Peer to peer mentoring - expertise in your back pocket

In the years of financial austerity many small businesses are considering the best cost effective way to continuously develop their employees and owners. It is becoming increasingly clear for some businesses, that peer to peer mentoring is the solution that they are seeking.What is peer mentoring and does it differ from coaching? Coaching and mentoring are quite different although a lot of practioners use the terms interchangeably. Coaching begins with the premise that the answers are within the person being coached. The coach's role is to help the individual understand that and via the use of encouraging and questioning techniques, helps elicit the solution. A coach is generally non directional and never provides advice. By contrast a mentor is an expert who provides guidance and advice within a more developmental relationship. Mentoring requires flexibility of the mentor and their ability to use a wide range of techniques to guide the mentee. Peer mentoring takes place when the mentor is not in a position of authority over the mentee. For example in an Ecademy Boardroom all the attendees play the role of a mentor. The mentor will guide their boardroom member based on the life experience that they have gained and their professional expertise within the business arena. Whilst the attendees may not be professional mentors (like myself ;) ) the Boardroom experience allows for the direct transfer of knowledge therefore reducing the business owner's learning curve.I have a specialist working with me on the business - do I need Peer to peer mentoring?This is a question often asked and I believe that this is because business owners are confused as to the purpose of peer to peer mentoring and the benefits that it can bring. Peer to peer mentoring of the type demonstrated in an Ecademy Boardroom, provides not only quality advice from a diverse group of people it also brings support and development to the business owner by a group of dedicated peers.The development opportunity for business owners in a Boardroom is complementary to working with a specialist on your business and should not be viewed as a substitute. It affords the ability for you to test out new ideas, develop new concepts and sound check the advice of your specialist - therefore adding value to both relationships. Your specialist will provide advice on the area of their specialism and your Boardroom peers advise on your business in a holistic way from the benefit of the years experience that are often in the room.Professional mentors ask their clients challenging questions and as Boardroom attendees are playing the role of peer mentors, they tend to ask pertinent challenging questions that get to the route of the issue. The confidential relationship of the peer to peer mentoring group often releases the business owner from having to uphold a facade that suggests that there is little need for support. Once this is shed, the business owner can tap into the expertise of the group and take control of their own development and business success.It is often hard for business owners to release the funds for specialist advice on the key areas of their business - especially when the advice is available on demand every working day (and sometimes weekend) of the month. Boardrooms are a diverse mix of skills and expertise over the areas of Marketing, Business Consulting, Sales, Web design, lead generation, finance and many more functional areas. It is fairly uncommon to have such expertise available at short notice on a regular basis which is one of the benefits of peer to peer mentoring, for the busy business owner.I believe that as the world changes to one where people prefer relationships to transactions, business will need to be conducted in a different way. Personal recommendations and social proofing will become the watch words and businesses will need to be smarter, faster, more efficient, connected and able to change at a frightening pace. For many businesses, buying the expertise of an ever increasing number of specialists will just not be an option. It will be increasingly necessary for them to turn to peer to peer mentoring for the personal support, development and expertise that they seek. Ecademy Boardrooms which are designed to facilitate the very best of peer to peer mentoring practices may just be the accessible option that businesses need today and for the future.What do you think? Have you considered peer to peer mentoring and will you try the Ecademy Boardroom (#EcademyBR) experience?

Judith Germain - Reputation Catalyst
Dynamic Transitions Ltd - Specialising in Leading through influenceT: +44 (0) 208 288 0512; or for Leadership dRive™ - Reputation and Influence combined