Mentor Coaching and Entrepreneurial Outcomes
This research initiative is a comprehensive program evaluation that was conducted in 2020 to gain insight into the effectiveness of the Vanderbilt Wond’ry mentor program and determine which attributes of the program were viewed as most valuable by the participants. The Vanderbilt Innovation Center, called the Wond’ry, is a not for profit organization supported by the university that provides innovation and entrepreneur support to students, professors, alumni, staff, and community members. A mentor coaching program is an important program offered by the Wond’ry that provides individualized support to entrepreneurs. A mixed methods approach using a survey with quantitative and qualitative questions along with selected Master Mentor and program administrator interviews was used to conduct the assessment. Key findings from the synthesized research include: 1. Mentees are solution-oriented and highly value the specific advice provided by mentors that can lead to discovering new opportunities. This is perceived as being more impactful than processing the emotions associated with entrepreneurship and innovation. 2. Providing direct information on how to solve problems and potential solutions is highly valuable to entrepreneurs. 3. Mentors currently engage in high-impact coaching behaviors. 4. The mentees are generally driven, highly motivated, and also willing to ask for assistance when needed. 5. Specific outcomes derived directly from mentor coaching are difficult to pinpoint, although program participants attribute their success in part to their mentors. 6. Overall, mentor program participants are highly satisfied with the mentor support they received. 7. Additional structure and training can be helpful for mentors so that they can be as effective as possible when guiding program participants. Based on these overarching findings and taken in conjunction with the history and objectives of the Wond’ry, recommendations were developed to help the program continue to develop and improve. Primary recommendations included: 1. Training – Offer more formal training and support to mentors to increase effectiveness for entrepreneurs. 2. Documentation - Take a more structured approach to supporting mentees and documenting outcomes from mentor meetings to ensure needs are being met optimally. 3. Coaching Model – Consider implementing a solution-oriented coaching model such as the GROW Model to help frame mentor meetings and support mentees with meeting their specific goals. 4. Continuous Improvement - Conduct mentee and mentor satisfaction assessments to understand what is and is not effective on a regular basis, at least annually.