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A qualitative study on the effects of mentoring on the performance of female business owners in metropolitan Atlanta

ProQuest Dissertations and Theses, 2009
Author: Claudia G Barnett
This phenomenological study describes the effects of mentoring relationships on performance, from the perspective of 12 selected female business owners were unexposed and exposed to a mentoring experience. Through the experience of possible underlying themes, specific techniques along with several facets of a mentoring relationship were revealed. The identification of key characteristics that partnered with personal and professional development made noteworthy contributions to the meaning of mentoring relationships. As a result, this distinctiveness would ultimately have an effect on the individuals' level of performance. Through the interview process, mentees highlighted the various aspects of influence of the mentoring relationship. Although the mentoring relationships strength outweighed the hindrances, the findings are helpful for the establishment of future mentoring programs, and have implications for positive retention and performance of mentees. The findings of the research exposed the need for additional inquiry that considers the quality and focal point of mentoring relationships, and its overall influence on the performance of the female business owner.

vi Table of Contents Acknowledgments iv List of Tables ix List of Figures x CHAPTER 1. INTRODUCTION 1 Statement of the Problem 3 Purpose of the Study 5 Significance of the Study 5 Goals of the Research Study and Research Questions 7 Definition of Terms 7 Assumptions and Limitations 8 Conceptual Framework 10 Theoretical Framework 13 Organization of the Remainder of the Study 16 CHAPTER 2. LITERATURE REVIEW 17 Introduction 17 Exploring the World of Business Ownership 18 Types of Mentoring Received 23 Techniques of Mentoring That Aid in Performance Effectiveness 29 Summary 32 CHAPTER 3. METHODOLOGY 35 Introduction 35 Methodological Framework 36

vii Phenomenological Research 36 Design of the Study 39 Study Overview 40 Instruments 42 Sample Design 43 Data Collection 45 Ethical Considerations 47 Data Analysis 48 Validity and Credibility 49 Limitations of the Methodology 49 Expected Findings 50 CHAPTER 4. DATA COLLECTION AND ANALYSIS 52 Introduction 52 Data Collection 52 Analysis of Demographic Data 53 Review of the Research Process 60 Responses to the Research Questions 61 Major Themes 63 Results of the Research Questions 75 Summary 78 CHAPTER 5. RESULTS, CONCLUSIONS, AND RECOMMENDATIONS 80 Summary of the Study 80 Discussion 81

viii Summary of Categories 82 Conclusions 83 Implications of the Findings 86 Limitations of the Study 87 Recommendations for Further Research and Practice 88 Concluding Remarks 89 REFERENCES 90 APPENDIX A. MENTORSHIP DEMOGRAPHIC PREFERENCE/ PERFORMANCE QUESTIONNAIRE 103 APPENDIX B. GUIDELINE QUESTIONS FOR INTERVIEWS 105 APPENDIX C. KEY FINDINGS OF THE INTERVIEW QUESTIONS 107

ix List of Tables Table 1. Research Participants in Their Professional Roles 57 Table 2. Synopsis of Questions Asked During the Research Interview 62 Table 3. Participants’ Comments 76 Table 4. Participants’ Comments, Part 2 77

x List of Figures Figure 1. Human performance technology (HPT) model 12 Figure 2. Pershing’s performance improvement process 14 Figure 3. A performer-centered HPT model 41 Figure 4. Age range of the participants 54 Figure 5. Marital status and ethnicity of participants 54 Figure 6. Educational levels of participants 55 Figure 7. Salary range of participants 56 Figure 8. Career years vs. business ownership 58 Figure 9. Length of time in mentoring relationship 59 Figure 10. Gender preferences of the research participants 66


