Mentors provide a second opinion when issues and facts may be relatively clear…but decision options are ambiguous or not readily obvious.

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    You’re not sure how to attack a specific task you’ve never encountered. Your boss is away or too busy; or is testing you.

    No-one else in your organisation has ever dealt with the same issue. Your team is expecting you to lead with firmness and clarity. Deadlines are approaching fast… and targets and deliverables must be met.

    You’re going to make it this time somehow…but you know there has to be a better solution next time!

    It’s happened to me. Only once. I found a solution. A mentor.

    Clearly, the people in your business and industry should usually be the first port-of-call. But my rule is “pick the best” regardless of where they work.

    How do you do that?

    I rang a few colleagues. Networked around until I found someone with the experience and guidance track-record. And, started the process of building a relationship.

    I wish I’d had the opportunity at the time to talk to a mentor bank. An outfit that connected mentors and mentees. No-one did that. Now UNSW and others  do.

    There are plenty of other options. Maybe a retired former manager who understands the organisation and the issues. They have fantastic experience and can mentor  emerging leaders without threat.

    Maybe someone from a completely different  industry category who’s been through the mill; and has a strong positive reputation for the values and competencies you want to develop and exhibit.

    Consider mentors regardless of gender. You want to learn. Need to learn.

    Learn from the best right now.

    In the future, your mentoring needs might change. Then, you need the best mentor then.

    That’s the value of a mentor…best practice advice and guidance for leaders and teams who are wrestling with something new at that time.

    A trusted third party with an independent  and objective view and hands-on implementation experience.

    How do you prepare for a mentoring programme?      

    Well, it’s probably best to get some misunderstandings fixed upfront.

    Mentoring ain’t coaching. Mentoring is not concerned with everyday commercial operational management. Mentoring is not about holding someone’s hand through a difficult period.

    The reality?

    Mentoring adds layers of competency, justified confidence  and  applied judgement to the arsenal of skills and abilities you already have; albeit somewhat under-developed.

    Preparing for a worthwhile and value-filled mentoring experience is largely in the hands of the mentee. Goals need to be set. Timeframes need to be agreed realistically.

    Expectations need to be discussed. Skillgaps and capabilities and competencies need to be shared openly; otherwise how can you assess the improvement around strengths and weaknesses?

    Human Resources can play their part to keep the upward communications and feedback loops barrier-free and effective. In fact, they may even have programmes where mentoring progress is integrated into performance reviews.

    Top hacks for mentees?

    • Meet offsite. There’s no value gained through “closed office door” conferencing.
    • If you ask your mentor for advice, follow it.
    • An agenda can be useful; but chewing the fat with your mentor can expose gems.
    • Always pay your mentor promptly.
    • “Chatham House” rules are mandatory. Everything is “off-the-record” and confidential.
    • Never burn your bridges. Mentors are better connected than you.

    How to transform conversations into career transforming action?

    • Take notes
    • Propose action pathways with your boss
    • Do it
    • Be the best you can be
    • Share the outcomes upwards
    Period01 May 2018

    Media contributions


    Media contributions

    • TitlePublished by UNSW Alumni Connect Mentoring Programme
      DescriptionMay 2018
      PersonsPete Jeans