It’s not often that one stumbles across a real gem of an organisation. For me, the Association of Business Mentors (ABM) is a diamond – a group of business people from a whole variety of backgrounds who are all committed to encouraging each other to assist energetic entrepreneurs to create their visions and realise them. A rare thing indeed.
It is borne out of the vision of its founder, Kerrie Dorman, who saw the need for a professional body to support business mentors. Under the leadership of ABM chair, Simon Fordham, it has developed its openness and welcome to those who are, or who want to be, professional business mentors, whatever their skill, so long as they have experience in business at senior level.
It has learned how to maximise the impact of this experience when helping business leaders, by teaching potential mentors how to best use the three fundamental approaches – consulting, coaching and mentoring (“CCM”). To the purist, they are all distinct separate activities but the ABM sees them as overlapping circles of a Venn diagram. They each have their place and knowing when to put on which hat enables us to be fully effective.
The ABM offers conferences, webinars, retreats, training events, a programme of structured learning and opportunities for peer reflection so that its members grow their skill set, and after mentoring three businesses for at least two years, (either during membership or before joining) can become full members. Over time the mentor can reflect on how they have combined their business experience, technical skills and coaching/mentoring and have moved from, say, this:
The consulting circle represents the technical expertise of the mentor and that is unlikely to change much at the ABM: an international sales director may not know much about a cash flow forecast for a small business; an accountant may know little about international sales. But the ABM is not a resting place for business dinosaurs! On joining, all members sign up to its charter which includes commitment to self-awareness and to their own ongoing learning and development; and other members can add the missing technical expertise to clients, who can be assured that this knowledge is shared in the same professional manner.
As the UK leaves the European Union, the challenges and opportunities for the SME business community of the UK are as extensive as they have ever been. New research from Kabbage documented in SmallBizTrends and in Forbes highlighted that having a professional mentor can make a huge difference to a business’s chances of success. (92% of small business owners say mentors have a major impact on their growth.)
In addition, by bringing young business people into mentoring the ABM has committed to ensuring that its members are challenged and energised by the thinking of a younger generation to continuously review their approach so that it is fit for the purpose of creating businesses that will thrive in the 2020s and beyond.
I love being involved in the ABM today and helping to take it towards its vision of “guiding business success” and its target of 500 members.
We are often asked about the differences between coaching, consultancy and mentoring and, no surprise, expert opinion can be divided! Broadly the distinction can be seen as:
Consulting – a consultant is an expert who is called on for professional or technical advice or opinions. They are relied on to understand the problem and present solutions. Consulting is unlike coaching because with pure coaching, the answers come from the client.
Coaching – is partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential. The coach is the subject matter expert at coaching, not necessarily the subject matter expert of the client’s coaching topic. Coaching often uses emotional intelligence.
(In passing, it should be noted that the boundary between coaching and counselling is not defined by a set of absolute rules. In general, counsellors are trained to diagnose and help client with emotional problems, often looking back into the past or dysfunction while coaches are not. The coach’s domain is future oriented – what does the client want? And then coaching the client to get there. Some high performing executives are a nightmare to work with and should they wish to work on WHY they are, then counselling could well be appropriate. A coach though could help with strategies to help them change some behaviours but not explore the underlying reasons for them.)
Mentoring – a mentor is a wise and trusted guide and adviser. The mentor is the teacher that shares their experience while bringing the “mentee” up the ranks. A mentor is not necessarily the subject matter expert in order to help develop the client but sometimes might be. The mentor shares their stories to show how they dealt with a similar challenge and the mentees use this knowledge to find the right solution for themselves.
These definitions are not set in tablets of stone. The important thing is for the consultant/coach/mentor to be self-aware and for the client to be supported in the most effective way.