Give back and grow, the value of mentoring

There is no doubt that mentorship can be a positive experience for both the mentee and the mentor.

Mentoring is a two-way opportunity, argues Jo-ann Robertson
Mentoring is a two-way opportunity, argues Jo-ann Robertson

But a culture where mentorship is the norm has invaluable benefits for an industry, too. 

Look at healthcare – whether in research or practice, mentorship is a critical part of the professional journey. 

And if there is an industry where mentorship can truly make a difference, it is communications. 

The reason for this is simple – a successful mentorship, very much like our industry, is built on one premise: human relationships.

For mentees, this bond can mean the difference between good and great. 

Whether it’s making introductions to industry influencers or simply having a sounding board to discuss ideas or challenges with, having a trusted mentor can help those new to the industry or at defining stages of their careers navigate the waters feeling more empowered. 

When people feel empowered, they feel confident to try new things, be bold, be creative and ultimately do their best work, all of which is critical to the future of the communications industry.

Mentorship is also a driving force for talent, one of our industry’s biggest challenges. 

This is because successful mentoring relationships, inevitably, breed loyalty and commitment on both sides. 

Mentors want to see their protégés grow and be the best in the business, while the latter continue to see their mentors as role models and essential to that progress. 

This is key to employee retention. 

On the other hand, encouraging a mentoring environment and cultivating mentorship success stories can work as an effective recruitment tool.

Equally, why wouldn’t I, as a senior leader and mentor, want to learn from someone who has a different perspective or skillset to mine? 

The importance of reverse mentoring, where a more experienced professional is mentored by someone junior to them, is often ignored when mentoring is actually a two-way street. 

Experience is a far superior teacher than seniority or age. 

In fact, as a leader, reverse mentoring is one of the best ways to gain insight into what transferrable skills colleagues have, and more importantly, what they value and how to connect with them.

I’ve been lucky as I’ve learned a lot from both my mentor and mentee. My mentors have given me perspective, a kick up the backside, and encouragement when needed. 

Most recently I have been reverse mentored by two specialists in my agency where they have openly challenged my thinking, and been generous in sharing their knowledge with me.

There’s a reason why more than 70 per cent of Fortune 500 companies have mentoring programmes, and it’s because mentorship is not just about learning skills – it’s about learning attitudes and approaches to work. 

Going back to the wider value of mentorships, leaders who understand the work and aspirations of their teams are best equipped to create a future-proof industry. 

Ultimately, mentorships enable people to build valuable, long-term relationships that can have a positive impact on career progression and personal development. 

We are in the people business, and people need motivation and meaning to excel. 

The more generous we can all be with our knowledge, relationships, and support, the more successful our industry will be. And we will all benefit from that.

Jo-ann Robertson is partner and CEO of Ketchum London

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