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Mentoring lets you share ideas, solve problems and learn. I have been lucky to have had fantastic mentors. I have also learnt a lot from mentoring others. If you are interested in trying, this blog is for you.

3 good reasons to mentor

  1. Teaching or guiding someone else boosts your learning; there is no better way.
  2. Being asked good questions increases your self-awareness. You may be surprised by how much knowledge and experience you have to offer.
  3. Giving makes you feel good. Times may be hard, but they are even tougher for younger people. Supporting a talented young person can help put your situation in perspective.


3 top tips for mentors

  1. Be honest: Explaining how you handled difficulties can be just as important as giving your recipes for success – sometimes more so.
  2. Listen openly and fully: Avoid jumping to what you think are solutions while the person asks you a question; this can stop you absorbing everything the person wants to tell you.
  3. Relax, engage and enjoy: Don’t clock-watch in the sessions. If you really can’t make time for the person, explain and reschedule.


5 tips for getting a great mentor

  1. Be clear: You need someone with whom you can develop a rapport and who can offer what you need. First profile your ideal mentor. What professional experience and personal qualities will help you? Do you need a role model who resembles you in some way? Someone in your own line of work? Or someone who brings fresh ideas from a totally different context?
  2. Sell yourself: Summarise what is special about you. Highlight evidence of your capacity to learn and develop. Put this in a short ‘pitch’ you can email to a potential mentor. What might they learn from you? Prepare for practicalities – time, communication – and do everything to make life easier for the mentor.
  3. Ask! The worst thing that can happen is they say no, but that is not the

    end of the world. Most people are open to suggestions and feel flattered that someone wants them to be their mentor.

  4. Review the relationship regularly: Ask for honest feedback and give it. Keep the learning channels open.
  5. Make the most of the relationship: Make time to work out your priorities before each meeting and email your agenda to your mentor. In discussions, take notes, then re-read them and use them to work out your next steps, or further questions you may have.

Need further inspiration?

Check out this new book to which I have contributed a case study: Click here for details.


What do people want from a blog?

Why are you reading this?

Normally at my happiest with pen in hand (yes, a pen, with messy real ink – younger readers will be able to find a picture of this antique item on the internet). But writing a blog? That’s another story.

Do we read blogs because other people’s lives are endlessly fascinating? Or is it because we are constantly in search of a life (and answers) which are better, apparently, than our own?

And who are ‘you’ anyway?

If I were writing this in Polish I would need to decide if you are plural (i.e. all you imagined hoardes of readers gathered breathlessly around your screens waiting (in vain) for pearls of wisdom to drop into your lap) or singular (e.g. the one person, such as my best and most loyal friend, who I can reliably assume will actually read this)? English lets one (not ‘you’!) be vague grammatically. If I knew who ‘you’ were I could gear this blog accordingly, throwing in references to suit your preferences. But I am working in the dark. You may be deaf like me, or disabled, and interested in that aspect of my experience. Of you may be a legal beagle who has heard of the court case I brought against the Foreign and Commmonwealth Office, or perhaps you are someone who is interested in having coaching.

I could and would write quite different blogs for you in these audiences, but as it is, I feel in a similar state of trepidation to the one I experienced many years ago, when as an English teacher, an editor asked me if I could turn as set of classroom activities into a book. Of course I could! But when it came to write the instructions for the activities, I asked, ‘Who am I writing for? A novice teacher taking their first steps in the classroom and needing every detail spelled out? Or a seasoned professional who could knock up a lesson plan on the back of an envelope in their coffee break and breeze through, confident of being able to handle the classroom dynamics? And where were they- Yemen or York?’ The answer came: You are writing for all those teachers and everyone in between. Right. Er, OK.

So, readers from Worsley to Warsaw, here are

this month’s highlights:

Most interesting event: The Springboard Consultancy’s annual conference. A brief to inspire 100 dynamic personal development trainers – experts in inspiration themselves – was slightly daunting initially but ultimately exhilarating and humbling. I admit it made a change to spend a day in such unreservedly positive company. See what their verdict was.

Best pause for thought: Watching ‘Minsk 2011’ by Free Belarus theatre – in Russian, with backdrop English captions – the first genuinely thrilling and biting theatrical experience for a long time. A set of heart-rending short stories from each actor at the end struck me as real. (I have visited and briefly worked in, Belarus). I met the Director afterwards, checked and sadly, I was right. It beggars belief that less than a 3-hour flight from the UK and on the border of the EU there is a Soviet-style dictatorship alive and well. Take any opportunity you can to see this talented, brave group.

Women of the month:

Lamia Al Sinani from the British Council in Oman: One of a new generation of women’s development trainers in the Middle East, Lamia’s presentation at the Springboard conference was a timely reminder of the challenges women face in the region. One of her comments particularly struck home to me: ‘For you in the west a woman being able to make her own decisions is normal; for the women in Oman it can make a huge difference to her life’. Bravo to Lamia and her colleagues trainers for the crucial work they are doing.

Ruth Gould, CEO of the Da Da Fest: a volcanic spring of energy, passion and creative enthusiasm with an energetic team to match. I am hoping to attend some of the Da Da’s wonderful- events in Liverpool next month.

Getting physical: Zumba. Being a deafo I tend to avoid classes like the plague.

But losing your hearing does not mean losing your sense of rhythm. If you can forget the comic effect of my poor balance on the ‘waggle- round- in-a-circle- on-one-leg’ move, I was no worse than the other 29 people in the class. (And as you ask, no, I did not fall over, but not quite falling over can actually look funnier than doing it- which tends to evoke sympathy, or at least pity!)


Mystery of the month: Why does Hamlet (next door’s semi-adopted cat, pictured) choose to spend so much time sitting on the fence between our houses? Is he an undecided voter as regards the quality of feline catering in each household? Or is he practising some mystical meditation which enables a medium-sized cat to actually be oblivious to the discomfort of the narrow fence on which he is seated? (NB: Naturally when I arranged a photo session to illustrate this, Hamlet, like all celebrities, declined to be pictured in the requested position, as it clearly did not show his best side).

Best austerity observation: A 6-year old at the gym approached me to show off her new umbrella. When I explained that mine was broken, with part of one hinge hanging off, she frowned and examined it. Having asked me how to open it, she pointed out ‘It still works!’ which was indeed true. I felt chastened. What is a more cosmetic irregularity such as an unhinged hinge, compared to functionality, especially in these times of austerity? She then mused, ‘My umbrella’s better though’. As hers not only bore attractive pictures of Snow White but also lacked troublesome hinges, I could not disagree!