Transcript

How can I make the most of a mentoring relationship?

Margaret Burnside and Jessi Schatz join Ross Dickie and Peter Casebow to explore how to make the most of a mentoring relationship.

Prologue

Transcript

Ross Dickie

Hello and welcome to the GoodPractice Podcast, a weekly show about work performance and learning. I’m Ross Dickie. And this week we’re talking about mentoring. I’m joined by return guests, Peter Casebow. Hello Peter.

Peter Casebow

Hi Ross.

Ross Dickie

Along with podcasts newcomers, Jessi Schatz from Emerald Publishing and Margaret Burnside who is the director of CAKE Personal Development. Hello, how are you?

Margaret Burnside

Hi.

Jessi Schatz

Hi.

Ross Dickie

So Margaret, I’ll start with you. I’m not sure if this is the sort of thing that I should be admitting to in front of my boss, but I’m not entirely clear on what the differences between mentoring and coaching. Could you get us started by just explaining what mentoring is exactly?

Margaret Burnside

Yeah, it’s a common question. It’s a big question. And interestingly if you google either mentoring or coaching, you’ll find the same description for each often or them swapped around. So it’s always a big discussion. Whenever we do our coaching and mentoring qualification programs, we start off with that discussion and people have different views. But in my experience the main differences … Although the skills can be similar, the purpose in the organization is usually different. So coaching is something that can happen within the line, the line manager, condition coaching or it may be an external paid for executive coach. Whereas mentoring is typically used where it’s outside of the line. So a more senior manager, usually in a different area well away from that part of the hierarchy or the line. And is generally something that happened over a longer period of time supporting things like longterm career development. So differences in the relationship, the mentee, awful word but seems to be the word that’s used will tend to drive the relationship and use the mentor as a resource with areas where they need some help and advice.

Whereas in coaching, the coach will normally manage the process. Coaches tend not to have to know an awful lot about what you do and the work you do. Whereas mentors are there because they have a lot of experience in an area that somebody would like to develop in. Does that help?

Ross Dickie

Yeah. Could you maybe I actually just explain a little bit about what you do with CAKE? Just give some information on your background.

Margaret Burnside

Yeah, sure. So I’ve been involved in learning and development in the widest sense for scarily over 30 years. We’ll pause at that. And that’s involved working inside organizations as well as working in various consultancy type roles and consultancy businesses. CAKE People Developments are essentially supporting people through their development in leadership and management coaching and mentoring. And we’re helping all sorts of people, developers, coaches, predominantly inside organizations. And we support organizations in setting up mentoring and training mentors who interestingly are often directors and senior managers in an organization who struggle with the idea that mentoring is a lot about listening and a lot less about talking and saying, “Well, when I was at this stage in my career I did this.” And so they’re often a tougher group to develop into recognizing those key skills. So yes, learning and development predominantly for pretty much all my career.

Ross Dickie

Someone who is an excellent listener Peter Casebow.

Peter Casebow

Oh, you’ll go far.

Ross Dickie

Is that description you would recognize?

Peter Casebow

Sorry Ross, I missed the question. I wasn’t listening.

Ross Dickie

You recently, you’ve been involved in the Emerald Aspire Program as Jessi you’ve been involved as a mentor and Jessi as a mentee or you both, you didn’t work together. Could you explain a little bit just what the program involves and touch a little bit on your own experience as a mentor, Peter?

Peter Casebow

Sure. The program or parts of the program. It’s a year long program that Jessi will tell us more about that. But I was approached and asked if I would be a mentor for one of the participants. And a bit like Margaret said, the mentor has driven that, I’ve kind of provided the environment for the mentee to say how frequently they want to meet? What topics do they want to discuss? We met early on to talk about how we wanted … The first really meeting was to talk about how do we want that relationship to work. What sort of areas of expertise I had, what I might have some knowledge and experience. And did this relate to where the mentee, the individual I was going to work with wanted to work. Because obviously if there wasn’t that fit then that wasn’t going to work. And then how were we going to do that? Was it going to be what I was just in Bingley?

