I met my mentor about eight years ago. She was my boss for a while and then changed roles, but we’ve always maintained the relationship. She’s now with another company, but we meet about once a month over lunch, dinner or coffee. She has a real blend of both intellectual and emotional intelligence, so she asks very insightful questions – she has really strong intuition.
The more senior you become, the fewer peers you have to share your uncertainties with, so having a mentor has been hugely valuable. It’s great just having someone on your side, so that you can set aside what’s right for the organisation, and focus on what’s right for you.
She has taught me to look at my self-awareness, impact, leadership style, and how I influence and add value to the business, the people I work with, and the world of HR. And she’s really helped me to stop beating myself up over my weaknesses.
Mentoring is about personal dynamics, so while you don’t want a cosy relationship, you need some intimacy and trust, and to be able to open up about what’s really on your mind. If she moved away, I would definitely look for another mentor. I would need someone who isn’t afraid to come back to me and point out the part that I might have played in a tricky situation.
Mentoring has given me courage to be myself and pioneer ideas that might need some rigour and analysis. It has taught me to trust my intuition. But it’s also about having a good laugh – especially when things haven’t gone well. I’m a great believer in learning while working, but also in having fun at the same time.
And we talk about non-work things, too – we’re both trustees of charities, something she encouraged me to do, as a way of stretching myself outside work.
She’s really helped me through a lot of decisions during my career. When I’ve been struggling with things, she’s helped me to see things from a different angle. She asks me questions that nobody else does.
I would look for somebody who had dealt with the same breadth of challenges, and who was sufficiently different to me.
Jackie Gittins, HR director, PricewaterhouseCoopers