When I began my first line management role, I had a mentor, Roger, who was quite senior in the organisation. ‘Just in time mentoring’ is the best way of describing our relationship.
We’d be going to a potentially tricky meeting and he’d ask how I planned to handle it. I’d talk him through my plans and he’d ask what reaction I anticipated. Typically, in that first line manager role, you tend to think just one step ahead, so he was showing me that there was a whole range of potential outcomes and ways of handling them.
In the meeting he would always place me centre stage, so that people were left in no doubt that I was the person to deal with.
That was a brave and generous thing to do. When we were coming back from the meeting, he would ask me to talk him through it. We would discuss how I would do things differently next time.
Roger gave me the opportunity to practise in a safe environment and he let me make mistakes.
Once we were dealing with a union leader that I didn’t like. I was very smart and clever and made this man look stupid. Roger let me do it, but afterwards he made me see that I had made an enemy. He could have diverted that incident, but he obviously thought that it was a lesson I needed to learn.
He taught me that although people will forget what you told them and how you acted, they’ll remember how you made them feel. That was 15 years ago, but that lesson has really stuck with me.