In Greek mythology, Mentor is mentioned in the book The Odyssey written by Homer. Mentor was the tutor of Telemachus, Odysseus’s son when he is absent, fighting the Trojan War. According to Bell (1996) and Clawson (1980), a mentor is characterized as an individual that provides wise and sensitive counsel to groom Telemachus to become king. Even though the concept of mentoring has been investigated and researched throughout history, it is in recent times that practical recommendations have been presented to include the improvement of mentoring relationships. D. J. Levinson, Darrow, Klein, Levinson, and McKeen (1978) discussed the effects of mentoring. Mentoring has been defined as an interpersonal exchange (that can be intense at times) between a senior or experienced colleague (mentor) and the less experienced junior colleague (protégé or mentee). Mentoring is also a relationship where the mentor offers direction, support and feedback regarding career plans and personal development. On this journey, the mentor and mentee embark on this quest together. Jayne (2003) stated that mentors or coaches can act as an objective sounding board by providing direct honest feedback on their decisions, actions, and behaviors highlighting their ability to have specific business or industry knowledge. In many situations, mentors offer feedback and guidance in career development which relate more to the aspirations or the need for specific knowhow. Ultimately, this journey allows these individuals (mentors and mentees) to arrive at a destination that is viewed as professional excellence (Haley-Andrews, 2001).

2 In recent years, mentoring is considered as a relationship that is theorized to evolve through several stages over a period of time (Kram, 1985). Kram’s research has sequenced mentoring into four phases: initiation, cultivation, separation, and redefinition. Through these stages, there are additional factors that are to be considered that influence mentor–mentee relationships. In particular, demographic variables are some of the important aspects which affect this relationship. Through the research process, there have been classes of predictors of mentoring that have been given attention. Some of these variables include protégé or mentee demographic characteristic such as age, sex, socioeconomic origin and work involvement. Educational attainment, career path and chronological age have also been an area of research. Kanter (1977) noted that protégés are usually younger than their mentors. Kram (1985) has discussed that at times there can be special problems involved with the establishment of mentors being the same age as the protégés. In this process, Dannafer (1982) highlighted the sociological and developmental theory which considers age as status characteristics associated with expectations regarding motives and behavior. Phillips-Jones (1982) found that traditional mentoring relationships were often cross- gender in composition. Again, in Kanter’s (1977) study, it is suggested that protégé socioeconomic origin may relate to mentoring. Blau and Duncan (1967) found that higher level managers tend to come from higher social class origins. Because of additional influences, it is expected that the socioeconomic origin of protégés are positively related to the amount of career mentoring received early in the career development phases, and as a result, will receive more mentoring.

3 Additional variables such as the work involvement can be related to the amount of mentoring received. Kram (1985) suggested that when involvement with work is a primary commitment, developmental relationships are more likely to include mentor relationships. Previous studies conducted by Dublin (1956) stated that work involvement consists of psychological identification with work, in which work plays a central and important role in a person’s life. Noe (1988) reflected on this and other aspects, such as gender, career attitudes, and amount of time spent with mentors, that have been explored. Psychosocial and quality of mentoring were some of the benefits gained from mentorship. Earlier studies have revealed that women reported receiving significantly more psychosocial benefits from the mentoring relationship than did men (Noe, 1988). In the study conducted by Burke and McKeen (1997), women received more feedback when their mentors were in direct supervision and reported more sponsorship functions. Also, women at higher organizational levels reported more appropriate emotional distance in their mentorship, which resulted in more psychosocial functions. When cross-gender mentoring was explored, women at higher organizational levels and women with female mentors were more involved in their jobs.

Statement of the Problem Researchers (Brush & Gatewood, 2008; Center for Women’s Business Research, 2006) have presented data highlighting the rate of female business ownership increasing their level of success; however, there are no particular research studies that indicate that

