Saturday 20 January 2018

Both teacher and protege can reap the rewards of a mentoring relationship

Picture posed. Thinkstock
Picture posed. Thinkstock

Tom Hannigan

MENTORING entails both formal and informal communication, usually face-to-face and during a sustained period of time, between a person who is perceived to have greater relevant knowledge, wisdom or experience (the mentor) and a person who is perceived to have less (the protege).

Mentoring in Europe has existed since at least Ancient Greek times. Since the 1970s, it has spread across the business world with consistently successful results.

So how does it work?

From a programme we have developed internally at Acorn Life in Dublin, I have been pleasantly surprised with the results. Mentoring not only boosts the performance of the mentored employee but critically heightens the performance of the mentor as well. This dual benefit is the hidden gem. We always assumed that new recruits would benefit but there is a consistent improvement in the business performance of the mentors who have become involved.

In simple terms, the process of imparting their knowledge forces them to reflect on their strengths. They then work to these strengths, boosting their own performance.

A well developed mentoring programme not only grants new recruits access to a wealth of knowledge through the support of an established practitioner, but also provides a vital support. Our programme has been designed to support candidates who are relatively new to the financial services industry.

We tend to attract experienced business professionals who are looking for an opportunity to change careers and develop their own business, and therefore require not only initial training but ongoing support. The combination of the intensive training with the mentoring programme has enabled us to provide new people with the support they need.

Initial reviews of business numbers clearly support its continuation. Business levels were generally higher by 15pc for both the mentors and mentees that participated.

As part of the ongoing review of the programme, we also interviewed a cross-section of those participating.

One mentor reported that the key to the relationship was to be constantly available and to help the mentee identify a number of approaches and to guide them to select the most appropriate. In a way, the mentor merely helps the mentee to arrange their thoughts.

The mentor also found positives for himself, saying that being a mentor forced him to focus on what makes his business successful. From this business re-examination, he has adjusted and enhanced his activities.

All mentors reported that it was time-consuming but you got out what you put in. The feedback was particularly strong from the mentees, with some saying that the mentoring programme was a key factor in helping them to establish their new career. All agreed that having a mentor was a great benefit.

As one mentee put it: "Sometimes it is just great to be able to talk to someone who has experienced the highs and lows of the business and who can reassure you."

Mentoring can be challenging but seems to also be very rewarding. Honesty as always is the best policy, but mentoring is about helping your mentee to be successful and therefore feedback must be balanced and constructive.

Tom Hannigan is head of training and development at Acorn Life

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