If your life was made into a movie who would be on the credits? We would of course, immediately think of family, friends and those closest to us – but what if this was a business movie?
Among the many colleagues and stakeholders I could credit for words of wisdom, I can think of two particular mentors I encountered early in my procurement career, without whose honest advice, patience and capacity to graciously impart their knowledge to me, I would not have developed the passion I now have for my chosen profession.
Mentoring is a generous gift that a colleague can afford to another, and watching someone develop and enthuse about a profession gives a huge amount of personal as well as professional satisfaction to the mentor. I personally have found it to be one of the most rewarding aspects of my career, particularly so with colleagues new to procurement, who never envisaged it as a career choice.
Mentoring involves giving direction, encouragement, confidence and guidance in a fostered environment, which allows individuals to develop their own style and find their own motivation and routes to success. It means providing a safe environment where individuals are able to ask questions that they might otherwise be reluctant to ask other colleagues, for fear of it being seen as a weakness.
A mentor is one who is generous in offering access to resources and networks, sharing valuable learnings and insights from their experience. This helps individuals identify opportunities, develop ideas and open their minds to alternative ways of working and behaviours. The mentor must listen to concerns by nurturing a relationship that shows that no one is infallible – mistakes will be made but that’s natural – the key is using personal tools and instilling confidence to work through a solution. The mentor thereby provides support in terms of being a role model, counsellor and friend. Mentoring can also offer organisations insight on their employees from perspectives other than as an employee, not only their work skills, duties and work responsibilities but also their motivation and aspirations.
A mentor is crucial in helping individuals link their abilities and potential with goals and success by using gentle, professional and honest critical appraisal as a catalyst for improvement necessary for an individual to develop and become the best at what they do. This does mean separating from emotional sensitivity and accepting learnings as a tool that can be put into future practice. Life is a continuous learning curve in which we are constantly learning life skills to lead us through our next experiential episodes – this is no different to our professional lives and as such we should not be afraid to treat every experience as learning opportunity. After all, no matter how experienced you are, there is always something new to learn to use either now or in the future.
☛ Janet Strzebrakowski is director of Chalkhill Blue Consulting