4 specific mentoring techniques have a direct effect on the performance of this population, specifically in metropolitan Atlanta. Reviews of feminine perspective of business ownership (Bird & Brush, 2002; Marlow & Patton, 2005) have uncovered the strengths of responsibility. While there are several variables that can be considered that exist, there are numerous factors that contribute to the vast comparison with their male counterpart business owners. In a recent study conducted by Eddleston and Powell (2008), the differences of corporate ownership of men and women highlighting specific gender differences were noted. Although there have been studies that research the impact of mentoring, along with mentoring relationships (Wanberg, Kammeyer-Mueller, & Marchese, 2006), the mentorship of women business owners has never been researched with specific demographics that include the metropolitan Atlanta area. Schuck and Liddle (2004) have interviewed executive women about their experiences in general, which has focused on the use of coaching as a tool for growth. In support, there have been studies on management styles that have focused on the impact of mentoring along with its definition (Russell, 2004). However, none of the studies have focused specifically on the performance improvement methods and techniques that take place as a result of effective mentoring on women business owners in the metropolitan Atlanta area. This study has attempted to fill a gap in the research by describing the effects of mentoring that will aid in increased performance of women business owners in metropolitan Atlanta.

5 Purpose of the Study A review of the literature on mentoring includes numerous books, articles, and research studies. Each of the areas researched have limited, if any, data on the impact on performance of women business owners in metropolitan Atlanta. A study on the effects of mentoring on performance of women business owners can provide a road map for future women business owners to improve performance within their organization. The purpose of this study was to identify the impact of mentoring and mentoring relationships on the performance of female business owners in Atlanta. Through research, this study has described the variables and effects that mentoring has on performance from the perspective of the female business owner in metropolitan Atlanta.

Significance of the Study The area of mentoring and its effects on performance is of much interest to those who are self-employed (Rickard, 2003). Whitmore (1997) stated that “people should be seen in terms of their future potential, not their past performance” (p. 15). In this process, mentoring has been viewed as one of the major characteristics to promote personal and professional growth. Kram (1985) mentioned a basis for identifying the developmental support that mentoring relationships provide. He categorized them in two general categories career and psychosocial. Scandura (1992) identified three categories of mentoring which were career, psychosocial, and role modeling. However, women who are in a business environment often find it a bit challenging at times to develop or maintain mentoring relationships (Burke & McKeen, 1990). Women have climbed the corporate ladder and have proven independence by positioning themselves as the CEOs

6 of organizations (Gamble-Risley, 2007). Although these tasks have been achieved nationally as well as locally, there are questions that are asked such as, “How do I go about getting a mentor?” Although there was a consensus of recognition of a need, not all individuals had the opportunity to have a mentoring experience. As a result of the exploration of the mentoring experience and its effects, the goal of this research was to understand the mentor relationship and the significance that it has on the impact of performance for women who own and operate businesses in metropolitan Atlanta. The intended the outcome of this research was to assist women in increasing their level of performance improvement. Several studies have highlighted the psychological and educational effects of mentoring, the implications of mentoring as it relates to gender, and the different types of mentoring styles that exist. Although each of those areas have great significance, it is also important to highlight the effects of the mentoring relationship for those who are female business owners in the metropolitan area of Atlanta, Georgia. This study fills a gap in the research by providing information about the impact that mentoring has on women business owners, and the relationship to business performance that could be interpreted in some arenas as success. The results of this study provide information to strengthen the validity and increase the predictability of success for those individuals who look to establish a business in this geographic region, along with the highlighted benefits of mentoring relationships for those who are presently established in business.

7 Goals of the Research Study and Research Questions The intent of this qualitative research study was to explore the effects on performance that mentor relationships have on the businesses owned by women in metropolitan Atlanta. The following research questions have facilitated this research study: 1. What effect does mentoring have on the performance of female business owners in metropolitan Atlanta?

2. What specific mentoring techniques would positively influence performance of the female business owner in metropolitan Atlanta?

Definition of Terms The following terms are used throughout this study according to the definitions provided: Entrepreneurial success. Includes finances, venture sales, and financial returns in addition to an entrepreneur’s personality characteristics and organizational skills, and the influence of the venture on society as a whole (Rhodes & Butler, 2004). Mentee. The individual that is the recipient of mentoring (Darwin, 2000). Mentor. An individual usually older and always more experienced, who acts as a sponsor and role model helping and guiding another individual’s development (Darwin, 2000). Mentoring. An integrated approach that uses advising, coaching and nurturing to enhance an individual’s career and educational growth and development (C. Y. Young & Wright, 2001).