Frankly I was quite happy to take phone calls or emails if there were situations that came up. Well, she said, “Look, do I want to help?” I mean, I’ve also got quite a little level coaching qualification, but I’ve done some been trained as a coach. And I think the clearest thing that was ever said to me, or the way that I remember it is that coaching is about drawing out, learning from the person you’re coaching and mentoring is also, you’ve got more opportunities to put stuff in. In terms of somebody sharing with you that issue and maybe therefore talking about advice or how you might think about things or trying to … So I often feel if I’m trying to differentiate it from myself as a mentor, am I allowed to put things in. When I’m coaching I was supposed to keep some of those opinions to myself, and actually be asking relevant questions.

Ross Dickie

So you’re more naturally drawn to mentoring then.

Peter Casebow

Absolutely.

Margaret Burnside

I think that was some feedback Peter.

Peter Casebow

I accept it.

Ross Dickie

And Jessi you’re involved in this Aspire program as well. Is that the first time you’ve been a mentee?

Jessi Schatz

Actually it’s not. The mentorship that I did through this Aspire program is my second mentorship, both times as the mentee. So the first one that I did was through a larger publishing organization. So this one wasn’t specific to the company that I was working for, but rather was just for the publishing industry at large. So that mentorship, I was able to go in as an early career, and sort of ask what is this industry like? Sort of as like a fresh face just wanting to know a wide variety of things where I felt like I had that opportunity to ask some of those broader questions in a mentorship. And then through The Aspire Program I was able to recommend a specific individual within the organization. And so I was able to have a mentor who was one of the directors. I chose that individual because I coming in with my set of expectations I wanted to learn more about decision making. I wanted to just see sort of at a higher level business meetings, how those occur, how decisions are made and how actions follow afterwards.

And so I chose my mentor based on his experience in those areas, and it was fantastic. But, yeah, definitely driven through myself. So showing up the first day saying ABC are the things I want to learn. Let’s work together towards helping me improve my performance and be able to learn more about those things.

Ross Dickie

Do you feel like you got a lot out of the experience?

Jessi Schatz

Yeah, it was fantastic. Both of my experiences with mentoring, they’re quite different, which has been good. But both very beneficial. So, with the industry based one, I feel like I was able to learn more about the publishing industry. There were things where I would think I would need to learn something specific about something and she would sort of be like, “Well, there’s also all these other areas that you could learn about.” And so just someone having a wealth of experience in ways that me being new you don’t know what you don’t know at that point. And so being just open and learning from all of her experience within her career has been fantastic. And specific for having one within my own organization also. I get some more specific examples in that way.

So, for example, that led me to have the opportunity to shadow some of the higher level meetings that my mentor was sitting in on. So, he would sort of give me a briefing ahead of time of here’s what’s expected to occur in the meeting, here maybe some things that you should be looking out for, and then take what you will from them. And so I was able to sit in, really just observing those business decisions, which is what I wanted to learn more about. And so having that opportunity was quite useful, being able to see how the meetings went, seeing the sort of framework and structures that they use within the meetings. And then talking with my mentor afterwards also about, “Well, I observed this happening. Is this typical? Or what other areas do you think I can develop based on this, and this was it.”

Ross Dickie

I’ve never been mentored personally. I’m not sure if I’ve been coached. I have possibly been coached without being aware of it. But, I’m interested to get a take from all of you on whether mentoring is something … Is mentoring for everybody? Is it a shark coming that I have not been mentored? Should I be seeking out a mentor? What are the benefits of being-

Peter Casebow

Is this the time for feedback Ross? I think it’s a great question. And I think it depends. I don’t know how much this will help, but I’ve had mentors who have worked me for very short, specific processes. When I started in a particular job, when I was having to do … I’m thinking about it too, when I was in kind of a big financial services company, and suddenly I started to walk across supporting board members and walking across that. And somebody being assigned to me just for a couple of months to help me understand the natural organizational politics that go on. If you want to get decisions made, you’re going to need some stuff. This guy over here is an expert. Why don’t you know? And he agreed. He said, “Look, I’ll help you.” So I was able to go in and describe the challenges, and he said, “Well, think about that. I would recommend.”

