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Mentoring for Success Part 2

22 March 2013

 

 

 

Mentoring is a necessary ingredient for career and directorship success.

 

In this second interview with successful business women and professional mentors, Claire Braund  interviews Leeanne Bond, professional independent non executive director, consultant and mentor.  Claire  is the Executive Director of Women on Boards, an organisation that has assisted more than 1,000 women gain board positions in Australia. 

CB: We know that mentoring is a critical piece of the puzzle for women achieving success in their career – be it director, sme or c-suite. Can you explain why this type of relationship is so critical?

LB: Talking to a mentor can help to crystallise your thoughts and career strategies, and ask the right questions of yourself. Often an interested third person can identify skills and strengths that the mentee takes for granted and can challenge you. I know from years of writing proposals for professional engineering services that the best person to write or review a cv is not the owner of the cv but someone who can distil the essence of the person from conversation.

A mentor can also be a sponsor, introducing you to people in their network. I remember being asked by my manager once “what can I help you with?”  I had never thought to ask for anyone’s help, or to think about what might be holding me back - it challenged me to find an answer. 

It’s great to see people flourish and I hope that I have helped them reach their potential. 

CB: What are the forms that the most successful mentor/mentee relationships take and what are some of the red flags women need to look out for when choosing a mentor?

LB: I have had the pleasure of mentoring women in a formal paid mentoring service and have also helped many other people informally either in my role as their line manager, as a peer or through introductions from colleagues.

I’m always happy to have a coffee with someone but the mentee needs to be realistic about the mentor’s time availability as they are often busy people so keep it professional.

I prefer a paid mentoring service as it takes the relationship from a casual chat to a professional level and provides focus and commitment - and if you know someone is paying you will give it priority. The mentee needs to drive the relationship and put some work into what has been discussed between meetings.

The mentee needs to think about what they want out of a mentor or advisor and seek advice and perhaps introductions from trusted colleagues. I would encourage people to look for someone who is a good listener but also able to give frank advice when needed. If someone can’t stop talking about themselves or just agrees with you all the time they are unlikely to be a good mentor.

CB: We work with thousands of women around Australia who aspire to a board position from a local sporting organisation to women joining their first or second ASX board.  From your mentoring what are some of the common challenges you see and what suggestions can you make? 

LB: All of the women I have mentored for WOB have been exceptional in their own career roles leaving me feeling why do they want me to mentor them? But in each case I have been able to explain what happens on a board and work with them on their self talk - validating their aspirations, setting a timeframe for action (much shorter than they had imagined) and providing some key questions for them to think about to identify their ideal roles and steps to get there. 

Develop a board cv distinct from your executive cv and understand your obligations as a director by undertaking the Australian Institute of Company Directors (AICD) company directors course or their introductory courses.

Finding board roles is not an easy process but having someone else reflect their key skills for a board role has helped them direct their search and have confidence to make approaches. Often it is also about expanding their networks, but it needs to be guided by a clear idea of their interests.

Be clear about what you like doing and do your due diligence. Don’t join a board if you are not interested in the work of the organization and make sure you respect the people who are already on the board.

CB: Where do you suggest women look for a mentor?

LB: There are many commercial companies who can match a mentor and mentee and provide some support to the relationship but there are also contacts you might be able to find through your business networks, professional membership organisations and even friends of the family who are experienced in business.

The Women on Boards mentoring scheme has developed a strong field of candidates as mentors to women interested in Board roles or an executive career. The Australian Institute of Company Directors also has a mentoring program to encourage women onto boards. 

An experienced independent mentor can:

·       provide support to deal with new challenges or with challenging situations

       help develop new skills and knowledge

       increase self confidence and self awareness

       increase your effectiveness

       provide a sounding board for challenges

       help you review your career and life goals

       grow your professional network

Leeanne will be attending the Women on Boards conference 8-10 May, Sydney. More information is available at http://womenonboards.org.au/events/conference2013/

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