Part 1: Applied Mentor-Coaching for Entrepreneurship Development

Applied Mentor-Coaching for Entrepreneurship Development is a structured intervention to onboard emerging entrepreneurs and support those who are already in practice. It is facilitated by experienced and qualified mentors and coaches. They apply proven models, methodologies, and approaches over a stipulated period agreed with the entrepreneurs. The sessions could be as per plan and/or on demand. Ideally the format should be one-on-one, but could be either team or group sessions. One-on-one session is easy to facilitate and most mentor-coaches prefer it. However, it denies the entrepreneurs the opportunity to learn and develop together.

The experienced mentor-coach applies mentoring and coaching methodologies interchangeably throughout the mentor-coaching programme, and during the sessions with the entrepreneurs. This is an art and only well trained mentors and coaches are able to apply it. It is easy for a professional coach to learn to become a mentor-coach, but very difficult for a mentor who is not a coach. The client, i.e. the entrepreneur in this case, does not always become aware of the interchanging of mentoring and coaching methodologies applied by the mentor-Coach. The main concern for the client is that the challenges are addressed to full satisfaction.

The place where mentor-coaching session is taking place is fundamental to the success of the programme. Ideally the entrepreneur’s business operations site should be used. The mentor-coach has the opportunity to observe the entrepreneur at his or her place of operations. Some programmes use central venue, especially in team and/group mentor-coaching programmes. The mentor-coach must be able to imagine and visualize the places of operations of the entrepreneurs in the mentor-coaching programme. In principle, mentor-coaching does not take place in isolation from the place of operation of the entrepreneur. The entrepreneurs may take pictures of their offices and places of operations and bring them to the sessions. That connection is crucial for the applied sessions.

Long-term Mentor-Coaching Programmes use resident mentor-coaches or multiple mentor-coaches. Both approaches have pros and cons. The advantage of a resident mentor-coach in a programme is the familiarity with each of the entrepreneurs. This is beneficial for the mentoring part of the mentor-coaching programme, but not necessarily so for the coaching part. Coaching does not need to be based on the knowledge and expertise of the entrepreneur. A coach aspect of mentor-coaching seeks to assist the entrepreneurs in reaching their own internal capacity, asking relevant questions, challenging the entrepreneurs, being their thinking partner, and offering a mirror for reflection. 

The preferred approach is to use mentoring approaches in the early stages of the mentor-coaching programme, and later in the programme introduce more coaching approaches. 

Setting the scene for the mentor-coaching session is the most important part, especially in team and/or group sessions. I will use such scenario to explain the important aspects of the preparations in the next paragraphs.

On arrival at the venue a mentor-coach must immediately engage with those entrepreneurs that have already arrived. There is no waiting in mentor-coaching sessions. You want to inculcate the culture of coming in time and getting on with the work. There must be a clear benefit and motivation for the early arrival. Encourage the entrepreneurs to also interact, network, and exchange ideas with each other.

In the engagement of the entrepreneurs, a mentor-coach must show interest in their issues of the day, and acknowledge their effort in showing up. They set the mood and the mentor-coach responds accordingly. This suggests that some of the requirements for a successful mentor-coaching session are a mentor-coach who is awake, observant, fully present, and practicing active listening. Such qualities are not naturally there in every mentor-coach. They are acquired over time through various means like continuous professional development, practice, mentoring, and extensive reading.

Some entrepreneurs may be sociable and value the practice of formally checking-in to establish the current state of being of their fellow entrepreneurs. It is incumbent on the mentor-coach to accommodate such entrepreneurs. That is why early arrival at the venue is so highly valued. Progressive entrepreneurs know that they are potential partners, associates, suppliers, and customers of each other. They are interested in knowing about the developments in each other’s businesses, and share opportunities with each other. We encourage such practice as they are all members of the entrepreneurship eco-system. They should be there for each other.

A formal mentor-coaching programme presupposes compliance with certain formalities, like registration for the session. The mentor-coach and/or administrators ensure that this formality is complied with. This is part of the portfolio of evidence against which the entrepreneurs are going to be assessed and declared competent as entrepreneurs. 

The mentor-coaching process is facilitated through a predesigned working template, which includes checking-in guidelines. This template and the checking-out log sheet must be distributed to each entrepreneur at the beginning of the session. Depending on the content of the session required equipments form part of the setting up. The common equipments are data projector, flip charts, markers, note pads, pens, PA system, connectivity, etc.

The life of an entrepreneur is stressful. The well-being is critical in their effort to cope with stress. That is why checking-in is the first activity of the mentor-coaching process in each session. It is the standard that must be adhered to throughout the programme. The entrepreneurs are encouraged to adopt the practice of checking-in every time they hold meetings, sessions, and working sessions. 

During the checking-in the entrepreneurs genuinely reflect on their Body, Mind, and Spirit balance. 

- BODY: let the entrepreneurs check-in by reflecting on how they have been taking care or not taking care of their bodies. They share with each other on how their bodies feel like, respond to pressure, and how they are dealing with it.

- MIND: we are interested in the thoughts that are pre-occupying their minds, and how is that weighing on their being. How are they dealing with these thoughts. Are they negative or positive thoughts? Are they anxious about these thoughts or not? Do they know the source of these thoughts? Is there anything they are doing about the source or not?

- SPIRIT: we want to know the entrepreneurs’ current state of being spiritually and what they are doing daily to make sure that they are well spiritually. They should not expect that the feel good spirit will come on its own. They must work hard for it by practicing meditation, mindfulness, etc.

In part two we are going look at the mentor-coaching working template, specifically the setting of mentor-coaching goals, supporting actions, governance & compliance checklist, checking-out template, and administrative aspects of closing the session.


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