And just gave me a whole range of things that were really helpful, but just for quite specific niche to get me past something. And then other times I had mentors for … Maybe I don’t have mentors for short periods. And more I think about it, but who have just been really useful at different times in my career to maybe challenge me to think a bit bigger or why am I so small in my thinking. And open up doors and made me kind of go, “Oh, wow.” That I saw other things here. “Here’s how you might approach that.” So, most of my mentoring relationships that I’ve be mentored have been quite short term, but quite specific. And then it’s almost like, “Okay, I’ve got that now. I’m moving on.” And then what’s the next thing? Then how that reflects with other people.

Margaret Burnside

Yeah, I think, yeah. I think interestingly, and I think that do people know their mentor? A lot of people have reported to me that they’ve had mentors, but they’ve never had a formal relationship. So they’ve identified a role model or somebody whose knowledge or experience they really value and spent time with them without it being set up in any formal way. But they would certainly view that person as a mentor. So I think a lot of us probably do have mentors without it being formalized in any way. And in some cases the mentor doesn’t know that you see them as a mentor. So I think there’s plenty of scope for informally identifying people that can share experience and advice without having to set anything up. Much to the mentoring support, that I have been involved in is where there’s a slightly more formalized scheme within an organization where they identify a group of people who are offering to mentor other people in the organization at various stages of their career.

Jessi Schatz

Yeah. And just to try mine on this from the mentee, and also I think it can to a degree be personality based. So within my cohort of individuals within this Aspire program, everyone was given the opportunity to request a mentor, to initiate. We were told to initiate contact and then continue to meet with them. I had a very successful one. I was very driven to meet with my mentor. And he reciprocated that and took time out of his schedule to meet with me. I know that there may have been other individuals that may not have taken that initiative to reach out and really drive the mentorship. On the other end. There were some mentors who would cancel frequently or as you said earlier, that aspect of listening and really involving yourself in the mentorship rather than just being like, “Well, here’s what I did and here’s why it worked and just do that.” Because that’s not really useful. So I think it is what you bring to the table is what you get out of it.

Ross Dickie

Margaret as a mentor is that something that you’d be looking from a mentee? Or does it have to come from them? Do they have to initiate that sort of taking the first step as it were? Now, obviously in organizations where you have more formalized mentoring programs there’s always going to be some sort of central impetus behind that. But are you also looking for the mentees to be driving the relationship?

Margaret Burnside

Yeah, I think overall that tends to be where it works best because it’s normally the mentees’ interest to get what they need from the mentor. The mentor may perceive that they’re a volunteer in the process as both are and they are giving their time. Good mentors won’t operate like that, but that can be the perception. Therefore, it’s perceived to be the mentees’ benefit to get good quality time from the mentor and to manage that relationship. In reality, good mentors will put as much effort in and will really want to make that work. But it can vary in terms of people’s commitment, how senior they are or how important they perceive themselves to be. I personally think there are lots of benefits for the mentor as well and will often spend some time exploring that on any workshops that we do for mentors to understand what they can get out of it. Particularly understanding what it’s like in other parts of the organization, that cross-fertilization to build a bigger picture.

But yeah, normally I would encourage them to set it up that the mentee makes notes and then mentee books a room if that’s required, because they are likely to be getting the most benefit out of it. But it’s also a good development to take charge of that relationship. And as a mentee gives you a bit more control over how that works rather than waiting for the mentor to call you to their office. It helps make it a bit more equal, which I think is important.

Peter Casebow

And I think yes, it has to be driven by the mentor. And I always get something from the people I’ve worked with, the ones who really engage and want to work. Those are the ones I also get more sort of because they challenge me to think about why am I saying that or did that really help. Or was that just my bias, or the way I’m looking back at things. And I think if you’re doing it well you really are trying to put a filter on that, and think about is this going to be helpful? There was a program running in Scotland up in the Isle of Skye called the Columba 1400. And I don’t know if they sold on this particular programme, but for a long time they were bringing together the executives from, for instance, one of the banks, and also some teenagers essentially what they called as coming from tough realities. And they were going to do … They setup this joint mentoring program. They were going to mentor each other.

