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Thoughts on Mentoring

Jun 18th 2020
Owner FitBooks Pro
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As we watch what is happening around the world right now, following the murder of George Floyd in May, companies large and small are making statements on how they want to support improvements in race relations and inequalities. 

I’ve been asking myself the question: What can we as bookkeepers and accountants do to help make a difference in combating systemic racism? The answer is mentoring. 

Mentoring is defined as: Advising or training someone, especially a younger colleague. 

When we attend bookkeeping and accounting conferences, what do we see? According to DATA USA 2018 data, Accountants and Auditors in the U.S. are 75 percent White, 12 perccent African American, 6 percent Asian and the rest are “Other.” What does it feel like at a conference to look around the room and not see yourself reflected in the faces around you? Most of us cannot answer that question, as it does not apply to us. 

If we want to encourage more diversity within our ranks, we need to be the change. Here are five questions which come to my mind when considering mentoring:

1.  How Do I Learn to Become a Mentor?

Intuitively, it feels like a mistake to sit down with a mentee without having a plan of what you want to achieve or a roadmap of where you want to go. Intentions, goals and expectations need to be set.

There are many books on mentoring, too many titles to try to list here. Do your own Google search and see what appeals to you. In my searching, I found there is not always a clear distinction between coaching and mentoring. In my mind, one distinction is coaching is a service offered for payment and mentoring is something offered for free.

I decided to Google “what is the different between coaching and mentoring” and found this useful summary from smallbiztrends.com: “Mentoring is a long-term process based on mutual trust and respect. Coaching, on the other hand, is for a short period of time. Mentoring is more focused on creating an informal association between the mentor and mentee, whereas coaching follows a more structured and formal approach.”

2.  How Do I Find People to Mentor?

If you are considering being a mentor, how do you find someone to mentor? Initial thoughts include contacting the local community college or university; ask friends and fellow business owners; contact the local chamber of commerce or small business center.

Another thought: Perhaps I’ve spent time learning how to become a mentor, but has my student spent time learning how to be a mentee? The mentor-mentee exchange is a two-way street. Each person has a role to fulfill and it’s not just one person pouring into a cup, and another receiving what’s poured in - some relationship building must also occur.

3.  How Do I Develop a Mentoring Curriculum? 

When you get to the stage when you’ve read up on how to mentor, and you’ve found a mentee, now what? You will want a playbook for what topics you’re going to cover, how long to spend on each topic, etc. In my mind, this includes not only discussions about how to start and run a bookkeeping or accounting practice, but also tackling difficult subjects of race, gender and income inequality. The plan may just be a general outline of topics to cover, it does not have to be a classroom lesson with PowerPoint slides. As you meet and work and grow together, you will develop a rhythm. 

4.  How Do I Encourage Others to Mentor?

It’s not enough for corporations or businesses of any kind to put out statements about their commitment to diversity, they also have to put their money where their mouth is. To me, this goes beyond making donations to non-profit or other organizations; it also must include actions they are taking within their own walls to build a more diverse workforce.

This can include implementing their own mentoring programs, scholarship programs, opportunities for BIPOC, and more. And as consumers, we have the opportunity to ask the vendors whose products we use what they are doing internally to provide more than just lip service. 

Encourage mentoring at places where you work and where you shop. When you think about buying a product or service, or even subscribing to an app, you can ask yourself, “Is this company contributing to a solution?” Perhaps this very question can be one of the qualifying criteria to add to a list when vetting a new vendor or app.

5.  What Can I Do Today?

If you are interested in mentoring, but now think you can’t start until you’ve done a lot of background work, don’t let that stop you. Today you can email or call the contact at your local bank, or the vendors you work with like Intuit or Xero, Bill.com or ReceiptBank, ADP or Paychex, the AICPA or AIPB, and ask them: “What is your company/organization doing to improve diversity internally?” or “Do you  have a mentoring program? If not, are you considering starting one?” Let’s ask our conference organizers to have sessions on mentoring and to develop mentoring programs.

The more people who ask these questions, the more people who will see there are means at their disposal, right now, to make a positive and meaningful difference.

Conclusion

There are many different kinds of mentoring. Mentoring can be a younger person mentoring an older worker on technology, or an older worker mentoring someone just out of school, new to the company, or returning from military service.

Perhaps a colleague can reach out to a co-worker who keeps getting passed up for promotion, or needs help with their sales or presentation skills. If you want to be a mentor or a mentee, consider seeking someone outside of your regular circle. If you are from one background, consider collaborating with someone from a different background.

Finally, let’s consider that mentoring does not have to be one-to-one, it could be many-to-one. If you are part of a bookkeeping or accounting networking group, the whole group could agree to mentor someone. The group can divvy up the curriculum and share the work, which also means they will share the feel-good of helping someone else, to make a difference in our society. 

I will be spending more time thinking about mentoring and will share additional thoughts in the future.

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Jody Linick is an AIPB Certified Bookkeeper, a QuickBooks® Certified Pro Advisor, and a member of the Intuit Trainer/Writer network.  Her company, FitBooks Pro (formerly called Linick Consulting), specializes in remote bookkeeping services for professional services firms using QuickBooks Online. You can find her series of Blog posts here.

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By SkinnVinny
Jun 19th 2020 19:06

There is no "systemic racism" in accounting that needs to be "combated". If blacks make up 12% of accountants and auditors, that is pretty much in line with their composition of the general population. For some reason, the death of one black man (who was no saint, by any means, although he didn't deserve to die) at the hands of a white police officer is being extrapolated to "systemic racism". Blacks kill other blacks to the tune of around 10,000/year, on average. Whites killed by blacks tend to be swept under the carpet and get little publicity. All this "sensitivity analysis" isn't really helping race relations.

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Seth2016
By Seth Fineberg
Jun 19th 2020 19:14

Thank you for your thoughts, Vinny. This is an open forum and all ideas are of course welcome, provided everything remains civil. The point of the blog was just to say how as a profession, we could do better. Recent events only put more of a spotlight on ourselves as people, and yes the profession too. If you think the issue itself has to do with one incident, this is the larger problem in our country that needs addressed and why there is activism. But, for our profession, the facts are it could be more diverse and mentoring is one way the author suggests doing so.

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