The business and economic environment is particularly challenging at the moment which is why we believe in paying it forward.
When you start giving back you realise how much you know, how much others benefit, and how enjoyable it is to impart your knowledge
Mentor relationships facilitate powerful conversations that drive significant change
Positive experiences change our perceptions and change how we feel, not only in our personal and working relationships, but also how we feel about a brand
2020 has been a strange old year - full of ups and downs and opportunities to pivot and grow. At a time when it’s been more important than ever to create deeper connections with those around us it’s been a privilege to be able to personally give back to our agency community and to participate in the BIMA Mentor Programme - a powerful initiative that helps aspiring digital professionals to get ahead.
As an agency, iCrossing has the opportunity to participate both as a mentor and a mentee, so with support from my boss and the business I put myself forward as a mentor. Inclusive in its nature, the programme is open to all levels of seniority from executives ready to take the next step in their career, to founders and MD’s who are looking at how to drive their agency’s growth. It presents a great way for individuals to share knowledge, build confidence, and develop a strategy for the next level.
Moreover, I’m not the only one at it. Keen to give back to entrepreneurs in the Sports and Technology sector, Roger Barr and Paul Button are mentors with the Sports Tech Hub, whose purpose is to make it easy for founders to launch, grow and scale ventures that play a major role in solving the world’s physical inactivity crisis. What’s magical here is not only is this initiative supported by the Mayor of London’s office, it’s also supported by Sport England.
To be fair it’s not until you start giving back that you realise how much you know, how much others benefit, and in fact how enjoyable it is to impart your knowledge. I’ve been in the agency world for 20 years in a marketing capacity and during that time I’ve been lucky to be mentored by some wonderful, inspiring and creative people. In fact in my early 30’s I was mentored by the head of brand at mobile operator O2. At the time I was in a new role, was responsible for running a rebrand project and how that rolled out across all touch-points, was formalising marketing and communications plans for the coming year, and organising networking and industry events for peers to attend. Needless to say I found having a mentor and sounding board really useful, both to talk to and bounce ideas off.
In my experience the mentors I have worked with have always shared excellent advice when required, given instruction when the situation has needed more solid direction, and provided guidance and made suggestions where they’ve seen I have the answer but need to make and own the decision for myself.
Fundamentally it’s about sharing experiences gained through life and our working environment in the agency landscape. Throughout my career lots of things have changed but one thing that’s remained constant is my need to grow and the need to willing share knowledge when the opportunity arises. It's great to work with an agency that have supported my decision to 'give back' and this is something I’m grateful for.
The format for their mentor programme is extremely well structured and is spread over a 6- month period. As an industry body they do an excellent job of onboarding mentors via an introductory zoom call, which is great as we get to virtually meet others. Prior to this call Rachel and the team at BIMA have been approving mentees who have requested to be part of the programme, and once approved, matchmaking their mentors to the skillset of the mentees who have paid to participate in the programme.
From the initial chemistry call between mentor and mentee where we make contact, have a brief introduction and agree our first session, the following six meetings have a core structure that moves seamlessly from month one where we get to know each other, set objectives and start work, to having monthly check-ins where we review progress and outcomes, then refine actions. The programme continues in this manner until the final session where we summarise progress and review actions going forwards.
Throughout the programme mentees have the opportunity to focus on business objectives as well as personal objectives - given the turbulent year we’ve all experienced this has been an extremely useful balance to strike. For example, at the beginning of the programme, as a nation we were all adjusting to working from home, staying indoors, and communicating via numerous screens and platforms - be that Zoom, GoToMeeting or Slack. One observation I noted was the initial priority from my mentee to focus 60/40 with the priority being on their personal objectives and seeing that shift midway to 80/20 in favour of their business objectives.
Whilst looking at the business perspective the focus is on the mentee’s career, identifying opportunities to grow, acknowledging and overcoming challenges in one's path, understanding the benefits of communicating clearly, the importance of nurturing client relationships, and how best to use our influencing skills. What’s beautiful about the sessions is they are structured to facilitate powerful conversations that drive significant change.
As with coaching, all sessions are confidential and all information shared within the framework of the programme remains between mentee and mentor. This is extremely important to communicate so there’s a trusted relationship fostered. Speaking personally as a mentor it’s an extremely special space to hold for a mentee as it’s not often one has the opportunity to spend 60 - 90 minutes a month to focus solely on oneself, to pause, to focus on what’s important professionally and personally, and to have a dedicated person as a soundboard to share thoughts with.
It’s also worth noting here the difference between mentoring and coaching; mentoring is typically where you push information forwards in the form of guidance, suggestions and sharing experiences, versus coaching is typically where you pull information by asking questions, challenging, reflecting and listening. This is an important distinction to make so expectations of the mentee and mentor are clear. Obviously during the sessions questions are asked as it’s a way for the mentor to understand more about the challenges being faced by the mentee, and with regards to question style it’s important to ask questions that are open (not closed ‘yes’ and ‘no’ answers) as they enable information to be shared, for insight to be gleaned, and to capture the important and emotion of a given subject.
The main focus for each session is to have a structured conversation; one that addresses specific topics so the mentor knows what the mentee needs help with or what’s holding them back, sets objectives so it’s clear what the challenge is and what success looks like, what roadblocks are in the way and understanding what’s been tried before, and moving onto exploring what choices are available and the benefits/challenges of each, then agreeing what a mentee what they are to willing to commit to.
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