Skip to main content
Supporting fair and ethical business in partnership with The Co-operative Bank
Business Support for Co-ops – peer mentor handbook

Mentor roles and responsibilities

The Mentor

  • Facilitates improvement in the mentee, self-reflection, and learning
  • Acts as a compassionate, empathetic, and attentive sounding board for the mentee and provides constructive, pragmatic feedback and guidance
  • Offers encouragement and explores the mentee’s ideas, assumptions, and decisions with them
  • Shares their own relevant experiences of addressing challenges/issues, including lessons learnt
  • Creates a ‘safe’, open, and non-judgemental learning environment. The mentee should be able to challenge and question without fear of an adverse reaction
  • Signposts the mentee to useful resources, events (learning and networking events) and may suggest other developmental activities
  • Prepares appropriately for the sessions
  • Engages with mentees to agree how mentoring could support their prospective business
  • Helps mentees to review their progress and set realistic and practical options to realise their goals
  • Helps mentees to reflect on and learn from things that did not turn out as expected
  • Encourages mentees to take responsibility for their own decisions, plans and actions

For the experience, skills and technical expertise of the mentoring organisations to be helpful to new and developing co-operative businesses, we need mentor organisations and the individuals within them to work in an enabling and supportive way.

We would like mentor organisations to think back to earlier stages of their development to consider what would have been helpful to them, and to listen to the expressed needs of their mentee organisation to support them moving forward. Sometimes moral support and encouragement could be just as important as discussing different technical or finance options.

An enterprise mentor is normally someone who has a great deal of business experience and who acts as a trusted confidante over a flexible period of time. It can be a close and meaningful relationship, in which the mentor shares their personal knowledge and experiences and promotes a self-discovery approach.

A mentor will normally:

  • Provide an outside perspective on the enterprise owner and the enterprise group
  • Listen, in confidence, to the things that are worrying the group
  • Help by sharing their own experience of failures and successes
  • Give friendly, unbiased support and guidance
  • Provide honest and constructive feedback
  • Be a sounding board for ideas
  • Facilitate decision-making by suggesting alternatives based on personal experience
  • Provide ongoing support and encouragement
  • Help in building networks - mentors can be an important gateway in making introductions, and helping them identify and contact influential people who will be useful to them

We would not expect a mentor to:

  • Provide detailed technical or legal advice which the group will rely on (this will normally be provided by a qualified business adviser)
  • Provide a counselling service
  • Provide a training service
  • Provide a coaching service
  • Provide therapeutic interventions
  • Sort out all the mentee’s problems
  • Take responsibility for making their mentee’s business a success or make decisions for the mentee

Key skills of a mentor:

  • Listening to understand
  • Questioning to clarify and make sure they’ve understood correctly
  • Questioning to explore additional options and consequences
  • Being prepared to act on what has been agreed with their mentee
  • Business or professional expertise – the accumulated wisdom of having ‘been there and done it before’
  • Sense of proportion – the ability to place issues in a broader context
  • Relationship management – being experienced in rapport building and general social skills