Meet a Mentor, Bristol

Meet a Mentor days are events with a difference.  You don't attend to sell your services, find a client or supplier, but rather to find a mentor who is willing to volunteer their time to support someone in their business. The events are short, fun and productive and the key focus is to bring together mentoring volunteers with local businesses, providing an energetic forum for people to meet, exchange details and hopefully start a mentoring conversation.  

I hosted the Meet a Mentor day in Bristol yesterday on behalf of the Institute for Enterprise and Entrepreneurs (IOEE).  We had 20 plus volunteer mentors and the same number in mentees. Everyone had the chance to have short mentoring conversations with 4 different people.  It sounds like a dating event but wasn't!  It gave people the opportunity to talk to as many different people as possible in the time, for mentors to practice their skills and mentees to get some useful insights and support and learn about the mentoring process.

One delegate came as a mentee and said at the end he would like to volunteer to be an enterprise mentor! How brilliant is that?  A perfect example of someone with business knowledge and experience willing to support another - the very model of mentoring.  Three people found a mentor/mentee match on the day.  Both the volunteer mentors and mentees were truly delighted this had happened.

What was great about the day was the level of commitment and energy in the room which really buzzed as people got stuck into conversations; business owners felt able to share their goals and ideas. Duncan Webster, an award winning mentor champion from Lloyds Banking Group came and volunteered his time and Jackie Jenks, who manages the bank's mentoring programme explained how valuable mentoring is and how research now shows the difference it makes to a small business, both in its chances of survival in the longer term as well as its growth.  

For me the proof that mentoring is a valuable and beneficial intervention was in the room as I saw people in rapport and conducting highly engaged conversations.  There was nigh perfect mirroring and matching round the room (probably largely unconscious!) and evidence of listening and asking great questions. These factors created the right environment for mentoring conversations to take place and left everyone excited and motivated by the possibilities that mentoring offers to a small business.

The event was short and energy fuelled, with time for networking afterwards over some lunch. The very last person I spoke to shook my hand and said, "That was great.  It was really helpful to come today and we've already learned so much that will be of help to the business.  We are really glad we came".   Job done - til the next time, which will be in Edinburgh next month.