David Megginson and Paul Stokes
This chapter draws on both past studies and theories on mentoring, as well as a funded project entitled ‘Mentoring for Export Success’ (MES). We describe the various stages and issues involved in setting up a Business Link funded project putting together experienced and novice exporters mainly CEOs and managing directors of SMEs in a set of pair mentoring relationships. Using data from the development and delivery of the project—which is still ongoing—we identify several key issues and challenges that have emerged from our analyses of these processes. Key issues include performativity versus reflexivity; dependence, independence and interdependence; solutions versus questions; pairs and networks.
Before launching into our discussions about the MES scheme, we offer our definition of what we understand by mentoring, and then we contrast it with coaching. Mentoring is ‘off-line help by one person to another in making significant transitions in knowledge, work or thinking’ (Megginson and Clutterbuck 1995:13).
This differentiates it from coaching, which is ‘a process in which a manager, through direct discussion and guided activity, helps a colleague to learn to solve a problem, or to do a task, better than would otherwise be the case’ (Megginson and Boydell 1979:5).
The essence of the distinction between the two is that mentoring is focused upon significant changes for the person being helped and that in mentoring the learner sets his or her own agenda rather than having it set jointly, with strong influence from the helper.
Our brief was to carry out a research and development project which put together senior executives from different companies in a one-to-one mentoring relationship, initially for a period of six months. Our reason for making the distinction between coaching and mentoring was that an initial question we had was: is peer support of chief executives for export mentoring or is it coaching? We argue that it is mentoring, because the support concerned will not be detailed teaching, but, rather, sitting alongside the mentee and helping them explore the issues that arise when they