Mentoring for life: Are troubled teenagers and business entrepreneurs made from the same stuff?

When it comes to mentoring it can mean very different things to different people: ranging from social befriending through to a strict focus on shared objectives mentoring.   Befriending may include things like helping someone to take small steps to overcome a fear of open spaces for example.   The warmth, encouragement and support from befriending can be crucial in helping, as sometimes statutory services are more interested in measuring the output of their work and encouraged to maintain a professional distance from “clients”.     Other benefits such as building confidence may occur following from those first steps outside the home, but in the case of befriending this isn’t the aim.

In my opinion, strict enterprise mentoring involves working with the client on agreed objectives which are stated and agreed from the start – for instance how to prepare a business for trade sale, or entry to a new market.  Any social relationship achieved is incidental to the business objectives.  SFEDI (Sector Skills body for Enterprise) says that mentor/mentee relationship should enable the mentee to “develop goals that will have a positive impact on their business enterprise”.    There is a clear focus and aim for the mentoring relationship.

In contrast to the business objectives of enterprise mentoring, community mentoring is about helping adults and children develop as individuals, so that they find their true self.  To do this the mentor needs to understand their own personal boundaries.  Without an understanding of their identity, the mentor can end up confusing the mentee about who is the client!

So having established the differences between enterprise and community mentoring, I’m now going to say in many ways they are also very similar.  For instance building a relationship based on equality, openness and trust is common to all types of mentoring.    Perhaps less obvious though is the possibility that those same troubled young people could with the right form of guidance and mentoring  go onto to set up and run the next generation of enterprises.   Even if you ignore the other reasons to get mentoring, the powerful impact of mentoring on life chances and entrepreneurialism, should be a strong motivator for business people to get mentoring.