“It’s about being open enough to communicate and curious enough to learn.” Those were the words of Emma Avignon, CEO of Mentore Consulting, as she summed up a fascinating panel discussion hosted this month at Chicago Booth’s London Campus.
Moderated by Stephanie Clarke, senior vice president, global distribution solutions at Broadridge Financial Solutions, the discussion explored the changing face of mentoring in the workplace and considered the value of such relationships for both mentor and mentee alike—and for their employers.
Clarke was joined on stage by two mentoring pairs from the worlds of finance and data analytics, both of whom offered a fascinating twist on traditional mentor/mentee relationships. One pair included Simon Hurst, head of debt transactions management at Barclays, and his ‘reverse mentor’ Agnieszka Enchev, a structuring analyst and a junior member of Hurst’s team. Also present were Heather Wade, ’18 (EXP-23), client director at Merkle Aquila, and Daniel Ferguson, the company’s head of analytical solutions.
Setting the scene, Clarke pointed out the increasing need for today’s professionals to “seek diverse connections and nontraditional relationships,” a nod to the unconventional nature of the panelists’ working relationships. It was a point Hurst also picked up on as he revealed the reasons behind Barclays’ introduction of its reverse mentoring programme, which pairs an executive with a younger employee who acts as a mentor.
“Diversity is a big thing for us, including age awareness,” he said. “For me it’s refreshing to sit down with Agnieszka and ask, ‘Well, this is how I think everyone is doing, but tell me what’s really happening.’ It’s helped me become better connected to the team’s views and needs and is certainly helping with talent retention.”
Enchev agrees, citing the importance of their relationship when it comes to her own diversity of thought. “Listening to Simon’s ideas helps me think in different ways, but he really values my opinions too, which is very motivating.”
Meanwhile, for Wade and Ferguson, mentoring each other has helped bridge a vital skills gap and ultimately deliver greater value for their business.
“Like all client directors, I have a tendency to oversell what we can do and undersell the time we need to do it!” Wade told a rapt audience. “As soon as Daniel and I worked on a proposal together, it was clear we’d have a good relationship. Since then we’ve been able to learn a great deal from each other and do much better work.”
While for Wade that learning has come in the form of a deeper understanding of the data-science aspect of the business, for Ferguson it’s been a question of communication. “Speaking to Heather helps me see the big picture and improve how I explain the business value of what we do to both our customers and my team,” Ferguson explained.
Indeed, for both pairs communication is key—and it comes down to achieving the right balance of informality and structure. Rather than focusing on hierarchy and line management, the best mentoring relationships are about honest dialogue and alternate lines of sight, regardless of job level, age, or gender.
Yet, as Ferguson insisted: “You shouldn’t be afraid to put a bit of rigour around it too, even if it’s just agreeing to meet monthly for a coffee. It helps keep things moving forward.”
And, really, it’s that word ‘forward’ that counts. Across the board, the panelists agreed the basis for their relationships is a mutual sense of progress and a shared willingness to learn from someone else. As Wade reminded us: “We all worry about imposter syndrome and not knowing what we’re doing. So, my advice would be: go find the person who does know—then work together.”
“It was very interesting to hear about the mentoring experience from the perspective of both mentor and mentee. It made the discussion feel really genuine. It also re-emphasised something we are constantly taught at Chicago Booth: the value of being open to growing your own views by listening to others.” — LanPeng Chin, current Chicago Booth Executive MBA Student
“A fascinating event that really showed the importance of mentoring relationships being non-management based. I loved the diversity on the panel too. It made me want to get a mentor!” — Masha Blinova, Leaders First
Chicago Booth’s London campus partnered with BritishAmerican Business to host ‘Better Together: Building an Inclusive Culture’, the latest event in ‘The Stir’ series taking place throughout 2018. For more information, including dates of upcoming events, visit the Chicago Booth website »
—By Booth Staff
October 18, 2018