What hope for UK business when #mentoring education fails
The UK Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), after the closure of the Business Link franchise, is pinning it’s hopes on volunteer mentoring for developing entrepreneurship and UK PLc.
Now I am not saying that the whole programme is flawed or failing, but one part of this is very wrong, and potentially misleading.
In a recent press release it (BIS) said:
“Mark Prisk announces key milestones in mentoring support at the start of the first Global Entrepreneurship Congress in Europe.
Mark Prisk has announced that the Get Mentoring initiative to recruit 15,000 volunteer business mentors has now passed the halfway mark, with more than 7,500 signed up.
He also announced the first Mentoring Ambassadors, prominent entrepreneurs Wilfred Emmanuel-Jones, Mike Southon, Carl Hopkins and Penny Power”
Now on the surface this is great news, and for the ecademy community, great news that Penny Power is involved.
As a business owner, business advisor qualified through SFEDI and the business link organisation some time ago, I thought it would be beneficial to see what was required, and sign up as a mentor.
Unfortunately I missed a workshop due to a family emergency, however in the post arrived a self development pack.
This colourful and well laid out workbook is pleasing to the eye and on the surface well designed.
As I started to complete some of the activities, I felt the pit of my stomach turn.
The SFEDI group (who published this document) claim to “SFEDI researched leading practice, and sets standards…”
We it seems their research is a little flawed!
In the second section of the workbook called “The skills & tools required by a mentor” is activity #3 “Types of communication”
This is referring to “Mehrabian’s” research into communications theory.
Their answer to this is:
Albert Mehrabian Communication Rule – The 7% 38% 55% Myth
Even in 2006 there was an ecademy post by Anthony Jacquin about this.
The devil’s in the detail
On his own website, Albert Mehrabian expresses the results of his research in the form of an equation:
He goes on to explain that “this and other equations regarding relative importance of verbal and nonverbal messages were derived from experiments dealing with communications of feelings and attitudes (i.e. like-dislike). Unless a communicator is talking about their feelings or attitudes, these equations are not applicable.” Source trainingzone
Mehrabian published the results of his original work in two books, Silent Messages (Wadsworth Publishing, 1971) and Nonverbal Communications (Aldine Atherton, Inc., 1972). In these books Mehrabian makes the point that for inconsistent messages, or incongruent communications, body language and tonality are probably a more accurate indicator of emotions and meaning than the words themselves.
Albert Mehrabian has stated (Anchor Point, 1994) that he never intended his results to be applied to normal conversation (and probably not to public speaking either). He only wanted to help his readers resolve incongruent messages regarding liking and disliking. Thus, his research has useful, albeit limited applications, which have been blown out of proportion.
Even the organisation Toastmasters have published articles on this, highlighting the dangers of using such research without fully understanding it.
Now what hope does the UK business world have if myths like this are being continually spread and the concepts believed by an ever increasing band of potentially deluded but well meaning mentors?
How can any competent mentor, communications professional or manager support such a programme that is flawed in its education of people new to the mentoring world?
Throughout the workbook are references to mentor competence and trust – where is the competence and trust in the development of these materials?
Will SFEDI & BIS re-issue this material with an appropriately corrected methodology? What does this say about the content of the rest of the document and supporting materials?
Only time will tell
As I was finishing this piece, a senior executive from SFEDI returned my call… when informed of the issue, they appeared horrified that such an error was in their material, and astounded that none of their trainers or rigorous review process had alerted them to this, and indeed they use the model in their face to face training. From what I heard this will stop with immediate effect, and a new version of the workbook will be released at some point in the next phase of the Enterprise Mentoring project.
A great and positive reaction when an error was highlighted. real mentoring and learning in action. Time will tell how this is further communicated.
This is not a “dig” at SFEDI or BIS, but a reminder that anyone who is responsible for communicating should check their facts first hand…