20 years ago, as Non-Executive Director of an Enterprise Agency I was charged by the board with investigating and re-purposing a failing mentoring programme for start-ups.  I quickly realised I needed training to help better understand the role of a mentor. It transpired that I wasn’t alone in that knowledge gap!

My job was to turnaround the mentoring initiative which had become more about the deliverers than those in need of support. My first step was to address the existing mentors who had no formal training and, as it turned out, no interest in developing their skills. As retired or semi-retired business execs they considered they already knew enough.  This somewhat arrogant attitude had transferred to their exchanges with the new business owners who’d sought their help as a mentor.  Rather than empathy and support they were offered direct, set in concrete opinions, instruction based on experiences that were often unrelated and inappropriate for that mentee.

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Despite the programme operating on a limited budget and relying on the goodwill of volunteers, (in this case retired execs with time on their hands) I strongly believed that despite being “pro bono” the mentoring shouldn’t be any less professional or effective when it came to the quality of delivery and engagement with a mentee.

It was a risk worth taking to cut those who weren’t operating as true mentors, I had no option. The outcome was the loss of ¾ of the original mentors.  My fears of not finding suitable replacements were very quickly allayed. It seems many of my peers were only too happy to give back, not only did we replace those who’d left the programme, but we added more resource. The new recruits were specifically chosen as individuals who were self-aware, experienced, motivated and with EQ to spare.

Once we had our support cohort trained and confident, my next task was to act as a match maker with start-up clients seeking a suitable mentor. I was able to provide the start-up mentee with a selection of three or four mentors and a brief pen picture profile highlighting their career achievements and approach to business. They were also given very clear list of what they could expect from the mentoring relationship and essentially what wouldn’t be provided Managing expectations, especially after the failed start of the programme, was and still is critical to an effective mentor and mentee connection.

This experience taught me a great deal, not just about mentoring or myself but the wonderful source of positive peers who brought a depth of experience and understanding that resulted in hundreds of start-ups receiving much needed support. A number of those entrepreneurs grew their ventures into regional, national, and even international success stories guided through those first awkward steps by a trusted, caring and attentive mentor.

Now, all those years on and I’m still mentoring, getting as much from the exchanges with mentees as I would hope they receive from me.  My approach has changed over the years, but one constant remains, to always be mindful of the trust placed in the mentor and to honour that with being prepared, engaged, honest and open to where the conversation may travel.

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In response to what we see as a growing demand for support for those running or helping to manage a business in these challenging times, I find myself creating another mentoring programme. Our business community for entrepreneurs, executives, and managers, HReSource is launching a mentoring programme for members. If you would like participate as either a mentor, mentee or both please drop me an email david@hresource.co.uk and see further details below.

Noting that we are about to launch the programme two members of the community, Lauren and Rebecca, have been kind enough to add their own insights on mentoring,

Lauren Edwards

“Through my mentoring relationship I have gained great confidence and aspiration in my career path. I always come away from meetings feeling positive and with key takeaways and fresh perspectives on the topics we discuss. I think gaining an external perspective on your career and interests is really beneficial, particular at this time of change for many in the workplace.”

Rebecca Eumorfopoulos

“As a mentee, mentoring provides a safe space to discuss ideas, thoughts and troubleshoot issues. 

The supportive process has provided me with opportunities and connections to meet and learn from people, who are inspiring, encouraging and kind. All the mentors I’ve been lucky to work with are incredibly capable, intelligent and motivated people: they run businesses, publish books, host podcasts, lecture.

Mentoring has helped me think bigger and aim a lot higher professionally: it helps with confidence and if this is one of your struggles, mentoring will certainly help you. 

It is about having real and honest conversations about professional challenges, goals and work. It’s invaluable for bouncing ideas around and getting a fresh perspective in a safe space and learning. I’ve learnt so many different things from mentors: from managing a challenging work situation to trademarking a logo! 

As a mentor, it’s a different experience to being mentored and equally rewarding. I’ve only been a mentor for 18 months and it’s such an amazing experience. It’s like being a cheerleader or a coach. 

My mentee wasn’t getting any interviews when she came to me, despite being incredibly skilled, and we reworked her CV and practiced interviewing. This led to her making the final shortlist and selection interviews for L’Oréal’s competitive graduate marketing scheme. It was such an exciting moment and seeing her make it through and be recognised for how good she is, was amazing! Coaching her to that level was so rewarding. 

Mentoring in short, is the sense that someone has your back professionally and truly wants you to succeed. When you find the right mentor or mentee, there’s a sense of trust and honesty: the feedback you receive can change the trajectory of your career and how you view things for the better.”

We are delighted to announce the forthcoming launch of a new mentoring programme through the HReSource network. If you would like to be considered as a mentor or seek support as a mentee, please drop me a line. David@HResource.co.uk

To join our mentoring team, we would simply ask for a brief outline of the areas you would consider you could support a mentee i.e. start-up, career progression, handling stress, dealing with difficult people/ situations, growing a business, finance matters etc… We would also welcome details of any mentoring experience you may have.

Please note that these are voluntary roles.

How to Launch a Mentoring Programme