Have Someone In Your Corner

Entrepreneur Spotlight: Maria King

Maria King is a mentor, coach and director (and much more), as well as an integral part of Venture Centre’s community. 

We sat down to chat with Maria about her role as a mentor, her approach to mentoring and the important role a mentor can play in your journey as an entrepreneur. 

Describe what you currently do (in a nutshell)?

Tough question! I read something recently which resonated with me about multi-hyphenate people, those of us with many and varied roles. I‘m not sure I could be restricted to one nutshell, because I choose and love to have lots of different things all happening at the same time. 

I’ve grown to accept that I’m an entrepreneur, because that’s the way I’m made and therefore live. I’m an entrepreneurial being and I don’t think that’s something you can avoid if it’s in you.

I’m a mentor, coach, director and trustee. I’m also a founder of multiple businesses, an investor and originally by profession, an audiologist. I spend the majority of my time in governance, in my businesses, mentoring and coaching and most importantly of all, parenting.

Over the past 23 years, since leaving university, all of my roles, whether in business, management or governance, have been ones where I feel I’m able to add value and have a positive impact on people and the planet. 

Covid provided me with the opportunity to take stock. I’ve since intentionally created more space and therefore increased my capacity and focus for the things I enjoy the most, which typically aligns with where I am able to add value and generate impact. 

Interestingly, I’ve noticed an increase in demand since Covid for mentoring and coaching, which I think is fantastic. People are obviously looking to put their best foot forward, are prepared to be vulnerable and are keen to try new things in this new world.

What is mentoring to you?

I believe mentoring is about serving people and creating or amplifying ripples. By supporting even one person; listening deeply to them, helping them bring their best self to the table, they in turn impact their business and the people around them. This positive ripple effect continues - it’s awesome.

The lines can get blurry, but I believe there is a spectrum with mentoring at one end and coaching at the other.

I approach it from the perspective that coaching tends to require a greater degree of accountability. You work to set out a plan together and to achieve certain milestones over a set period of time. 

Mentoring to me feels a little less structured and more personal. As a mentor you’re sharing your knowledge and experiences, offering strategic advice and insight and likely offering your network and connections to support that person to grow their capability.

In practice, I probably shift back and forth along the spectrum to suit the individual. I’m not keen on cookie-cutter processes; people are unique and all need different things at different times. It’s my responsibility to understand and intuit what and how I can best support them at any given moment rather than be constrained by following a recipe.  

Why did you choose to start mentoring?

For me it was never a deliberate, ‘Oh, I’m going to become a mentor’. 

I’ve always been someone people naturally gravitate towards to have conversations with, to ask questions of and to bounce ideas off. I really enjoy the engagement, the discovery, the learning and growth and I’d really miss mentoring if I was to stop now. It's another way I can give back and pay it forward.

What is your approach to mentoring?

I believe mentoring is about relationship, trust, connection, curiosity and care. 

Through this approach the mentor-mentee relationship can be raw, honest and frank and it's from this place that opportunity evolves.

On the whole my approach is gentle, but I don’t shy away from uncomfortable conversations or challenging situations. Rather I embrace them and dig in, because being uncomfortable is where the growth opportunities are found. 

I also don’t believe in telling someone, ‘you must do this’. I’m not a fan of musts, needs or shoulds, I’m more about asking ‘have you considered this?’ or ‘tell me more about...” and ‘is there any other way you could have done that or approached that differently?’. 

My approach is highly intuitive and more often than not, I’ll listen, probe a bit further with a question and then listen some more. I’m often told I ask a lot of questions and I do. But this is because I’m prompting a person’s thinking and helping them to see things from a different perspective, expanding their view and therefore their options. 

I often find the main question a mentee brings to a session for discussion is not actually the topic we spend the most time on. Often we’ll discover personal blindspots and beliefs which are underpinning the question or issue that’s top of mind. 

By shining light on blindspots and shedding old beliefs and perspectives, new pathways and opportunities open up for them.

Watching someone awaken and activate their potential is a beautiful thing. I can often see their potential really early and I get so much joy from being able to help them increase their belief and trust in themselves, hacking their system to get ahead and achieve their goals and vision faster.

Why do you think mentoring matters?

I think there are multiple reasons why mentoring matters. One is that mentoring helps rapidly unlock potential. 

We’re in a really fast-paced world right now, with a lot of uncertainty, complexity, challenge and rapid change. People need to be at their best, as fast as possible, so they can be agile and keep up with change. Or even better, be the change for good and create impact. 

I think you’re likely to seek a mentor because you're wanting to avoid the pain of spending precious time and resources trying to figure it out yourself. Or you might be feeling unsure of your strategy or operational plan and want a litmus test. You may not want a specific roadmap, but you’re likely looking to understand where the potholes might be, which sharp corners to be mindful of and where there might be shortcuts. 

If you can avoid the long road and get there more quickly by engaging in conversation and being asked some simple questions in a high trust environment, then why wouldn’t you? In a perfect world we would all have mentors to help us self actualise so we can have the biggest impact in the shortest amount of time. 

You genuinely care for the wellbeing of the people you mentor. Having someone there as a sounding board, who has your back when the going gets tough, someone who actually cares about you as a human and can help shoulder the burden when needed, is empowering. 

Humans are not designed to do life in isolation and weirdly, founders and CEOs often find their roles lonely. Mentors can make an immense difference in these situations.

Having a mentor provides you the opportunity to grow in a safe environment; to be uncomfortable, to be challenged, to test ideas and thinking and to really give yourself the chance to transform.

In the context of entrepreneurs, do you find that mentoring is something they have on their radar?

I think there is a mixture. I know that for some, I’m one of a number of people whom they seek input and insight from. 

Then there are others, who may not know exactly what they're looking for but know that they need help. They may be feeling stuck in life in general, be contemplating starting a business, be new to entrepreneurship or they may have started a business that’s not progressing as well as they hoped it might.  

Some are new to a leadership role in an established organisation or are new to governance. There are a range of reasons people seek mentoring. But when they get stuck, they just need someone to meet them where they are and walk alongside them, which is what I do. 

This is where I see the value of Venture Centre and the entrepreneurial ecosystem they’ve built locally and are tapped into nationally. Through Venture Centre you can be connected with a number of different people who are experts in their field or who have walked the road you’re on and who are willing to share their time and expertise with you. This in addition to the multitude of learning opportunities Venture Centre provides through events and workshops.

What is your favourite thing about mentoring?

It’s an honour to witness people uncover their inner hidden brilliance, bring it to the surface and then choose to act from that place of newly realised capacity and capability, applying it to their vision for business or life. 

I love seeing them shine. That is why I do what I do. 

Keen to explore ways to connect with a mentor? Contact us here. Want to connect into Venture Centre’s community? Sign up to Venture Centre’s news and be the first to know about growth opportunities (events) you can get involved in.  


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