How to Maximise the Value of Mentoring

I was recently invited to be of a webinar panel discussion on the Importance of Mentoring at UKFast. UKFast host a series of webinars covering a range of business topics. Know+Do have been supporting Tech Manchester (a not for profit that aims to raise Manchester's profile as a world-class tech hub) with its business mentoring programme for the last 12 months. Working with 130+ individuals who want to operate as Tech Manchester business mentors has highlighted a level of confusion about what mentoring is and isn’t. There seems to be a range of different expectations related to the term ‘mentoring’.

The panel discussion explored some of the key aspects of mentoring and personal experiences of the panel. The panel was hosted by Arlene Bulfin (UK Fast), and consisted of Patricia Keating (Tech Manchester), Claire-Marie Boggiano (Lurig) and Lisa Murgatroyd (One Million Mentors) and myself.

All the individuals on the panel have experienced mentoring as individuals and were able to talk about the positive difference a good mentor can make. A distinction was noted around the difference between informal and formal mentoring. Members of the panel talked about support they have received in their various roles where an individual, normally older and more experienced, had provided them with informal mentoring along the way.  My own experience has been that a more formalised mentoring structure was much more powerful and impactful. I’d argue there’s a real value gained where there is a clear boundary and expectation around the overall process and a distinct start, middle and end to the relationship.

In my case, I experienced a shift in my view of mentoring when I approached someone to mentor me when I took over a Chair’s role for a health and social care organisation that required rebuilding from the ground up. The individual in question was a retired senior police officer who saw mentoring as a distinct formal relationship. The support I received was a game changer in how I viewed and now approach mentoring. This individual had clear ground rules for the mentoring to ensure that both of us got the best out of the relationship. Even though he offered to give his time freely he was conscious of placing limits of his time due to other commitments that were important to him. I never felt hurried throughout our meetings but each had a clear sense of purpose. There were actions agreed at the end of every session that were tracked. The formalisation of the process ensured that I was clear what the boundaries of the relationship were and how and when I could access my mentor, plus what was considered relevant to bring into each discussion. I learnt a tremendous amount through the process and was able to make a positive impact in the role. Since then I have always sought to formalise my mentoring opportunities as I believe it makes a much better impact.  

The panel also stated that mentoring in their opinion should be free at the point of access to the mentee. If someone was providing business advice and being paid for it then this potentially denotes a different relationship such as a Business Consultant or a Non-Executive Director role. It also potentially skews the relationship. A mentor should provide the opportunity for reflection and should help the mentee understand more about the situation and themselves.  The mentor can provide input from their knowledge and experience but shouldn’t be responsible for the performance management of the individual mentee.

The panel agreed that mentoring works across the age range. Lisa Murgatroyd from One Million Mentors talked about the work they are doing with young people to provide positive mentors that help develop youngsters to think differently and be supported. This can be a two-way relationship with older mentors learning from younger mentees. Each generation has different experiences, aspirations and ways of working and with five generations in the workplace this cross-fertilisation of ideas and experiences can be invaluable.

Finally, I think the panel was unanimous in its agreement that mentoring pays back for the mentor and the mentee. All of the panel shared experiences of how they’ve benefitted from mentoring and other support along the way and how they wanted to give back to help the next generation of individuals and businesses fuelling the Northern Powerhouse. Claire-Marie Boggiano from Lurig perhaps summed this up best as mentoring done well “gives you a warm fuzzy feeling” of satisfaction.

Feel free to contact us for more information on mentoring.