And you can imagine the executives from the bank thought that they were going to be the ones because they were going to be the ones doing the mentoring, really. I mean, yeah, yeah they said joint but that’s not the way it’s going to work. The reality was actually some fantastic stories about how these kids from Drumchapel and other parts of Glasgow. They actually had a really strong sense of right and wrong and values and things. And were mentoring absolutely in reverse. And if you get anybody who was on that program or worked on that program, they can tell some fantastic stories about that. But it’s just … Yeah, we have perceptions about where the value is going to come from.

Margaret Burnside

Definitely. That’s a great example. I like that.

Ross Dickie

Yeah, I think that’s really interesting side of it as well. I think, sort of more senior figures in organizations might be thinking if they’ve never mentored somebody before, they may be thinking this is going to eat into my time. I’m incredibly busy. How am I going to be able to serve, dedicate enough time to this to make it worthwhile, but often perhaps the mentor ends up getting something after the relationship as well. And it isn’t just a case of sort of all the information flowing in one direction.

Peter Casebow

Definitely not.

Ross Dickie

Yeah. And there’s also been quite a lot of bizarro and this idea of sort of reverse mentoring in recent years. I know that we’ve had served some clients in GoodPractice ask specifically for content on reverse mentoring. How do you see the role of reverse mentoring developing as millennials come to represent, yes, a larger segment of the workforce.

Margaret Burnside

I’ll be happy to comment on that. Sometimes I brisk a little bit at the term reverse mentoring because I think mentoring is mentoring whatever that relationship. And I think a good mentor is somebody who has more experience in a particular area than you. So if I’ve taken on a non exec director role for a video gaming company and I don’t know a lot about video gaming then I would really appreciate a person who plays a lot of video games to help me understand the product and why people buy it. So I think for me we can all learn a lot from all sorts of people. And typically mentoring works best when you’re seeking to draw on someone else’s experiences something. So I don’t know the generation or age comes into it. I think we can all learn lots from all sorts of different generations. I think it’s just recognizing there’s somebody here that has more experience in this area and I’d like to get some of that experience. I’d like to learn more about that so perhaps that person can help me. So I think it’s a peer relationship that works best generally.

Peter Casebow

Yeah, and there’s not so many, but curiosity as well. If you’re actually genuinely curious about your business or about the other people in the other areas, then anything like that you don’t even have to have that. And back to that informal piece you were talking about, not even recognizes a mentor. To me there’s an awful lot of about being curious and having those conversations on that basis.

Jessi Schatz

Yeah. Emerald actually has a reverse mentoring program which was initiated by our CEO. So, one of my colleagues is a member of that cohort, and she says she really enjoys it. She says that it just shows that the company really wants to have a direct line of feedback, that direct line of information flowing in to ask questions, to get answers and that can help change happen faster within the company.

Peter Casebow

So is that not just about for more about feedback and making sure this feedback loops in the company rather than perhaps reverse mentoring, I don’t know. This one is cold though. To be honest it’s not area I would say I was really … I’m aware of it, but I wouldn’t be able to know or I cannot explain properly then. So is it more of a lot of sort of feedback loop in terms of getting that insight into what’s going on in right across the business?

Jessi Schatz

I think to a degree, I think it’s in its fairly early stages, so I think that’s what it started out as. As let’s get the feedback, let’s see what’s happening. And then based on that sort of delving into different problems, identifying areas that these different groups can talk about. And then sort of delve into problems more in depth. But at the beginning I think it started out as just, “What should we talk about? What areas need our attention? And what can we sort of dive more into later on down the road.”

