can improve, as well as identifying where you are already doing well.
As mentioned at the start, running a business can be a lonely place for a lot of business owners and entrepreneurs, and so group mentoring once a month can be a respite from the day-to-day running of the business and provides you with the chance to work ON your business for a change.
The group can also function as a useful motivator and re-energize you when times are tough. Using your group’s insights means you’re equipped for better decision making, so you’ll be able to grow your business faster than you would have done otherwise. As you develop your own coaching skills, you’ll also be able to empower your own staff with more capabilities, which means less time working in the business to keep processes moving.
How to group mentor using action learning
Action learning is an effective, low-cost tool that can be used to promote learning, sharing knowledge, collaboration and networking between functions and business units. It makes up an important aspect of successful group mentoring for business.
A one-day action learning workshop sets up an action learning set (a structured session) for managers of functions or business units within a company or group of companies, where the units effectively run as small to medium-sized companies.
The format of an action learning set is very simple. Once learnt, participants can then run sets of their own. This is the key. If the managing director is one of the first people to be a part of the ‘set’ or action learning day, they could then set up cross-functional teams. This would promote closer working, networking and collaboration across their company’s functions.
Action Learning promotes better questioning and understanding
Action learning is designed to be simple but effective. It uses a format that allows the person with the problem to communicate with those with the relevant insight who are willing to listen. Participants are encouraged to question and actively listen to the answers given. The ground rules mean that the focus remains on one person and that their issue gets interrogated until participants have identified potential solutions that will work in their specific context.
Active listening is a key skill that can be learnt
The key to action learning is active listening, and this has to be introduced at an early stage for a set to be successful. An action learning workshop is designed to get the participants asking questions, actively listening to the answer, and identifying possible solutions that could work in the problem owner’s context. As problem owners, they then learn how to respond as well as taking suggested actions away for implementation.
Action Learning is about ensuring actions are followed through
After a one-day workshop, it’s ideal if the group can commit to meet once a month. At each subsequent set meeting, the format is the same, but the content is driven by the members’ current issues and previously agreed on actions. The idea is that, over time, the set members learn from each other while fixing problems for each other along the way. They, in effect, mentor each other and become internal consultants without the attendant cost.
Benefits of Action Learning
- Set members learn to actively listen
- Collaboration takes place between set members. They trust one another more
- The set becomes a network which acts as a resource
- Problems are actively addressed
- Peer pressure ensures identified problems are progressed
- External consultancy costs are reduced. The set members learn to mentor each other
- Experienced set members can replicate the process throughout the business without the need for external help
- Peer group learning – learn practical solutions
- Develop new opportunities
- See new angles on old problems leading to solutions
Good communication throughout your business will always be at the heart of successful continuous change, and continuous change is now also a core process for a world-class business. This often means that projects require more cross-functional boundaries as the business becomes leaner and works smarter. The bottom line is that businesses need to learn faster and more efficiently.
This means that new ways of communicating and learning that promote closer working and knowledge sharing between functions and business units need to be discovered and implemented.
For more information on how Action Learning can help you grow your business, please call 0333 050 9053 or email [email protected]