One2One mentoring article

We all need mentors to help us understand and navigate the unwritten software of senior executive life. As Ulysses left for Troy and asked Mentor to prepare his son telamachus to be king.

It’s hard to remember a time when I was without a mentor in my life; someone older and wiser who could give me independent advice but most of all would listen to me and help me think through the current challenge. As a student in high school and later university I always seemed to have access to wiser and more mature people who were not judgemental but enabled me to understand and accept responsibility for my mistakes.

As a young professional woman I valued the women in my school staff room who helped me understand the culture of the teaching profession and the school in particular. Their encouragement to read Betty Friedan’s Feminist Mystique raised my consciousness about injustice and inequality and this has remained with me. However not only was my consciousness raised but I became a feminist activist and learned to take risks.

I can think of no period in my life when I was without an independent adviser/ mentor and two women who are role models are today at 89 women whose opinions I often seek. I do not always take their advice but I respect it and it informs my thinking and decision making. While supported by an opinionated and caring family it is the independent no vested interest advice I often need.

I reflected many years later when working on diversity with an international bank that this was not the norm. Indeed for many there was no one to turn to and few role models in business for young women. Asked by the CEO to discuss with some young women he intended to promote into the senior executive team what they wanted to help them transition into their new roles I was surprised that their response was we need to have access to women whose shoes we can walk in. I found them mentors and from that came McCarthy Mentoring which has provided 600 independent mentors to people in leading companies across the Australian business, government and not-for-profit sectors. We work with Australian companies in the UK, New Zealand and China.

We have studied these relationships to identify which aspects of mentoring were most valuable to mentees and the results are reaffirming about the power and magic of mentoring.

The Australian executives surveyed for a report on their mentoring experience claimed that having access to a confidential mentor ‘who had some runs on the board’ and was external to their organisation was often life changing.
Mentees reported that the key impacts of mentoring were gaining confidence, courage, skills and networks to manage a range of professional and personal challenges. Thirty two percent of the mentees interviewed were CEOs or senior executives, 60% worked in finance or law and 71% were women.

The executives sought advice from mentors to secure a leadership role, to manage work and family commitments; some looked for cultural insights to help them become part of Australian business. They used the time with their mentors to reflect, discuss their career paths, their definitions of success and how to develop strategies to manage a range of workplace problems and issues. In most cases they sought guidance in managing the transition from technical competence to leadership.

“Australians in 2012 complain of stress, long working hours, anxiety about their careers, decreasing leisure time and a constant juggle of work and family commitments”, said Sophie McCarthy the author and General Manager of McCarthy Mentoring.

“Mentoring helps people find their voice and the career and life they want. A valuable mentor is a trusted sounding board who helps you see options and make choices. It can be a confronting process”.
“Although dating back to Greek mythology mentoring has become a popular professional development tool and I hope this report will assist people who are setting up effective mentoring programs or looking for their own mentor”, said Ms McCarthy.

“From the organisations perspective it is a tangible and efficient way of rewarding highly motivated emerging leaders while assisting them to grow professionally and personally and better understand the external world”.
The report entitled Managing Power, People and My Career – Australian Executives share their mentoring stories was launched in Sydney at the Women in Banking & Finance lunch.

It is available on

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