Stating the Bleedin’ Obvious…(unless you are policy wonk or their lackey…)

  1. Not every small business or micro-enterprise owner needs a mentor.
  2. Mentoring is NOT the only helping relationship.
  3. Good mentors are rarely trained in ‘mentoring’, nor are they picked from a register.
  4. Successful mentors are usually selected from within the pre-existing network of the mentee.  They are spotted and developed as someone from  whom the mentee really wants to learn.
  5. Mentoring is an intermittent rather than a continuous relationship.
  6. Access to good mentors is usually restricted and respectful rather than a tradeable commodity.
  7. The success of the mentorship is usually down to the mentee rather than the mentor.  Good mentees know how to choose a mentor and manage the relationship with them to get the learning and the introductions that they need.
  8. The commoditisation of mentoring is not a good thing.
  9. Mentors are not coaches, advisers, consultants, counsellors or facilitators.  People looking to learn and develop themselves and/or their organisations should think carefully about the kind of ‘help’ they need.
  10. We should help people explore what they want to learn and how they are going to learn it – rather than prescribe yet another ‘cure-all’ that happens to be ‘affordable’.
  11. We should focus our efforts on building social learning contexts and helping people manage their learning processes rather than setting up registers and schemes.
  12. If the national association of image consultants got their lobbying act together I am sure we might all end up being encouraged to use a national register of image consultants in pursuit of GDP.

If you are interested in implementing ill thought through policy and exploiting it as way to make a few bob please do not get in touch.  If on the other you are serious about building a context in which people  can really learn then I would love to hear from you.

Just leave a comment below.


  1. Nothing against bank managers. But they exist in procedurally focused, rule-based organisations. Most/many joined from school. They may not be the best fit for many SMEs.

    One to one mentoring is rarely what small businesses need. They often need to develop a learning network with different modes of access. That includes people, blogs, video content, reading, groups – formal and informal. And just plain old business friends.

    They need people as a source of inspiration, exemplars, they need fellow travellers for empathy, experts on call for specifics, trusted advisers for second opinions, pace-setters, challengers and truth tellers …

  2. Richard Simpson says:

    Well said Mike – policy wonks (as you describe them) have a (not-so) wonderful habit of seeing the world in terms of simple cause and effect, probably encouraged by their political masters who are looking for quick fixes and ‘achievements’ they can point to before they are moved to another department. The thinking may have gone something like this: companies with mentors tend to perform better than companies without, so if every company had a mentor this would improve performance across the board – let’s put a figure on it to sex it up and say that such an initiative could be worth £xbillion of new business to SMEs. The media will swallow it, (we’ll give them case studies of how mentoring has been successful) then, when the policy fails, we’ll sweep it under the carpet and forget it ever happened. Working at the level you suggest Mike is long term and difficult – not messages politicians want to hear.

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