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“You’re not on the ledge, you’re on the kerb!” Exploring pragmatic reconstruction of leader identity in a business mentoring scheme

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Amy Stabler


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Theoretical baseThe business community of an economically challenged UK region has responded to broad research evidence that mentoring can support small and medium size businesses to grow significantly (Owen, 2011). In March 2017, a mentoring scheme was established to support the leaders of established businesses with high growth potential. Whilst there is research evidence that mentoring supports small business leaders in a variety of ways such as expert advice, access to networks, a trusting relationship that provides space to reflect, this study aims to explore how the mentoring relationship supports the mentee’s leader identity development, based on a relational and negotiated theory of leadership (De Rue and Ashford 2010). The research takes a critical perspective by exploring multiple perceptions and the ways that tensions and potential ambiguities are navigated within mentoring relationships, as well as questioning dominant or privileged discourses. It draws on the theory of pragmatic reconstruction which “aims to make explicit those practices, where expectations or the certainties of habit have run aground, and in so doing enable their transformation, which is to say, their reconstruction.” (Hutton and Liefooghe, 2011) The research explores how mentoring relationships draw on the different perspectives of the lifeworld (Habermas 2003, cited in Hutton and Liefooghe 2011) through which mentor and mentee create normative understandings of how to grow a business. It investigates the discursive practices during mentoring that create new ways of thinking and acting and which answer the questions “What needs to be done?” and “How best to do this?” (Hutton and Liefooghe, 2011).Research PurposeThe study aims to explore the leader identity work of business owners participating in a regional business mentoring scheme. In doing so, it aims to deepen understanding of the discursive processes through which mentoring relationships support mentee leadership development and to inform commissioners and coordinators of mentoring programmes about support that might be required for mentors and mentees to provide an appropriate developmental relationship that unleashes potential in the SME sector. Implications for HRD practiceThe emerging findings are leading to a new conceptual understanding of the way that mentoring relationships for growing businesses negotiate different meanings around the role of the business owner to create a shift in identity that unleashes the mentee’s power and potential as an entrepreneurial business leader. The paper also contributes to articulating the benefits to mentors of involving themselves in mentoring schemes, which will support recruitment of mentors to similar schemes.ConclusionsThe paper responds to calls for greater evidence based practice in the field of coaching and mentoring. In doing so it will provide in-depth qualitative insights into a difficult to access area of mentoring, and a new conceptual framework for mentoring for business leaders/owners, which bridges the theory-practice gap. ReferencesAngus, L., Hardkte, K., (1994) “Narrative Processes in Psychotherapy” Canadian Psychology, 35 (2), 190-201.Callahan, J, L., McCollum, E, E. (2002) “Conceptualizations of Emotion Research in Organizational Contexts” Advances in Developing Human Resources 4(1), 4-21. Charmaz, K. (2006) Constructing Grounded Theory. London, Sage Publications.DeRue, D.A. & Ashford, S.J. (2010). “Who will lead and who will follow? A social process of leadership identity construction in organizations”. Academy of Management Review, 35(4), 627-647.Gold, J., Devins, D., & Johnson, A. (2003) “What is the value of mentoring in a small business? Using narrative evaluation to find out”, British Journal of Guidance & Counselling, 31(1), 51-62.Hatt, L. (2017) “Threshold Concepts in Entrepreneurship – the Entrepreneurs’ Perspective" Education and Training, DOI 10.1108/ET-08-2017-0119Hutton, C. & Liefooghe, A. (2011) “Mind the Gap: Revisioning Organization Development as Pragmatic Reconstruction” The Journal of Applied Behavioral Science, 47(1) 76-91 Owen, H. (2011) The Complete Guide to Mentoring: how to design, implement and evaluate effective mentoring programmes. London, Philadelphia: Kogan Page

Publication metadata

Author(s): Stabler A

Publication type: Conference Proceedings (inc. Abstract)

Publication status: Published

Conference Name: UFHRD 19th International Conference on HRD Research and Practice

Year of Conference: 2018

Acceptance date: 31/03/2018

Publisher: Newcastle Business School, Northumbria University