How can we become better mentors?
-Gordon Magee, Southeast Regional Director, Join Date: April 28, 2012
I begin this discussion by looking back at when I joined SCORE and my first few years of experiences. Our chapter meetings were all about mentoring and workshops. We talked about clients, shared humorous experiences, and asked each other for suggestions about specific client issues. We also talked about what topics needed to be included in our workshop program that would be of direct and immediate benefit to our clients.
Many of our clients “don’t know what they don’t know”. They need some very basic help in determining how to improve their business life. It has been my experience over these many years with SCORE, that I serve my clients better as a “career counselor” than a “business consultant”. We help clients make decisions that are life changing regarding their careers and businesses.
As a mentor, our lives are also changed through helping our clients. Seeing a client land a better job, start a successful business, hire more employees to expand their business, etc. are all stories that make us feel that we have been of help. Getting a positive comment on an NPS survey, receiving a thank you email or receiving a thank you text are appreciated and go a long way to making us feel better about the time that we shared with them. For the clients, that we have had the pleasure of mentoring over many months and years, we develop a vested interest in them, their families and their businesses. This is very rewarding.
As mentors, we are also rewarded by learning about business segments and issues for which we had no prior experience. We improve our business knowledge outside of our comfort zone and we stay relevant. Over the years, I have learned how to make moonshine, how to publish a book on Amazon, how to measure air permeability of contact lenses, and how to cook BBQ. Up to a few years ago, our Chapter Admin assigned clients based upon mentor’s time availability not on the mentor’s preferred business expertise. As mentors, we did not have the option to decline any client request. This facilitated the opportunity to assist across a very wide range of client needs. We understood that we were capable of conducting the first session with any client no matter their business concept for profit or nonprofit. If we needed specialized help, we could always turn to another mentor in the chapter for assistance in a particular area. In our prior business lives, we developed and honed some very specialized hard skills. Most of those will not be utilized in our work with our clients. What is most utilized, is our transferable soft skills in how to council and guide our clients in making good decisions.
When a mentor declines to accept a client assignment it has negative results for the client and for the chapter. Reassignment requires extra work by the CIC to find another mentor and it delays the client being mentored by four or more days.
When SCORE changed from CORE to ENGAGE, I noticed there was an option to accept “Direct” requests in addition to just being assigned clients by our Admin. I made that choice and mentored a number of clients from different parts of our state and the US. I found that option as rewarding as working with clients in my community.
SCORE has adopted the One SCORE concept of “Clients have access to any mentor and any needed information, no matter where they may be located.” As current members of SCORE, we have agreed with this concept and we should do what we can to ensure that we serve clients in this manner.
So in closing, I would encourage all mentors to accept all client assignments and to make themselves available to any client that requests their help. Let’s focus on where the client needs guidance and how we can best provide it. The opportunity to grow, learn new things and develop new friends will be ours to appreciate now and in the future.