Margaret Burnside

I think there’s more scope to do more of that because the more senior people get in leadership roles, the more distant they can be from what it actually feels like in the organization. That the impact of decisions made it to a strategic level. And I think that opportunity to really understand what it feels like elsewhere in the organization when some of these big decisions are made, and people think, “Hang on those people up there don’t understand what it’s like doing these jobs.” So there’s probably a lot more scope to do more of that in an organized way. And I think it comes back to my original difference between coaching and mentoring and it’s all about the purpose of that mentoring. And if the purpose of that mentoring is to understand more about what it feels like to work in the organization, then mentoring could work very well as a way to get that feedback and that understanding.

Ross Dickie

Yes, probably a quite good place to actually move onto quite a lot in this week as we’ve come full circle. Peter would you like to kick us off?

Peter Casebow

Two things. One slightly flippant, but I’m wondering when I’m ever going to learn. I have had about five or six weeks off doing any sort of training, trying to get back at the weekend to going for a run and climbing a few hills and realizing just how unfit I’ve let myself become. And it happens on such a regular basis that I would think by this age I should know better, but I never seem to crack that one.

Ross Dickie

Except they go after the Christmas holidays actually-

Peter Casebow

It is difficult.

Ross Dickie

… So dispiriting as well when you could have been running for months and then you take a couple of weeks off and then you go back out and you feel like you’re back to square one.

Peter Casebow

End of September we’d done this big grand tour cycle. I was feeling really fit and just horribly unfit. So everything is swollen but achy right now. Anyway, but the other thing was my son and his fiancé went to the house at the weekend and Jenny brought with her a book that I picked up and it’s a bit of sort of history I hadn’t really realized was there. And it’s called, The Unwomanly Face of War by Svetlana Alexievich. And it’s essentially, it’s an oral history of a Soviet woman and her experience fighting at the front line through the Second World War. And I think she’s won maybe a Nobel prize for literature for the work and it’s just a piece of work and I haven’t had a chance to read it yet. I picked it up and started flicking at it. And I’m going to grab the book off her as soon as she’s finished it, but it just fascinating, just even just some of the picking through some of the insights in the book.

I was able to get to in terms of what these women experienced and how they came through the other side of that. The harder, not necessarily unscared, but actually it was still very much going forward. So, yeah, just a piece of history. I was unaware of.

Ross Dickie

Yeah, I had no idea about that either. I will include a link to that book in the show notes for anybody else who wants to check it out. Margaret do you want to go next?

Margaret Burnside

Yeah. Again, a couple of things for me. One very, very immediate. I’ve learnt how to create an audio file and send it.

Peter Casebow:

You haven’t sent it yet, so…!

Margaret Burnside

But I did a test run earlier with Ross and I know that it works. So yeah, that’s one thing but also I participated in a TJ training journal webinar yesterday, and the topic was interpersonal skills. And I learned from Kimberly Hare from Kaizen Training about a formula which affects how we operate really. And it was P=P-I, and that’s performance equals potential minus interference. And little more to it than that, and it’s a blog on a website. So, again, I can help you with the link to that, Ross. Just really, really interesting to realize an awful lot of what affects our performance and relationships is how we manage the interference mostly going on in our own head. But lots of things distract us from being relaxed and in flow, and our wellbeing and enabling us to be our very best. So an interesting area to explore further for me.

Ross Dickie

Great. Yeah. We’ll I’ll put that into in the show notes as well. Jessi?

Jessi Schatz

Yeah. So while spending time with some family over this weekend we were reminiscing on some of our hikes, on some mountains in New Hampshire and there are a flower called, The Lady Slippers, which are a type of orchid. And just me being curious went down the Google rabbit hole of trying to find out more about them because we were told not to pick them, don’t touch them, they’re protected, they’re special. So just wanting to learn more about that. I came across a podcast that had an episode all about orchid delirium. So the Victorian age orchids where all the rage and having one with a status symbol and it was a whole thing. Fascinating to learn about. But these ladies slippers actually at one point were thought to be extinct in the UK. And then there was one found somewhere in Northern England. And this like society came together to protect it and give it police protection and kept its location secret. So yeah, I learned a bit more about lady slippers and the craze around orchids which I did not know that was a thing.

