Why become a mentor?
There are many definitions of what a mentor is. In my mind, a mentor offers their experience and expertise to a less experienced mentee, to help aid (and often speed up) their development. I’ve been mentoring for a number of years in both a formal and informal capacity. There are benefits to both the mentor and mentee. Personally, I gain a great deal of pleasure in seeing my mentees grow in their career, especially where I have helped to make that happen.
Why become a mentee?
It’s a great way of furthering your career, widening your network and ultimately getting (free) advice which may not be available or suitable to get from your manager. The mentees I have worked with are usually those people who are the first to put their hand up and take opportunities when presented to progress their career. It’s a big commitment, but one that mentees prioritise and make time for as they can instinctively see the benefits.
What does it take to be a mentor?
First and foremost a passion for helping people. I started out as what I would call an ‘enthusiastic amateur’ offering to mentor past employees who had asked for my advice after moving jobs. Having enjoyed taking on that role, I looked into developing my own understanding of both mentoring and coaching (there are clear differences!) and more recently gained my CMI Level 7 Coaching and Mentoring certificate. It’s taken me a number of years to take this step, and I wouldn’t say that’s necessary to start with, but it’s always good to get a better understanding of the different roles and techniques which can be employed to get the best out of the relationship.
What is the most rewarding part of the relationship?
Seeing those I’ve mentored progress in their career. Sometimes this happens very quickly, and other times it is a slow burn which can take a number of years to come to fruition. Either way, it’s thoroughly enjoyable seeing your mentee develop and put into place the steps they have discussed with you. I tend to offer to keep in touch with mentees, should they want to continue with the relationship. I have some mentees I have been working with (informally) for a number of years, though every mentor/mentee relationship will be different, with requirements that may need different periods of time.
What challenges you faced together?
The biggest challenge for any mentee is time management, e.g. making adequate time to consider what they are trying to achieve, and then how they are going to do that. It sounds, and should be simple, but with most roles now being all consuming, it’s still difficult for people to achieve. A tip I try and give my mentees is to focus on prioritisation and communication. Understanding what is most important on your ‘to-do’ list, working out how much time is required and then communicating effectively if there are elements on the list which won’t be completed within expected timescales. There is nothing worse than overpromising and underdelivering.
How has being a mentor surprised and/or changed you?
I love being a mentor, but one of the areas I’ve had to work on is not driving the relationship. The driving force in the relationship should always be the mentee, as ultimately it is their career. It’s the same in an employee/manager relationship. Often I’ve had employees come to me without a clear plan in terms of what they want to achieve and instead expecting me to help lay out their career path. Those who tend to develop themselves, and hence progress in their careers, have thought about where they want to get to, and how they are going to achieve that. In these instances, a mentor can really help to bring that plan to life, and ideally speed up that progression.
Describe the typical work you do with a mentee on the Lloyd’s market Mentoring programme.
The Lloyd’s Advance mentoring programme is tailored to developing women in Lloyd’s. It’s a fairly unique 6-month programme with the aim of improving the pipeline of female talent within the Lloyd’s Market. As well as support from a mentor, mentees on the programme also get access to a modular based development programme and wider networking opportunities. I’ve been a mentor on the last two programmes and have thoroughly enjoyed widening my own network with the Lloyd’s market, whilst working with some very driven and talented women.
Do you have (or have you had) a mentor yourself?
As contradictory as it may sound, I haven’t had a formal mentor, although I think that is largely because I use a wide network of ex-colleagues/senior people I’ve met over time to discuss a range of subjects with. As well as my role as Head of Internal Audit, I’m also involved as a Governor at the school my children attend, a Treasurer at a small local charity and also heavily involved in the Law Society Rugby Club. I’ve always felt this provides me with access to a diverse range of backgrounds, opinions and thought processes. Reaching out to the right people, at the right time, has helped me to develop my own career.
Is mentoring only for experienced people, or can younger, less experienced people also be mentors?
I think the key to being a good mentor is having passion about developing and helping people to thrive. That being said, a mentor should be able to provide insight/challenge that often comes with experience. For example, a discussion topic which tends to come up on a regular basis is dealing with difficult stakeholders. Whilst most of us have dealt with this situation in our careers, those who have worked at a number of organisations, with different personalities, will be best placed to offer advice on how to navigate the exact situation the mentee is facing.
“Reverse” mentoring can also be beneficial, where the more senior person is the mentee and the junior person takes on the role of mentor. Even the most senior and experienced person can use this method to get broader perspectives on what’s going on in the “outside” world and to engage with junior staff when both might otherwise rarely get the opportunity.
How do you describe your personal style?
I see myself as being a very open communicator, with a collaborative management style. While it is helpful for a mentor and mentee to ‘get along’ it’s not always important. Ultimately, as a mentor you’re not there to become friends with your mentee (though this often happens, as you would expect), but to help them develop and further their career. That being said, I think the most productive mentor/mentee relationships I have had, see both parties complement one another in terms of personalities and styles.
How and where do you find inspiration?
People doing extraordinary things, up against challenges that make my own ‘issues’ feel rather small. A good example would be the former Scotland Rugby Union player Doddie Weir, who, following a diagnosis of motor neurone disease in 2017, went on to set up a foundation which continues to raise funds to find a cure for the disease. On a more personal level, close friends of mine, Daniel and Patricia Lewi, set up the Cure and Action for Tay Sachs Foundation (CATS Foundation) following their daughter being diagnosed with Tay Sachs in 2011. Although they knew that the charity would ultimately not save their daughter (who sadly passed away from the disease in 2017, at the age of 8) they wanted to set it up to provide support for families who would go through the same journey they had been, while also raising money to one day find a cure. When I compare their resolve to my own daily issues, they all of a sudden don’t seem too bad. The pandemic has provided a number of challenges for all concerned, though I try to use examples like these to highlight both human adversity, and also to provide perspective. I am naturally a glass half full person, and hence always try and take the good out of any situation.
Any books your mentees should read?
I’m not the biggest reader of books, instead reading articles on a subject which interests me. However there are some good reads out there. As a starter, have a look at:
These, and other similar books really help you to put things into perspective and focus on what is important. Aligning that to a formalised (and documented – I am an auditor after all!) plan should help you achieve your aims quicker.
How do you balance your home and work life - and how do they fit in with your mentoring?
I’m a big advocate of flexible working and think working between 2 and 3 days in the office is a great balance. I’m an early riser and tend to log on first thing to get through my emails/set myself up for the day. That way I can then help get the kids dressed and off to school. I tend to focus most of my meetings between 9.00am and 3.00pm, which means I don’t have any background noise (when working from home) as a distraction, and I can then focus on helping with the kids when they come home. I was always told at school that I needed to slow down, which at the time was about right (I’m sure I could have got better grades if I concentrated more!). However now that works in my favour, enabling me to be involved in a number of areas of interest, not just work and home life.
At first, I thought the pandemic and in particular working from home, would make mentoring more difficult, as I’m a big believer in meeting people face-to-face. However, the past two Lloyd’s Advance programmes have all been conducted online (although I have managed to meet my mentees in person over the course of the year) and as everyone is now used to Teams/Zoom, I don’t believe there has been an adverse effect on either side.
Do you have what it takes to be a mentor? Or are you looking for a mentee?
Then the Lloyd’s Market Mentoring programme may be the perfect platform for you.
Find out more on how to get involved with the Lloyd’s mentoring programme here.