My Mentor: Helen Dickinson, head of people, Simplyhealth

My mentor was initially my boss. We both moved on to different roles, but stayed in contact. Since changing from that line manager relationship, she’s mentored me on an informal basis, going back almost 10 years.

The relationship has endured partly because she’s a really supportive person, a fantastic listener, and always willing to take time and share her experiences. But there’s a good balance between that and being quite challenging of me. Getting that balance right is what has made it work for me.

Over the years, we’ve discussed a really varied range of subjects, and she’s worked through some difficult career choices with me. She’s helped me drive clarity around my career aspirations, and helped me recognise what my values and motivations are, and what sort of organisation, culturally, is right for me.

She’s helped me identify the right next steps. She’s challenged me around what sort of roles and organisations will get the best out of me, and are right for me in terms of where I’m going in my career. She asked questions I wouldn’t have asked myself – it’s been about challenging me to really look deeply.

One of her key strengths is that she is an amazing influencer. I will often talk to her when I have something particularly challenging coming up.

For me, the beauty of this relationship is that my mentor has worked with me. She knows my natural management style and preferences, my strengths and development areas, but she is outside this organisation. That gives her objectivity, distance and the ability to ask questions. But she has enough insight into me to remind me how I might have reacted to things in the past and question whether I should react that way again.

My mentor’s background is an interesting mix of general management and HR. That’s been helpful in developing the commerciality I can bring to an HR role.

Sometimes we meet every couple of weeks, but we may go several months between getting together. It depends what’s happening in my career. We generally speak on the phone, but we do meet up – it’s evolved into a social relationship, too, and we chat about non-work subjects.

I have a potential new mentee of my own – a manager in the business, rather than an HR professional. We’re at a very early stage in the process, trying to work out what the mentee is looking for and whether my experience matches that. We’ll go away, reflect on what we’ve discussed, and decide whether this mentoring relationship will work.

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