Weekly confidential discussions about recent happenings; and questions, allusions and comments from personal experience – the essence of good mentoring – might just be what the Queen provides for her Prime Ministers in their weekly audience. Does she have some lessons for current mentoring projects?
When David Cameron spoke recently about his weekly audience with the Queen, he commented on the value of being able to talk to her about whatever had happened in the past week, and to do so without any advisers present – a confidential relationship that the best mentors foster. She has of course had sixty years experience of matters of state, and held such audiences with twelve prime ministers: in a way she has, like the best mentors, seen it all before. It is tempting to think that, as in public life, she makes no comments but simply asks questions – just as effective mentors seek to draw attention to aspects of the situation that they feel need it. On the other hand, it is easy to imagine that she might allude to how one of her previous prime ministers had encountered something similar – drawing attention to similarities that might provide a different perspective on the issue in question; or she might even have commented that ‘one had met so many young people recently who are finding it difficult to get work’ – emphasising the importance of particular issues. But nobody knows what she actually says!
Another project has just been announced that requires mentors (young people starting businesses), putting still more pressure on the demand for mentors. It seems as though we are putting mentors into battle with little training and often no experience. There is a real opportunity here for action-learning.
The third round of Nesta’s programme of mentoring small businesses in the creative industries is about to launch. At the initial meeting of mentors (many of whom had also been mentors in the first round), a need for the mentors to meet together from time to time was expressed, both to learn from one another’s experience and to provide the opportunity for mentors to bring the expertise of other mentors into play – a nice example of mentors working as a group.
STOP PRESS: In the second of Jon Bradford’s 13-week ‘Springboard’ Accelerator programmes (this one just finishing in London), he has adopted the same approach to the use of his large bank of mentors. In the first week, each entrepreneur meets a number of different mentors for 10 minute sessions, staccato style, and in the second, the entrepreneur and the mentors each choose whom they wish to meet – for a 20 minute session; and then it is open to the entrepreneur to seek whatever feed-back, advice and contacts he can (courtship by appointment!)