Strategy & Operations » Leadership & Management » The magic of mentoring

With the accountancy profession evolving due to cloud accounting, people working in the industry are constantly being reminded of the need to retrain and upskill in order to further their career.

Workplace mentoring schemes can be hugely useful for workers as they seek to improve their skill set – both for those being mentored, who can learn from those more experienced than themselves, and for the mentor to hone their leadership skills, as well as to learn new perspectives and approaches.

Research published in June by AAT (Association of Accounting Technicians) has revealed that the organisation’s 130,000 members have a strong desire to become mentors and mentees – but few have yet had, or taken, the opportunity to engage with mentoring schemes.

Fewer than half of AAT members in full-time or part-time employment have ever received mentoring during their career, and only one in twelve report that their organisation currently runs a formal mentoring programme.

Despite this, nearly one in two said that they would like to be mentors in their own right, and 37% would like their organisation to run a formal mentoring programme.

But is mentoring just a tick-box exercise for organisations, or can effective mentors have a true impact on people’s lives?

Mentoring is mutually beneficial

“The key to being a good mentor is to help people become more of who they already are – not to make them more like you.” So said acclaimed American author Suze Orman. I love mentoring others – watching them evolve and grow in their own right – but I also really benefit from great mentoring which keeps me accountable and moving forwards every week.

The magic of mentoring in engaging and developing future and current leaders is evident on a daily basis. The statistics back this up.

Of those AAT members who had received mentoring, one in three said that it gave them confidence – the most valuable trait they took from meeting with a mentor. 28% said that having a mentor gave them someone to talk to, with a similar number citing that it gave them new skills. Others reported that having a mentor helped them set goals, and even resolve issues in their personal lives.

In a separate Gartner five-year study of 1000 employees;

  • 25% of employees who enrolled in a mentoring program had a salary-grade change, compared to only 5% of workers who did not participate
  • Mentees are promoted five times more often than those not in a mentoring program
  • Retention rates were higher for both mentees (22% more) and mentors (20% more) than for employees who did not participate in a mentoring program

In addition, according to Harvard Business Review, for CEOs in formal mentoring programmes, 84% said mentors had helped them avoid costly mistakes while 84% become proficient in their roles faster as a result.

The definition of a mentor is ‘a person or friend who guides a less experienced person by building trust and modelling positive behaviours.’ While the age of a mentor might seem irrelevant, older individuals often make excellent mentors because of their patience, empathy, and their eagerness to share their wealth of accumulated knowledge and experience.

Effective mentoring not only provides support for new employees and rising stars; it also helps to create an open, inviting culture that encourages all workers to contribute their ideas for improving the company.

Mentoring in the workplace also encourages goal setting, and in a new ‘Accountemps’ report, 93% of the workers surveyed said goal setting is important to their work performance, yet for some professionals, those discussions with managers never happen.

Another American author, John C. Maxwell, once commented: “One of the greatest values of mentors is the ability to see ahead what others cannot see, and to help them navigate a course to their destination.”

Who could become a mentor?

Essentially, the role of a mentor is suited to:

  • Anyone who has people working with them or for them who they would like to help to develop to the next level and beyond.
  • Anyone who wants to step up into a more senior role and needs to develop their team to take on more responsibility.
  • Forward-thinking managers who want to provide an environment where everyone is encouraged to generate ideas and share not just knowledge but a commitment to building a successful company.

The many benefits of mentoring for both the Mentor and the Mentee include increased confidence, transformation, motivation, innovation, productivity, collaboration, recognition, appreciation, engagement and fulfilment.

Companies that run mentoring programmes show a marked increase in engagement and reduction in staff turnover and absenteeism.

It is a win – win all round and as always, the more you invest in people, the greater the returns. It’s critical for business success – and summed up by this Japanese proverb: “Better than a thousand days of diligent study is one day with a great mentor.”

How to run an effective mentoring session

Meeting in a private space with comfortable seating, natural light and refreshments on tap will go a long way to making your mentee feel valued.

Ensuring you honour your sessions and prevent all interruptions will also set the tone for your commitment and the importance of this time together.

Recognising they may be nervous at first and setting the intention for the sessions and the confidentiality between you will encourage them to open up.

Meeting as an equal, being open to new ideas and fresh insights and appreciating the thoughts of your mentee will encourage them to be completely frank and honest with you.

Some questions you may wish to ask include:

  • Why do you want to be mentored?
  • What would you like to achieve?
  • What have you tried already?
  • What were the results?
  • What could you do to move forwards?
  • What is stopping you taking those actions?

Once you have discussed and set goals, consider:

  • When would you like to achieve these goals?
  • What are the first steps you could take?
  • Who do you feel could help you?
  • What obstacles might you encounter?
  • How will you deal with those obstacles?
  • What actions can I keep you accountable for?
  • When will you take the first steps?

Make sure you follow up with a summary of the session and a list of their actions – if it’s a monthly session, checking in with them after 2 weeks will help to keep them on track and iron out any obstacles.

One of the greatest gifts you can give to anyone is the gift of ‘undiluted listening’. Leaving whatever is going on in your world outside the door and just being totally ‘present’ for your mentee. Listening to understand and for as long as they need without interruptions. They will not only feel listened to, they will feel ‘heard’ and understood.

Bringing the best version of ‘YOU’ to the session will enable you to also give your best. When we invest in ourselves, we have so much more to give to those around us.

Read more on effective mentoring at Sylvia Baldock’s blog https://sylviabaldock.com/blog/