Coaching and Mentoring beyond your employees

With a good mentoring and coaching programme and increased motivation, come job satisfaction and the staying power of employees.

It comes as no surprise therefore that good mentoring and coaching programmes for employees, as well as for the broader community by means of business incubation, is key to human development.

Business incubation and mentoring and coaching programmes are closely aligned in being concerned with developing human resources, albeit from different vantage points and in different environments.

It is in fact the Human Resource department of any business that should be the pivotal point in initiating the upliftment of the broader communities in which they find themselves. This would include in-company employees as well as developing opportunities for would-be entrepreneurs through business incubation.

And this could be extended to the wider communities. “Give a man a fish, feed him for a day, teach him to fish and feed him for a life time”, is the old but wise adage.

Reaching out to the broader community, business can develop programmes to provide mentoring and coaching through business incubation, providing skills and the tools to practise those skills to otherwise unemployable members of the community.

Rees Mann, South African entrepreneur, mentor and coach, with a passion for growing entrepreneurs in South Africa believes that it is a responsibility of the business community to provide skills which is vital to the economic and social development of individuals and the South African society, but believes that ‘training without empowerment is useless’.

SewAfrica, Mann’s brainchild, is a successful programme providing training, mentoring and coaching to many disadvantaged South Africans in and around Johannesburg.

In the middle of an emerging fashion district in Johannesburg, young designers are being given the opportunity to develop their talents while the older set are being given the opportunity to hone their skills and to develop their own businesses. Mentoring and coaching play a significant role in the project as it unleashes human potential and develops skills and networks within the real working environment. An outstanding feature of the developing entrepreneurs in the SewAfrica project is the high morale and levels of motivation evident in the ‘mentees’.

According to Rees, jobs aren’t really being ‘lost’, they are taking a different form as retrenched staff find their way into the role of entrepreneur and business incubation practices could make that possible for many more unemployed people.

The SewAfrica project includes a building, which stands tall, housing budding entrepreneurs at various levels in the process of their development. Coaching and training takes the form of skills, knowledge and the equipment in the form of a sewing machine to commence their businesses. Studio space is rented out at a nominal fee for a period of two years while the entrepreneur establishes him or herself. Fledgling entrepreneurs are weaned of the mentoring process over a period of two years as they make their way back to their communities.

The mentoring relationship works successfully in this environment as the ‘mentee’ does not feel threatened, because there is effectively a distance between the mentor and ‘mentee’ in the hierarchical structures within the project.

Rees coaches emerging entrepreneurs by instilling in them basic business principles. He guides them to provide a good price and a good service, teaches them that a suitable location for the business must be where the customers are. He shows them how to anticipate development and trends in industry and to act swiftly on opportunities, which present themselves. ‘Keep one step ahead of what the client wants and be sensitive to the desires of the customer’ is his advice to fledgling entrepreneurs.

The mentoring process includes Rees’s wealth of experience in business, which he passes on to new entrepreneurs as they grow and develop their businesses. Through mentoring, the development of the individual includes the encouragement of motivation and a boost in their morale. According to Rees, without enthusiasm and passion for your business, your business is doomed to failure. Passion is the single most important ingredient in a successful business.

The basic principles of business incubation as a form of mentoring and coaching, which have worked so effectively in SewAfrica, should be considered by every business in a broader context as part of their social responsibility, starting with the development of its employees and exploring opportunities for the development of surrounding communities.

The benefits to South African society, specifically Johannesburg where the SewAfrica project is in full swing are enormous. Upgrading of otherwise derelict buildings means the rejuvenation of the inner city. Otherwise unemployed or unemployable people will be able to sustain a livelihood. Rees believes that it is easy for companies to donate money to worthy causes, but although investing in human development is time consuming, the economic and social upliftment of communities and the eradication of poverty have significant benefits for business in the long term.