8 Mentoring relationship. One in which a more experienced person helps a less experienced organization member develop and advance at work (O’Neill, 2005). Metropolitan Atlanta. The ninth largest metropolitan area in the United States consists of 28 counties in Georgia (U.S. Census, 2000); in particular, for this study, the immediate surrounding counties nearest the City of Atlanta affected by urban or suburban sprawl. Performance. Operationally defined by business success which is determined by the mindset that top management brings to such diverse areas as strategy, planning and financial control, leadership and people development, performance management and use of information technology (Salz, 2005). Performance improvement. A method for analyzing performance problems and setting up systems to ensure good performance (The Prime Project, 2008). Protégé. An individual in the early stages of his or her career and has high aspirations (O’Neill, 2005). Psychosocial support. A key role in the success of individuals from an emotional support, social and coping skills support standpoint (Grant-Vallone & Ensher, 2000).

Assumptions and Limitations The core assumption in this proposed study is that mentoring has a positive effect on the female business owner in metropolitan Atlanta in relationship to performance. The researcher assumed that the participants were willing to contribute to the study and would openly discuss their mentoring experiences without fabrication or hesitation. The researcher also assumed that the disclosure of the researcher’s own mentoring

9 relationship would assist in establishing rapport between the researcher and the participants that would ultimately yield higher participation levels. This study has used purposive sampling, by which all types of women are involved, and not limited to any particular ethnicity or origin. By utilizing places and forums where female business owners gather such as symposiums, conferences, and local meetings certain elements of the population were included. It was necessary to limit the study to female business owners in metropolitan Atlanta to increase the efforts to address specific issues that effect this population. The research was limited by gender and geographic location, with the significance that the results cannot be generalized beyond sex or geographic location. Creswell (1994) mentioned that the goal of the qualitative research is to inquire through a process, understanding about a social or human problem with a base of holistic views formed with words, along with reporting the detailed views of the participants in a natural setting. This research study placed emphasis on obtaining an understanding of the subjects through the perspective of the words of others, their actions, and documented records. The participant base consisted of only women who had or currently had mentors while they operated their business in metropolitan Atlanta. The experiences of those women who did not have mentors were captured as well to make a comparison for evaluation purposes. In selecting the research population, no criteria other than gender, professional status and geographic location were extracted. Outside variables other than mentoring that may have influenced the participants’ professional and educational development along with socioeconomic status were considered to be included in the scope of this research.

10 Conceptual Framework There has been minimal theoretic development relating to mentoring, although there have been many studies conducted in recent years (A. M. Young & Perrewe, 2004). Some studies have effectively argued that mentoring relationships can be conceptualized with use of self-efficacy and the social exchange theory (Bandura, 1977). These studies have a foundation in economics and assume that individuals can form, preserve, or conclude relationships on the basis of the perceived ratio of benefits to costs (Ensher, Thomas, & Murphy, 2001). Even though social exchanges originally were to be developed as relationships among participants, this theory has evolved to a micro level at which general exchanges may occur among three or more participants (Hegstad, 1999). An example of this would be usually through dialogue exchange for example, where Participant B gives to Participant C in response to what Participant B received from Participant A. Characteristics are recognized and represented in mentoring by the stability that is displayed. Individuals who have been mentored feel a responsibility to mentor someone else (Allen, Russell, & Maetzke, 1997). Bandura (1975) stated that dependence along with power, are characteristics of the social exchange theory. Dependence takes place when an individual relies on another for power. Power is established from structural arrangements and is visible and evident when one individual relies on another for power. In addition, mentors who have achieved higher levels of education readily provide advice, acting on behalf of the mentee by sharing information in addition to the visible demonstration of support. From a social exchange perspective, mentees benefit from career development and educational

