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Tom Beedham from Criticaleye asks what is the benefit of a successful mentoring relationship and what exactly does a great mentor-mentee dynamic look like?

Criticaleye recently hosted our flagship annual event for senior HR executives – The Human Resources Director Retreat 2017. This gathering of HR leaders covered a number of topics, from workforce productivity to how technology is reshaping the role and value of HR. Similarly, when it comes to leadership development, the topic of mentoring was highlighted at this event – what is the benefit of a successful mentoring relationship and what exactly does a great mentor-mentee dynamic look like?

Here at Criticaleye, we believe that true and effective mentoring can only be delivered by someone who has been at the coalface of leadership themselves. How can anyone advise a senior executive on points of strategy unless you have walked in their shoes and faced similar issues? An executive coach may be able to instruct based on knowledge of best practice, but a good mentor should combine this with a deep-seated understanding of the realities of leadership to provide a more credible, more challenging and more inspired perspective.

Within our Community we see the tangible benefits of exceptional mentor-mentee relationships every day, but it can be hard to articulate why these relationships work so well. Understanding the bond between mentor and mentee is key for any successful HR Director who wants to make their impact on the leadership team. And although mentoring isn’t for everyone, or indeed needed at every stage of an executive’s career, speaking to someone who has achieved what you want to achieve, or overcome the challenges you are facing, can have a significant impact on both personal and professional success.

What is mentoring?

At its most basic level, mentoring allows leaders to accelerate their learning curve and avoid common mistakes. Beyond this, it provides a unique platform and the tools to fix problems as they arise. For example, it’s common for executives to be intently focused on strategy and operations, so much so that they’re blinded to the environment beyond their own organisation. Mentoring is really about getting leaders to shift their perspective. It allows them the time and space to dissect issues and prioritise which problems need solving from a mind swamped with operational tasks.

Similarly, having conversations with someone who is not involved in your business also means you can examine issues without the emotional conflict or bias often found in the boardroom. A leader may wish to have confidential conversations with their mentor about relationships with colleagues. After all, failure to elicit change or drive results is rarely down to bad ideas but rather the inability to engage or inspire others. Feedback on how you communicate from an external mentor can greatly improve how you deliver messages and how well they are received. When asked about the impact of having a Criticaleye Board Mentor, one CEO told us that despite great relationships with his Chairman and senior team, there was always an edge to these conversations and his mentor offered an avenue to have truly open and honest dialogue helping to establish how he would communicate within the business.

Best practice

The key to a successful mentoring relationship is that you get out what you put in. You can’t just give a mentor an hour of your time and expect solutions – it’s about having time to discuss and reflect then turning those reflections in objectives and measurable targets.

A good mentee will come to the relationship with an open mind, honesty and the willingness to adapt. Failure to take this approach means they are likely to repeat the same behaviours they are looking to address and remain firmly on the same track. A mentor must be interested in developing and helping others to succeed. They are not there to push their views or tell the mentee what to do, but rather allow them to work out the best approach for themselves.

A mentor doesn’t need to be from the same sector as their mentee but they should have been through a similar and relatable experience. You’ll also need a rapport so that, over time, you can build trust and respect – two crucial elements to a good mentoring relationship. In our experience, by the end of the mentoring process – and that varies depending on the people and issues at hand – most mentors and mentees have developed a unique and highly valued bond.

In a world where change and disruption is the norm rather than the exception, at Criticaleye we believe the value of mentoring will become even more apparent.

Tom Beedham, Director of Programme Development, Criticaleye

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