Peter Casebow

Well, just to add to your orchid story, we have an orchid at home, which I think for the last year has done absolutely nothing. But I didn’t even realize we still had it, but my wife had kept it, put it aside and just in the last week has started to bloom again and it’s got flowers all over it. So it’s gone from being appearing to be dead for 12 months to suddenly blossoming. So I think there’s so many of that also they must go through phases, I don’t know but-

Jessi Schatz

There’s historical precedent for it if you need to get a police escort, that’s an option.

Peter Casebow

That’s what I’m missing at home. Yeah.

Ross Dickie

What’s the name of the podcast?

Jessi Schatz

It was an episode of stuff you missed in history class.

Ross Dickie

Okay.

Jessi Schatz

It has a whole bunch of episodes. I’m happy to send along a link to that if I can find it online-

Ross Dickie

Yeah, just send us a link to that. That’d be great. Yeah. Well I also have a podcast recommendation, so I’ve been listening for the last few months to a show called Song Exploder. The way it works is they serve taken individual song, and they’ll serve isolate different tracks from the sort of master recording and play them back. So, recently we did an episode with Lindsey Buckingham from Fleetwood Mac where they’re talking about how he wrote, “Go Your Own Way.” And so they start it with the sort of guitar and then bringing the drums and bringing the lyrics and sort of show you how the song was made. It’s really fascinating. But actually the episode that I was wanting to talk about was another recent one they did with Yo-Yo Ma where they are revisiting the Bach Cello Suites. Specifically the prelude from Cello Suite Number One in G major.

And Yo-Yo Ma, I think he first recorded this in the ’80s. This is now the sixth time he’s recording. He’s just released a new recording. And one of the best cellist. He’s certainly of his generation, certainly the most well known cellist and it’s just fascinating hearing him in the episode. He re-listens to his original recording of the prelude and then looks back on that as a man now in his 60s. And although the first recording is technically very proficient, you know he’s a very good cellist, is not how he would do it now. He refers to as forensic analysis of classical music where he’ll say, “Well this person is interested in making something sound beautiful,” and serve is able to drill down into their intention. So just to start maybe think a little bit about learning. Somebody who’s a master of his craft still feels that there is room for him to improve and continue to revisit this piece of music over the course of his career. So, yeah, I just thought it was interesting

Peter Casebow

And you link to the mentoring piece actually is the fact that a good mentor will still think they need to learn, and also recognize there’s learning. And the ones we were talking about earlier who don’t engage and think themselves they know it, are the ones who probably they think, “We knew it and I don’t need to keeping learning. So maybe there’s a loop back there to the whole topic subject.

Ross Dickie

That’s just what I was about to say. That is all for this week. If you’d like to share your thoughts on this show, you can find us all on Twitter. Peter is-

Peter Casebow

Pcasebow.

Ross Dickie

… Jessi is-

Jessi Schatz

LinkedIn would probably be better.

Ross Dickie

… Okay. Jessi is not on Twitter, but you can find her on LinkedIn. If you search for Jessi Schatz, I guess.

Jessi Schatz

Yep.

Ross Dickie

You should be able to find her. Yeah, Margaret is-

Margaret Burnside

Yeah. @MargaretBurnsid on Twitter because there wasn’t enough characters for the ‘e’.

Peter Casebow

And if you were to ask me again I’ll say @Petercasebow.

Ross Dickie

What did you say originally?

Peter Casebow

I said, Pcasebow.

Ross Dickie

P.

Peter Casebow

I just missed out the eter.

Ross Dickie

I’ll edit it. It’s okay I’ll edit all this together. It’ll be fine. I’ll clean it up. And I am @ross__dickie. You can also tweet @GoodPractice or @GoodPracticeAus. To find out more about GoodPractice or performance support tool kit, the spooky learning under our LMS, visit goodpractice.com. Next week I’ll be back with Owen, Johnny and guests, Marsha Connor to discuss how we can work with robots instead of against them. Thanks for listening. Bye for now.