An article in the business supplement of this week’s Sunday Times provided an interesting read on the importance of business people choosing the right mentor for their own individual needs.

Being allocated a nominated mentor from an external organisation may be a help to some who lacks their own network, but it brings with it potential pitfalls, which could lead to the whole process being a waste of time and money, so why take the risk?

We are talking about an important investment, not only in the mentee on a personal level, but in the organisation that employs them. Mentees should have the decisive say in choosing a mentor. The article highlighted people who had used an appointed mentor, only to find they had neither the skills, nor the experience, to help them. Thankfully, it also highlighted examples of people who had positive experiences, because it is important that people understand there to be real value in mentorship and coaching.

It is always a good idea to use one’s own network and find someone they can aspire to be like, an individual from whom they believe they can learn a lot.

The chosen mentor must be someone for whom the mentee has professional respect, and who not only has the business skills from which they can learn, but the personal skills to provide the guidance they require.

Becoming a really good mentor is much more likely if the individual has experienced effective training to do so and it is important to have a choice.

We help our clients to design in-house mentoring programmes, which set up sensible mentoring matching processes and include effective training for mentors and mentees. An effective mentor will also be able to use good coaching skills where appropriate.

An experienced manager or business owner will undoubtedly have a strong network from which they can choose, but those who are starting off in the business world may not have this, and may feel they should rely on a mentor who has been nominated by an initiative, such as Growth Vouchers.

Don’t get me wrong, there is real value in the support such schemes can provide; their loans unlock support for people who might otherwise go without. Our company is registered with them, but we still find that most of our mentees and the people we coach come from our established networks of contacts, as well as recommendations.

Where individuals do not have established networks from which they can choose a mentor, personal recommendation is the best way of choosing, and being introduced to a good mentor. However, even this is not foolproof. You cannot go on personal recommendation alone, because the chemistry must be right.  People need good rapport to work with one another at an effective level.

Whether a mentor is found directly, from a recommendation, or a nomination, the final say must lie with the mentee. After all, if they do not get the benefit, then the whole process is flawed.

Sharon Klein is a director of Azure Consulting, a Yorkshire-based specialist in leadership development. 01924 385600.