11 opportunities from mentors who provide them with a broad range of benefits (Ensher et al., 2001). Those who are mentored can in turn share their newfound knowledge with others providing newly shared information as well. Through this research study, the mentoring conceptual framework was defined by highlighting the characteristics and the benefits that are derived from the mentor–mentee relationship: Hegstad (1999) classified one of the benefits of mentoring to be psychosocial. These benefits can be characterized by an increased confidence, an enhanced self-image, structured career development, and exposed visibility. These benefits can be associated with the psychosocial support which is similar to the love/emotional component of the social exchange which Grant-Vallone and Ensher (1999) likened to the career development component with similarities to the status and information categories. There are other factors that can aid in the impact of the mentoring conceptual framework. Moderator variables, historically mentioned by Baron and Kenny (1986), are factors that influence the strength of the relationship between two variables. Examples of this can include demographics, age, and previous experiences. Other variables to be considered are same gender mentor relationships, and the implications thereof. The effects of mentorship were apparent, but opportunities for performance improvement were not that obvious. In the performance improvement process, a systematic technique is designed and implemented to improve performance. Addison (2004) linked business goals and strategies with those who were responsible for the achievement of goals. In contrast, the mentored relationship has similar characteristics.

12 With the performance improvement process being results-oriented, evaluations were performed. Being both formative and summative, assessments indicate how performance is to be improved. Through this research, various aspects and effects of mentorship has indicated the influence on performance. To illustrate this relationship, the human performance technology (HPT) model was used to show the performance improvement process when partnering with an organization.

Figure 1. Human performance technology (HPT) model. From Performance Improvement Interventions: Enhancing People, Processes, and Organizations Through Performance Technology (p. 9), by D. M. VanTiem, J. L. Moseley, and J. C. Dessinger, 2001, Silver Springs, MD: International Society for Performance Improvement. Copyright 2001 by International Society for Performance Improvement. Adapted with permission.

13 Although this is an illustration of the relationship between a consultant and client, the characteristics are similar in which a consultant (mentor) can use sequential steps to aid his or her clients (protégés) to achieve improved performance. Mentoring, like the performance improvement process is results based. The HPT specialist recognizes that performance improvement is not something done for organizations and their members; it is something that is done with them (Stolovitch & Keeps, 2006). The performance-improvement process designed by Pershing (2006) is an illustration of how a protégés may approach a mentoring relationship. They believe that they have problems (or inadequacies) and are aware that there are challenges, (areas for improvement) and believe that new opportunities will arrive (more knowledge, career development, etc.). As mentioned in Stolovitch and Keeps (2006), this process explains the steps in which performance is improved and ultimately achieved.

Theoretical Framework Creswell (2003) described strategies associated with qualitative approach in various types. In this study, the researcher identified the essence of the human mentoring experience (which is the phenomenon) as described by the participants of this study. The researcher viewed the social phenomena holistically, which provided a broader perspective of the study than limited detailed analysis. In research, Mertens (2003) mentioned that there is restricted information about the use of the theoretical lenses to study gender, race and ethnicity. Even though this is apparent, Creswell stated that in qualitative phenomenological research it is possible to go beyond description and theme identification, and to be able to continue into complex theme connections.


Figure. 2. Pershing’s performance improvement process. From Handbook of Human Performance Technology (p. 15), by J. A. Pershing, 2006, Silver Springs, MD: International Society for Performance Improvement. Copyright 2006 by International Society for Performance Improvement. Reprinted with permission.

Researchers (e.g., Brush & Gatewood, 2008; Gatewood, Carter, Brush, Greene, & Hart, 2003) have presented data highlighting the increase in female business ownership, there are no particular research studies that indicate specific mentoring techniques affect on performance of the female business owners in metropolitan Atlanta. Ragins (1997) conducted a model of diversified and homogeneous mentoring relationships. The composition of that study provides the general theoretical framework for this research. For a short period of time, this model proposes that the composition of the mentoring

