The value of voluntary business mentoring: a mentor’s view

written by Leon Saunders Calvert, Global Head of M&A and Capital Raising Propositions at Thomson Reuters

As a mentor to a few social entrepreneurs over the last few years, via the UnLtd programme (a YBI UK member), I was delighted to see YBI’s report on the impact of mentoring on young entrepreneurs.

The process of mentoring can be enormously valuable, but quantifying the results is extremely hard, and qualitative value can often seem nebulous and ethereal. In order to create best practice in the mentoring process it is essential to have tangible evidence about what works and why: this will allow both mentors and mentees to improve the results of mentoring without losing the trusted individual relationships which are so central to success.

Social entrepreneurs typically have fantastic ideas about what organisations they want to create and bring passion, energy and enthusiasm to these projects – qualities that cannot be manufactured easily. However, an experienced mentor from the commercial world can help them apply business and strategic frameworks to their plans to ensure the journey is sustainable; can provide them with confidence (and occasionally the required modesty!), and can act as a friendly but healthily critical sounding board for decision making.

I have personally found being a mentor an enormously rewarding experience. Firstly, if you can help your mentee achieve success that would be unlikely to happen without your input, the sense of accomplishment is as real for you as it is for them. Secondly, the sense of trust built between the two of you, which brings with it ethical obligations to maintain that support on mutually agreed terms, can be extremely personally enriching. And thirdly, the impact you are able to have on the wider community via enabling the entrepreneur can be a really meaningful route to making a broader contribution.

There is a significant learning experience to be had from being a mentor, as much as from being a mentee. Anyone who simply expects to impart wisdom without engaging personally with their mentee and their specific challenges will come up short. The entrepreneur must be able to internalise any advice they are given and make it their own in order for it to be useful, and apply it in a real and material way to their set of challenges. Indeed, the matching process of connecting the right mentors and mentees is critical: it is not a failure but rather a success to recognise that a match will not work.

This is where UnLtd and YBI have core capabilities and invest their time, help and support to ensure the mentoring relationships stand the best chance of success. With the support of UnLtd and YBI I hope to pursue this learning journey for years to come, and I continue to be excited about the creativity I see in the new young leaders I meet through the programmes they offer.

Leon Saunders Calvert is Global Head of M&A and Capital Raising Propositions at Thomson Reuters, and spoke about his mentoring experiences at YBI’s mentoring report launch in July 2018.

Read our latest research ‘Exploring the impact of voluntary business mentoring on young entrepreneurs’.

Image courtesy of Thomson Reuters  

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