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Pioneering business mentoring in Europe

“A mentor helps people to get where they really want to go.”

Pioneering business mentoring in Europe

Mentoring is definitely not a new idea and references to people accelerating their learning by gleaning the wisdom and nurtured support of others dates back to the ancient Greeks and is cited in Homer's Odyssey. Mentoring is about helping people to personally develop so that they become effective at both a professional and personal level. Mentoring is a professional relationship that builds confidence, skills and stimulates a future focus that enables mentees to take greater control of their world.  Today mentoring has seen considerable success in many businesses across the globe promoting people development activities that have a major impact on the corporate bottom line as well as enabling individuals to have a fuller life.

What is highly unusual is that there is not a coherent pan-Europe initiative that embraces mentoring as a way to enhance leadership and business performance. With this in mind Leeds Business School has been working with partners across Europe on a project that seeks to improve the quality of business mentors for small businesses by developing an ISO 17024 compliant trainer certification scheme.

MentorCert aims to provide a competence certification scheme for business mentors through the provision of a European Certification Mentoring Award. This will be enhanced by specialist learning and development materials to support the mentor developmental journey. The objective is to provide a more holistic mentoring scheme that enables mentors to benchmark, develop and hone their knowledge and skills so that they positively support development in targeted business sectors. One of the innovative strands of the project aligns the business mentoring activity with sectors of strategic importance to local economies, so the initiative is looking to have a big regional and sector impact.

To be an effective mentor is much more than providing a reservoir of knowledge or a shoulder to lean on when facing difficult decisions, or even helping you to build lucrative personal networks. A key characteristic of mentoring is that it challenges participants to look deeper into themselves and the business context to find innovative and different solutions to problems. Mentors become trusted peers who challenge mentees with business realities and provide a clarity which can help to stop mentees becoming distracted or encourage them to identify and rectify the critical issues facing the individual and the business.

One of the key drivers for the project is to help mentors develop so that they can take a holistic approach to supporting their mentees and develop the essential soft and hard skills to do the job effectively. Bringing appropriate soft skills to the conversation is essential as it enables the construction of a strong mentoring relationship, one that is centred on mutual respect, trust and support from both sides. Such relationships take time and attention and successfully build a highly effective learning partnership, one that through impartial dialogue helps the mentor to gain a deep understanding of their mentee and thereby enables them to surface their needs and aspirations.

By developing this European certification competence scheme for business mentors, the MentorCert project will help to overcome a lack of information on standards that is one of the most significant barriers to SME engagement across the EU and thereby help raise the quality of decision-making and facilitate more effective business performance for entrepreneurs.

Mentoring is essentially about helping people to develop more effectively. It is a relationship designed to build confidence and support to the mentee so that they are able to take control of their own development and work – therefore a good mentor can make a real difference to people’s lives. If you would like to know more about MentorCert or wish to become a business mentor, please contact n.beech@leedsbeckett.ac.uk .

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About the Author

Dr Nicholas Beech

Nick’s subject matter expertise is recognised in the areas of leadership, coaching and corporate governance he has a wealth of experience working with a wide range of organizations across the private, public and voluntary sectors. He is an accomplished director and entrepreneur and has sound local and international experience working as an organisational change agent and facilitator.

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