Mentoring is something we hear about, read about or maybe practice but it is, in my estimation, still an under-utilised and under-estimated tool. But for those who have experienced the power and benefits of being mentored they understand the value and changes it can make to your life.
For women the term ‘glass ceiling’ is regularly used when talking about equality and opportunities in the work place, even Hillary Clinton used the phrase in her post-election speech.
‘Now, I know we have still not shattered that highest and hardest glass ceiling, but someday someone will — and hopefully sooner than we might think right now.
And to all of the little girls who are watching this, never doubt that you are valuable and powerful and deserving of every chance and opportunity in the world to pursue and achieve your own dreams.’
Not everyone has the same glass ceiling though and for many women it can stand for a variety of challenges; from just being respected and listened to, to stepping back into the work environment after having a family, being promoted, or starting up their own business. Whatever the situation; encouragement, self-confidence and positive support is what is fundamentally needed.
For me being mentored and becoming a mentor was something that happened organically. I have always been open to ideas, keen to learn and strive for improvement. So throughout my life both in social and work environments I have engaged with people who I now recognise inspired me and were independent thinkers. I wasn’t actively seeking mentors as such but looking back I realise that is exactly what they were to me.
For many women today there is still a steep hill to climb within the corporate/business world with many females failing to reach their potential or feeling bold enough to strive out independently. They need mentoring support and guidance to help them develop, improve and achieve. Why don’t they get it? A combination of reasons: Lack of understanding of what mentoring entails, trepidation of asking for help, limited time, and fear of passing on the secrets of success – disappointingly there are some men and women who having experienced a level of success can feel threatened by those younger or new to the business that want to progress their careers. They will actively not take on mentees in fear of passing on what they consider their secrets to success. Sadly, of course, this attitude is unproductive and detrimental to equality in the workplace.
A lesson I learned is that a successful leader or entrepreneur will ensure they have a strong team in place to support them and this means offering training, coaching and mentoring.
So how did I get into Mentoring?
While working for the beauty brand Liz Earle Cosmetics alongside the founders, the two incredibly inspirational women Liz Earle and Kim Buckland, I came into contact with the Prince’s Trust. At the same time I headed up a large diverse team of people and I found that for many, I wasn’t just leading them but mentoring them. So when as a company we partnered the Prince’s Trust on their Tomorrow Campaign which took mentees from various industries and put them with an industry leader to act as a mentor, I suddenly became very aware of the power of mentoring and the difference it can make.
This experience really struck a chord so several years later after starting my own consultancy and considering doing some charity work; I received an email from the Prince’s Trust searching for mentors. I duly put my name forward and as they say the rest is history. I just knew I wanted to give something back and for me the young need as much support as possible they are the future.
What I do know that is to be mentored successfully you have to want to grow either personally or professionally. You need to be open to new ideas, want to learn and be flexible to change. And to be a good mentor you need to be positive, a good listener as well as a good communicator, but above all be able to ask questions that engage and encourage. It’s all about confidence building , inspiring others and respect.
Mentoring is certainly not all one way and it is not about telling someone what to do. Again as a business or individual I encourage people to look at their ideas and themselves in a different way. Pointing out fresh angles they may not have considered in a positive way, setting them on a journey with the right tools and knowledge to achieve their goals.
One of the things I have found about mentoring is how revitalised I feel at the end of every session and inspired I am by those I meet, it reminds me how important it is to keep pushing myself too.
And when you get comments like this one I received from Annie Ridout you realise how worthwhile it is for both mentor and mentee.
‘Having Tracy as my mentor (through The Prince’s Trust) has helped to turn my business around. I started The Early Hour – an online culture and lifestyle magazine – in September and by January Tracy was onboard, giving me incredibly helpful branding advice. There’s amazing energy between us when we meet up to talk and brainstorm, and I feel emotionally supported. Having someone wiser and more experienced listen, advise and guide is invaluable. The Early Hour is now read by thousands of people each day and has been featured in The Guardian and The Times… Without Tracy’s help, I wouldn’t be where I am today.’
As a mentor and having been mentored (and continue to be so) I understand the power and effect of both and am delighted to be spreading the word and hopefully demystifying and deformalising the definition of ‘mentorship’. Being asked to write articles for Our Edit, The Early Hour and recently Good Housekeeping, offering hands on advice through the Prince’s Trust and my own business, I hope to help as many women and young people as possible to inspire them to achieve their dreams and ambitions.
I’ll finish with comments by two highly successful women on mentoring:
Val DiFebo, CEO of Ad Agency Deutche New York. “Having a mentor is one of the most valuable things you can do in your career.”
Alex von Tobel, startup founder and Presidential Ambassador for Global Entrepreneurship said when asked for her advice to other young entrepreneurs. “Get mentors.”