It would be easy to think that only junior members of staff benefit from or need access to a mentor. In fact, at SThree we believe that mentoring is a valuable resource at any stage in a person’s career.
Matt Mackenzie, Business Manager at SThree brand Real in London, has been at SThree for nine years, and in that time has successfully built a five-person team up to one of 26. Matt wanted to continue the positive progress in his career, and felt that now was the time to use the skills and experience of someone more senior in the company to help him achieve that, so he asked for a mentor.
“For me it was so that I could have someone that I could talk to that wasn’t in my immediate management team, someone I could get advice from, to run ideas past and know that all those conversations would be confidential,” he explains.
A successful partnership
There are various aspects that make a successful mentor/mentee partnership. For Matt it was crucial that his mentor was someone who was more senior than he, who understood his part of the business, but was not an integral part of it. While some mentees prefer having a remote relationship, Matt wanted someone he could have face to face meetings with locally.
Andy Hallett is Commercial Director at SThree and fitted the bill perfectly.
“I meet with Andy once every six weeks or so and always out of the office,” says Matt. “In our first session we talked about the rules of engagement and agreed on what we both wanted to get out of it.
“Once we had established that, our meetings centred on stuff I wanted help with, and me coming away with a list of actions. I’m often asking Andy how he would deal with a certain situation, and getting ideas I may not have thought of myself.
“Another benefit of having Andy as my mentor is that I had identified a development area for myself, which was to improve my understanding of commercial decisions. As this is the area that Andy works in, I have been able to learn so much more.”
In fact, Matt has found that Andy is a very useful sounding board for working through all aspects of his personal development plan.
“We have worked through them one by one,” explains Matt. “Those are effectively my promotion targets; we always talk about my targets and how I get there.
“Seeing Andy on a regular basis makes me a better team manager,” adds Matt. “He’s given me so much advice on how to handle difficult situations, key things like how to build an effective management team. These are the sorts of things that will help me achieve the next level.”
Andrew Chown is Associate Director, Talent Acquisition in New York, and is also one of Andy’s mentees. One of the overriding benefits, according to Andrew, is the extra motivation and accountability that having a mentor brings:
“I feel more accountable. If I talk to Andy about something he expects me to back it up with actions. That really motivates me.”
Unlike Matt, Andrew wanted someone outside of his country of operation.
“I had a good relationship with the senior people around me anyway,” he explains. “Someone really far removed from my business brings an external point of view. If there are things that are frustrating me I can tell him, and he will give an unbiased view on what he thinks is happening and how to deal with it. That’s one of the massive benefits; anything that I say to him is completely confidential and I have real faith in that.
“I have implemented many of the ideas that we have come up with together and I’ve already seen a few wins.”
It is up to you what you make of it
Andrew’s view is that, whilst SThree successfully lays the ground work for the scheme, including tips on how to make it work to its full potential, it then leaves the relationship up to you.
“I think that is important. You have to want to do it and you have to have goals to get out of it,” he says. “This mentor is someone who is exceptionally busy, who has his or her own day job, which is not going to be an easy thing. They are giving up their time to help. It makes me feel very valued as employee."
Both Andrew and Matt have encouraged their team members to ask for a mentor, and Matt has put himself forward as a mentor and hopes to get his first mentee soon.
A mentor’s view
Andy Hallett is a mentor for three SThree employees, and embarked on his time as a mentor after hearing how rewarding some of team members had found the programme.
He explains: “Hearing my team talk about the benefits they got from the mentor/mentee relationship was really inspiring. One of the drivers for me was the opportunity to impart some of my experience but also provide an objective point of view to the challenges these individuals were facing.
“It’s a positive thing to do for the mentees, for yourself and for the business.”
The benefits mentees receive – as Andrew and Matt proved – are vast, yet mentors also reap the rewards.
“It really ups your game,” agrees Andy, “when you’re coaching someone through an issue, you have to assess the situation, talk it through with them, coach them on the next steps and advise them on the approach. When your advice could impact how they work, it really focuses your thinking.
“You learn from your own advice, and from the differing opinions and approaches of the mentees, too. It gives you an insight into other people’s roles and areas of the business, which is interesting, and also gives me some insight into how I am perceived as a director – which is really valuable. I’ve definitely learnt a lot from the experience and benefitted enormously.”
Being a mentor is challenging, says Andy, but its return on the time invested is immeasurable. When advice has been followed, and the effects seen, it is a moment of great pride for the mentee you’re coaching. “It’s important to note that the programme is entirely voluntary – to me, it’s a great sign if someone enters the programme because it shows they want to grow, and improve. It shows they’re engaged and enthusiastic in their role and the company.
“When you hear positive things about your mentees in a meeting, it’s great – it’s a moment of real pride – you’re just really pleased they’ve delivered and are seizing the opportunities available to them.”
Find out more about how other employees experienced our mentoring programme by reading Nicolette’s and Natali’s story.