How I made a difference: mentoring programmes

Abbey has recently joined forces with Alliance & Leicester, and we have taken over the retail side of the Bradford and Bingley group. I look after the top 110 people here and, having a PhD in coaching, have always been interested in mentoring, particularly in bringing the public and private sectors together.

I’ve been at Abbey for two years now, and having looked at what we were going through as an organisation, I decided it would be really nice if we could help develop our senior people’s mentoring and coaching skills by mixing them with people from a public sector organisation.

Age Concern and Help the Aged are going through a merger, and I put the idea of a mentoring programme to a contact there. We started out with four of Abbey’s senior executives who were going to work with and mentor four senior executives from Age Concern.

The primary objective was to share best practice during times of change – the charity is facing increasing pressure from the private sector, while both organisations are going through integration. We selected four individuals who we thought would benefit and grow, and then Age Concern picked four. We brought them together for a training day, and created an iBook, with photos from the day and details of what they had agreed to do.

The programme is now up and running, and the participants are meeting. They have coaching sessions, provided by an external company, and the people from Age Concern also have coaching sessions, outside the programme, to monitor their progress. The benefits are that it’s great for us in terms of our corporate social responsibility (we feel we’re giving something back). Our executives are developing their own mentoring capabilities and their professional network – and they now have an increased commercial awareness, particularly in terms of how things operate in the charity sector.

For Age Concern, there are benefits, too. They value the relationship with us – they see it as pioneering, and as providing them with a level of excellence. They’re hoping to cascade the model through the organisation – as are we. And while age is one of our key diversity issues, we may also look for other organisations to work with.

Why it worked

  • We looked outside our sector
  • We chose participants with care
  • We provided a structure.

Caroline Curtis, head of talent management, Abbey

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