15 relationship (same gender, cross-gender) influences the mentor functions provided which are career development, psychosocial benefits and role modeling, which, in turn, influence outcomes for the protégé. These areas of influence include job satisfaction, further career aspirations, and increased performance defined by business success. Ragins (1999) also noted that gender may be a key factor in diversified and homogeneous mentoring dyads. In Thomas’s (1988) study, the methodological problems of leadership and performance were highlighted in preceding research. Lieberson and O’Connor’s (1972) results showed that leaders had little impact on net earnings (profits) and sales, but a sizable impact on profit margins. As mentioned in Gall, Gall, and Borg (2003), research provides four types of knowledge which are descriptive, predictive, improvement, and explanation. Descriptive knowledge identifies what a phenomenon is and predictive knowledge identifies what a phenomenon is likely to do, while improvement knowledge identifies development or changes over time. Explanation knowledge incorporates description, prediction, and improvement knowledge to explain the phenomenon. In this study, descriptive and improvement knowledge were used. Descriptive knowledge includes details about form, structure, and changes over time and relationship to other phenomena. With the use of descriptive knowledge, the researcher is enabled to understand and describe the essence of human experiences and to ultimately explore the meanings given to these experiences (Huberman & Miles, 2002). Improvement knowledge identifies the effectiveness of the interventions by acknowledging the intervention factors that could be transformed into an intervention. Through research, an attempt is made to determine the effects of one or more

16 independent variables on one or more dependent variables. This type of knowledge can be used to substantiate one’s improvement (or success) through the use of multiple interventions. The results from this study may reveal information to the female executives with the additional justification to support the implementation of mentoring programs for women who desire to reach executive and ownership levels.

Organization of the Remainder of the Study The remainder of this research study is divided into four additional chapters with supporting appendixes. Chapter 2 includes a review of the literature as it relates to the historical and recent aspects of mentoring and mentoring relationships. In addition, the types of mentors that exist, characteristics of effective mentors, gender differences with specific aspects to mentoring women is also discussed. Factors such as the influences of education, career development, and its relationship to both mentoring and performance are reviewed. Chapter 3 includes the detailed methodology used in this study. Chapter 4 includes the findings of the data collected and analyzed. Chapter 5 contains the results of the study and presents the conclusions and the recommendations for future research in this area.


Introduction Mentoring has been defined as the act of imparting certain skills and traits to mentees that are desirable and need to be cultivated (Mason, 2003). In a study conducted by Ball State University (2008), it was noted that mentoring is also a joint effort that can be mutually beneficial in a partnership between a mentor who possesses a learned skill knowledge, and experience and a mentee who is looking to increase his or her knowledge and experience. In the competitive corporate arena, a workplace climate is of utmost importance. In this process, it is the creation of an environment that encourages growth in which learning is crucial. Zachary (2006) highlighted a model for mentoring excellence. There is great significance to those involved in the mentoring process. The role of the mentee and mentor, the learning process, along with the desired focus areas are of importance. Although formal management education is an important factor in the process of management development, informal learning and career planning are essential (Collin, 1979). When one considers mentoring, Whitmore (1997) stated, “We must see people in terms of their future potential, not their past performance” (p. 15). In the corporate and regular business sectors, the terminology mentoring has by and large become interchangeable with coaching. Hunt (2000) described mentoring as the provision of expert advice and guidance, taking members of the team under one’s wing and providing a role model which the team can aspire to being. Coaching is expressed as providing a development focus for new competencies, qualities, and ways of being team members.

Full document contains 120 pages
Abstract: This phenomenological study describes the effects of mentoring relationships on performance, from the perspective of 12 selected female business owners were unexposed and exposed to a mentoring experience. Through the experience of possible underlying themes, specific techniques along with several facets of a mentoring relationship were revealed. The identification of key characteristics that partnered with personal and professional development made noteworthy contributions to the meaning of mentoring relationships. As a result, this distinctiveness would ultimately have an effect on the individuals' level of performance. Through the interview process, mentees highlighted the various aspects of influence of the mentoring relationship. Although the mentoring relationships strength outweighed the hindrances, the findings are helpful for the establishment of future mentoring programs, and have implications for positive retention and performance of mentees. The findings of the research exposed the need for additional inquiry that considers the quality and focal point of mentoring relationships, and its overall influence on the performance of the female business owner.