Startup mentoring: is there something missing?

The list of services that an officially accredited UK mentor is NOT allowed to provide just boggles the mind

Maybe there’s something about small business mentoring that I imagined was far more supportive than the experts believe it needs to be.

Watch the video (issued by the standards body) and then see if you feel that the limitations listed below seem compatible with its aims, spiritual or temporal.

Although some of these proscriptions (like avoiding intrusiveness or dependency) unquestionably make perfect sense, it looks like qualified mentors working on this scheme need to be very careful indeed about avoiding offering certain (seemingly highly appropriate) kinds of help, such as ‘specific technical business advice’ or ‘coaching for business related tasks’, because if they do, it looks like they could potentially be in very serious trouble.

“Mentorsme.co.uk is your gateway to a national network of over 10,000 experienced mentors from a wide variety of business backgrounds”

From the “Get access to experienced business mentors” page on the Businesslink website

I suspect many might feel that some of these limitations seem to go too far:

  • don’t provide a counselling service
  • don’t give specific technical business advice that would normally be provided by an expert business adviser
  • don’t supply a training service
  • don’t provide a coaching service (relating to specific business-related tasks, goals and objectives)
  • don’t provide therapeutic interventions
  • don’t take responsibility for success away from the business owner
  • don’t intrude into areas the mentee wishes to keep private
  • don’t create dependency

The UK’s small business (SME) mentoring scheme is operated by mentorsme.co.uk

The UK standards body is SFEDI

The list above is transcribed from the mentorsme.co.uk “Do’s and Don’ts” page

Update/addendum Monday 17th September 2012

Where does mentoring end, and business advice, coaching, counselling and training begin?

It’s quite possible that there are perfectly understandable and perhaps even generally commendable rationales for each of the prohibitions in the list above, particularly for the less intuitive ones.

Nonetheless, such explanatory material seems conspicuous (at the time of writing) by its absence on the relevant page.

Reading this list, it may seem to many that the prohibited items are resources which are almost inevitably likely to be required by the ‘mentees’ and that the mentors selected by the mentorsme sheme will quite possibly be in a position to provide them.

Concerns regarding the establishment of appropriate levels of qualification and suitability such that mentors can effectively provide these otherwise prohibited services are obviously a relevant issue here, but without explicitly addressing such concerns, the current list page leaves the issue (of where mentoring ends and other related services begin) open to debate.

I think the way to move forward with this is to look at the “Do’s” list on that page, and determine where there may be a clash between any of its recommendations and the prohibitions of the “Don’ts”:

Do’s (on the same Do’s and Don’ts web page as the list above):

    • provide an outside perspective on both the business owner and their business
    • listen, confidentially, to the issues that are worrying the business owner about their company
    • help by sharing your own experiences of both failures and successes
    • give friendly, unbiased support and guidance
    • provide honest and constructive feedback
    • be a sounding board for ideas
    • facilitate decision making by suggesting alternatives based on personal experience
    • supply contacts and networks to further personal and business development
    • inspire the client to realise their potential
    • give ongoing support and development
    • where appropriate, seek advice or refer mentees to another point of contact
    • highlight any ethical issues that may arise
The video above actually refers directly to some of these issues of ‘limitations of mentorship’ but neither (the mentorsme “Do’s and don’ts page”, nor that video) offer any insight or recommendation regarding how these limitations should be practically addressed when they inevitably arise in the course of the mentorsme mentors providing their mentoring service.
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