January is National Mentoring Month and an opportunity to reflect on what mentoring means at Principle One.
2021 saw Principle One recruit more new staff than ever before (both through graduate routes and as experienced hires), leading to the further development and refinement of the internal structures and processes around career mentoring within the business. Providing a framework for career and personal development through collaboration is a core value at Principle One and the career mentoring process is designed to be impactful and lightweight.
Laura Russell, an experienced Business Consultant and People and Change Practitioner has been working on the refinement of the processes for Principle One and
reflecting on the career aspirations and inspirations that have shaped her own progression and passion for supporting others. Laura is a career mentor to colleagues within Principle One and an informal mentor to other women in business as they progress their careers.
Laura’s early career in law enforcement started in 2004 and she says of that time “Working in a male-dominated environment, it was natural that my first managers and mentors were men, and whilst I could not always relate my envisioned career path and journey with them easily, they were nevertheless influential mentors who instilled a sense of confidence in my work ethic and my abilities. Crucially for me they never suggested that I should be a carbon copy clone to succeed. I learned a great amount from experiencing a wide variety of both good and bad management and mentoring and only through that could I understand and develop my own unique brand and style”.
Some organisations have a culture in which individuals are encouraged to compete against each other for roles, recognition, promotion, and/or pay. This can lead to less innovation, less collaboration and sometimes, less than favourable behaviours such as monopolising praise, and withholding positive feedback for others etc. These types of actions and behaviours are often a result of fear and/or uncertainty within the environment; as if success is a zero-sum game where only one person can win and therefore the other must lose.
A corporate environment which promotes a situation where people can achieve their goals at the expense of others will never maintain a good mentoring culture. Principle One is actively creating a positive culture where everyone can succeed and in which staff will want to come to work and develop themselves and others. Success is found in outcomes rather than process and in an individual’s performance when achieving goals rather by comparing them with others. This ethos is reflected in our career mentoring, performance reviews and promotion process.
When Laura changed career paths to become a business consultant, she moved from one type of male-dominated environment to another, but the difference in career development came in the form of more relatable career role models.
“In my first consultancy, I had a mixture of male and female career managers over a nine-year period, all of whom were extremely significant in my career development, helped me to learn important lessons, believe in myself (despite the imposter syndrome!), and who passed on their passion for supporting and developing others. It was my first account director who stood out to me as a relatable and aspirational role model, and she inspired me to be more ambitious, to aim higher and to embrace my own unique approach rather than to emulate others. It was the first time I had experienced ‘lift as you climb’ in action and this was further reinforced by my female career manager at the time.”
“Be a role model just because you can and because you care” exemplifies the supportive nature of mentors and role models and can create a powerful place for innovation, passion, collaboration, and where appropriate, disruption. Simple acts such as giving feedback, offering praise, acknowledging the achievements of others, should never be seen as a zero-sum game; all players here benefit.
Effective and impactful mentors and role models share stories about their experiences and their personal lives to help others visualise career path progression and to make it accessible to them. Within Principle One, all staff create a ‘career on a page’ slide which includes key life events and interests so that all staff can get a sense of each other’s progression and stories.
Reverse mentoring is of great value at Principle One and having open discussions and asking for opinions across the business encourages our junior staff to raise any inefficiencies in processes and procedures and helps us shape the culture and direction of our business. Our junior staff can also mentor our interns and placement students, which gives them experience to build on to become career mentors over time, and it allows them the opportunity to be role models for others.
At Principle One, staff are matched with a formal career mentor who can guide, coach, and support their career development. This is considered based on several factors and it is recognised that simply matching a member of staff with someone who is, essentially the same as them but older, may not provide mentees with any difference in perspective to help them develop their careers to their best potential. Staff can have other mentors as appropriate and seeking different points of view is often the best way to work through a problem. Individuals should never feel that they can’t approach someone and ask them to be a mentor in a particular area or skill, and those who make the best mentors will always be happy to be asked.
Laura is a career manager to Dale Guildea who joined Principle One in 2019, and as they have both had previous law enforcement experience, this was the initial basis for their career mentoring relationship.
Dale describes his experience of mentoring when joining the company “Joining an organisation that puts meaningful career progression conversation at the forefront of employee integration was refreshing. Principle One truly walk-the-walk in terms of dedicating the time of experienced colleagues to understand an individual’s current concerns and future ambitions. Initially, meeting with Laura gave me a space to share my anxieties about my career change and alleviated my ‘imposter syndrome’ as I grew with confidence in my new role. Since then, Laura and I have discussed how to shape my career and put in tangible steps to accomplish my aspirations.”
Dale and Laura have built and developed their mentoring relationship for over two years and Dale has now become a career mentor himself, applying his own experience with support from Laura and taking part in an effective mentoring skills workshop. “Becoming a Career Mentor myself is extremely fulfilling. I have greatly enjoyed watching new starters thrive in what can be a challenging and new work environment and being part of that journey with them is a real privilege”.