I’ve benefited from mentors myself at key moments during my long Civil Service career. Often at important transition points and sometimes helping in longer term planning. So I know that at its most powerful, the right mentor at the right time can help people reframe the way they think about themselves, their capabilities and aspirations; or simply provide exactly the right constructive challenge about the next step.
I know that I may not have stepped up into the SCS without these relationships – that’s why I was drawn to mentoring myself, so that I can in turn sometimes be the right mentor at the right time for others. I’ve done lots of mentoring for both Crossing Thresholds and more widely (randomly!) and it’s always very rewarding and interesting insight into different individuals and the different roles and organisations they work in.
In my experience, it works best when expectations between mentor and mentee are aligned on issues like the objectives and scope of the relationship. Although I’m not a very structured person in most areas of life, I’ve learned that a mentoring relationship is most fruitful when there is some structure around it: for example an agreed schedule of meetings in both diaries and an idea in advance of each meeting about what might be discussed. The latter is especially helpful from my point of view as it gives me the chance to really think about how I’ll approach the discussion through the lens of what is important to my mentee at that time.
In the best mentoring relationships, I’ve felt able to share my challenges and uncertainties with my mentee and it’s always good to have someone outside my world to help me put these in perspective. All in all, if there’s a downside to mentoring, I haven’t found it yet!