- THE MAGAZINE
Last month, I promised to share my idea of a workable, structured mentoring concept for our industry, coupled with the rather unique idea of “E-Mentoring”—an idea resulting from observing ICS’ discussion board in recent months.
Mentoring programs work best when both structured and voluntary; leaving the micro-business protégé to feel free at any point not to accept the mentor’s suggestions if he/she should so choose.
The Small Business Administration has long offered mentoring as a part of their “Score” program for small businesses. However, “Score” business mentors often report communication difficulties in their relationships with protégé’s. These mentors report that often, as high as 50% of their protégés, don’t take the time necessary to improve their business operations and do not seem to understand or appreciate the mentor/protégé relationship.
Structured ComponentsA solution any group in our industry could take would be to introduce more thorough documentation, to which mentors and protégés could refer to throughout the relationship. This reference would outline the mentor’s role, aims and limitations, while clearly identifying the protégé's needs, expectations and responsibilities.
An additional solution would be to introduce agreements between mentors and protégés, requiring real commitment from protégés to make time for mentoring and to take responsibility for their own growth and development. In other words, “structure” and “commitment.”
Finally, a volunteer program coordinator would be assigned to oversee the mentoring program.
Additional Elements for a Mentoring Program’s Success
- Complete confidentiality must be maintained
- Independent and objective service mentors must be recruited
- Prompt and professional responses from both mentors and protégés must be mandatory
- Mentors must have understanding and empathy for the protégé’s problems and limitations
- The support of regional associations, which would provide a source of volunteer businesspersons with diverse experience, and an active interest in the cleaning industry as potential mentors would be extremely helpful
- Program Operation & Coordination. Coordination would also be central to the successful operation of such a mentoring program. A coordinator would be responsible for orchestrating all elements of the mentoring program including the recruitment, selection, assessment, matching and orientation of the business mentors and protégés.
Why Structured Mentoring Instead of Informal Mentoring?The norm in our industry has always involved informal mentoring, the kind that just happens spontaneously or naturally; being in the right place at the right time to be noticed by the right person who provides the right kind of help.
Both past experience and current research indicates that this conventional kind of mentoring cannot provide the systematic assistance most small cleaning businesses need to add value to their organizations. Too many micro-cleaning businesses fall through the cracks and don’t get the mentoring they need, especially when it’s most needed. This is the main reason for developing formalized mentoring programs.
Mentor/protégé partners must be carefully selected, matched and trained to facilitate the development of a good relationship. This relationship depends on commitment instead of special chemistry. Both individual and program goals are clearly set; and when achieved, these goals become program benefits.
Welcome to “E-Mentoring”As we enter the new millennium, we have access to new and improved ways of doing business with the working world. As the wind of change continues to blow, the potential role of today’s mentor is expanding and evolving. Technology now enables us to alter the traditional method of mentoring, enabling us to tap the career advice of a mentor from virtually anywhere in the world.
“E-mentoring” would be an interactive relationship between a mentor and protégé through the use of the Internet, rather than the traditional networking connections. Experienced business professionals could offer their talent and advice to those they agreed to mentor, based on matching data compiled by a counselor assistant from a mentor’s and protégé’s professional profile.
Once a workable profile is identified, a mentoring partnership could be formed and the “E-Mentoring” program would begin. The entire process could be initiated and carried out through e-mail correspondence. An E-Mentoring partnership could last from several months to several years, based on the mutual parties needs and aspirations.
Next month, we’ll move on to an examination of “Coaching”—another exiting phenomenon of our electronic era, as a viable training assist for the micro-cleaning business.
Stop by ICS’ discussion board (www.icsmag.com) and share your thoughts on these ideas, or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.