How do Mentors Enable Entrepreneurial Learning?


In the previous section, I provided a discussion on entrepreneurial learning. To understand how a business mentor guides the entrepreneur's learning, we need to discuss the three functions a business mentor normally plays in relation to an entrepreneur. These functions enable entrepreneurial self-efficacy; however, a smaller category of these functions, I'll argue, also enable entrepreneurial learning. Essentially, I will attempt to show that entrepreneurial learning is enabled through mentorship by the information support, confrontation, guide, and role-model functions.

Etienne St-jean, an expert in the field of business mentorship, presents three major functions the mentor plays: the psychological, the career-related, and the role model function. These three major functions have several sub-functions and were determined from a study documenting and analyzing mentor mentee relationships that lasted an average of 16.06 months (standard deviation: 14.4, median: 13) with the mean and average frequency of meetings at once a month and just under a month, respectively, and an average meeting time of 68.52 minutes (standard deviation: 14.4, mean: 67) (2).

The psychological sub-functions include reflector, reassurance, motivation, and confidant. The mentor as a reflector, provides feedback on the entrepreneur's strengths and weaknesses, providing a space to identify these strengths that can be leveraged and weaknesses that should be worked on. The mentor as reassurance, aids the entrepreneur in difficult times when problems need to be put into perspective. The mentor as a motivator builds the entrepreneur's self-confidence in his abilities. The mentor as a confidant creates a safe space where entrepreneur may confide in the mentor (2).

The career-related sub-functions include integration, information support, confrontation, and guide. The mentor as integrator facilitates introductions with various business contacts; and on average, the study learned that mentors introduced the entrepreneurs to 3.44 persons, with a standard deviation of 3.47). The mentor as information support provides provides strategic business advice based on personal experience and knowledge. The mentor as confrontation, the mentor confronts the entrepreneur's beliefs and ideas such that the entrepreneur may learn to overcome any beliefs or ideas that may prevent the entrepreneur from accomplishing his goals. The mentor as a guide provides a big picture perspective to help the entrepreneur understand the context they're building a business in (2).

The last category, the role model function does not have any sub-functions. The mentor as a role model focuses on the mentor's life stories to be used as examples for the entrepreneur to learn from (2).

The mentor in a long-term relationship with an entrepreneur should also be focusing on increasing entrepreneurial self-efficacy. Self-efficacy is believing in the efficacy of ones own skills. Thus, entrepreneurial self-efficacy is the entrepreneur's belief that she has sufficient skill to tackle the problem at hand. In a study done by Etienne St-jean, he discovered there's a positive correlation when a mentor encourages entrepreneurial self-efficacy, the entrepreneur has increased job satisfaction and have a higher intention to stay as a career entrepreneur (3).

Applying These Concepts to my Thesis:
Since I've only observed short-term mentoring relationships, or at least the beginnings of possibly longer relationships, not all of these functions have been observed during the process of this thesis. The sub-functions observed include integrator, information support, confrontation, guide, and role model. During the interactions between mentor and entrepreneur, the career related and role modeling functions have been observed. The psychological functions have not clearly been observed.

The sub-functions information support, confrontation, and guide are most directly related to entrepreneurial learning. Even though this vocabulary isn't used throughout the thesis, these sub-functions informed what to observe when making sense of how mentoring interactions enable entrepreneurial learning.

Takeaway:
Entrepreneurial learning is enabled through mentorship by the information support, confrontation, guide, and role-model functions.

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Sources:
  1. Cull, John. “Mentoring Young Entrepreneurs: What Leads to Success?”
  2. St-Jean, Etienne. “Mentoring Functions for Novice Entrepreneurs”
  3. St-Jean, Etienne. “The Influence of Mentoring on Mentee's Satisfaction and Career: The Role of Entrepreneurial Self-Efficacy”