'they did matter'
Mentors who helped me on my way
David is a unique character combining versatility and integrity. He could remove an engine from a Land Rover, pilot his plane from his landing strip, slaughter, cook and serve a wild beast for dinner and play a mean game of tennis - all before bedtime! I envied his skills and admired his enduring attitude towards life’s challenges. A white man, born in Zambia, David flourished in Africa, understanding the psyche and thinking of Africans and their Continent. His openness and honesty impressed me; David had the highest
integrity of anybody I’ve ever met. He was also well-respected in Zambian business and political circles.
David taught me that a Leader
should focus on what needs to be done,
rather than on surrounding problems -
because that does matter.
Jim’s turnaround of the UK Division was nothing short of miraculous. First, he hand-picked a strong management team and then drove us and the employees to exceed all expectations, through relentless hard work and persistence. He transformed the Division from being a basket-case of inefficiency, poor quality, and low morale, seen as an over-manned cost centre; into one of the most profitable and productive Divisions within the whole Global Group. He gave people opportunities to shine and I was very fortunate to be by his side as we climbed that difficult mountain together.
Jim taught me how to lead with my head held high and a sharp eye, showing me how to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. Jim taught me that anything is possible.
Willie was an early exponent of ‘management by walking about’. He was the epitome of a Grand Old Gentleman, wearing a fresh red carnation in the lapel of his pin-striped suit, and greeting and chatting to everyone, somehow knowing each person’s name. Willie's apprentices were well-trained in other departments as part of their development. We were sent to 'Outward Bound' courses to learn how to survive in the great outdoors, and given time off to study. Willie rose to become a Director of two large UK Banks, Scottish Tourism Board and President of the Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce. Willie established The Thyne Scholarship enabling young men and woman to travel to a country of their choice to study and research their particular vocation.
Willie taught me that there's more to being a
Leader than just a fancy title, it takes having the time for others. Willie would have been a Leader in any century.
I met Alan by accident one Sunday morning when I was on holiday and out for a stroll. There and then he offered me a job, so we moved house and 300 kilometers on a handshake from a stranger. What happened next transformed my life.
Alan taught me to lead by example, to be even-handed and above all supportive of your employees . This rich, blonde bombshell of a man, thought nothing of removing his jacket and getting stuck in to help employees whether it was driving a truck, sweeping the floors, making the coffee or just being the first to arrive and last to leave. Alan was a helper and made it his life's work to help employees be better at what they did.
Alan believed in me, gave me my chance in management to develop as a potential Leader. He taught me how powerful the 'common touch' is. People looked up to Alan, but he never looked down on them.
The Path to Success in Mentoring
Good Mentors know how to get the best out of people. During many years as a Leader, I was always aware of what works best for individuals, particularly those who showed Leadership qualities.
Successful Mentors, develop a close professional and trusting partnership with their Mentee. They know that Trust only comes over time, and must be built by each other. Early on in the relationship, the Mentor and Mentee will want to know as much as possible about each other. I deliberately make early conversations as wide ranging and in-depth as possible. The mr alex Mentee Evaluation Process is designed for us to evaluate each other, as early as possible, it's important to establish whether we really can make a Team of Two!
The online questionnaire is the starting point, designed to really break the ice and start our conversation. We will then call each other via video link so we can actually walk the talk and assess whether I am the right Mentor for you and I can decide if I think I can help you in your Leadership Development. Finally, assuming we want to work together to support you as a Leader, we will forward you an offer to provide you with a one-on-one Private Mentoring Service. The minimum period of the Mentoring Service is six months from your date of payment. Whether you are already a Leader or an emerging one, it takes time to build trust and confidence, and Mentoring is to important to get wrong. So, six months is a reasonable period in which to establish us as a Team of Two and for the Mentee to derive benefits from the mr alex Private Mentoring Service.
My objective is to help the Mentee on their journey as a successful Leader. So getting to know each other is key to building up the trust needed to create a great Team of Two! Anyone in Leadership knows that it is important to work quickly. Leaders tend to be quick thinkers and have a desire to get on with things. So, utilising our time together means listening and doing!
Here is an example of the steps we might take as Mentor and Mentee.
Get to know each other quickly by being open and straight forward
Achieve an early success
Build trust through confidence-building actions
Play to each other’s strengths and work on our weaknesses
Utilise other resources as required
Have fun and enjoy working with each other
Try something new together, often
Measure progress, continuously improve, and stick to the task
Remain flexible and open to new ideas and different ways to succeed
Keep the content of our discussions private and confidential
The role of a Mentor is to listen, remain flexible (often Mentees have very different methods of reaching their goals), be curious (because that is a measure of interest) and be straight enough to tell a Mentee when I think they are taking unnecessary risks or are in danger of doing something that is not in their best long term interest, illegal or less than good practice.
A good Mentor runs away from nothing - as Leaders, they know what it's like at the hot end of a furnace. You should always choose a Mentor who has felt the heat! I have led companies of all sizes and many different sectors and even Continents! During my sojourns, I closed businesses down, started new Greenfield sites, introduced new products, went into liquidation, fired hundreds of people and hired many more. I have fired entire management teams and built successful new ones.
I have worked around militant unions and got them to do what they swore they never would! I know what it's like to deal with horrible, delightful, quiet, noisy, disruptive, egocentric, cheaters and upcoming stars. None of us are perfect, including Leaders.
Mentors also have to be responsible people, that is why having a track record of achievement as a Leader is vital. We don’t take the task of Mentoring lightly, and would rather turn away candidates we cannot help achieve their desired outcomes. I only Mentor people after appropriate due diligence on their background and encourage them to do the same with me.
Mentors are learners by nature and we never stop learning - so choose a Mentor who is up-to-date and interested in your business. Remember Leadership is an Art and must be learnt and practised.
The role of the Mentee is to listen to the Mentor’s advice and then act on what is agreed. There is no point in having a Mentor whom you ignore, if we choose each other - I won't be ignored and neither will you!
I do not take on Mentees for less than six months. This is because we both need to build trust and act on what we have agreed, this takes a little time. I am not a management consultant, I will be your Mentor and in your corner helping you win. My success is based on what you achieve, not what I tell you to do.
The Mentee will be challenged, sometimes just to test and flush out how strong your views are on an important matter. The Art of Leadership requires Mentees to take on tasks they don’t always want or like doing, but by doing certain tasks they build their ability to persevere. Leaders develop strong levels of perseverance, an indispensable tool to have. If you are not already made of rubber, you will be after six months with me as your Mentor. Learning to bounce back is regarded by me as an essential attitude for any Leader.
I check whether Mentees have a good understanding and technical knowledge of their industry or speciality. I don’t test for personal competence, but I do check for Leadership qualities such as personal focus, honesty, stickability, humour, endurance and candour and whether you enjoy what your doing!
On completion of the six months, you will have explored sufficient possibilities, clarified your thinking on your future steps as a Leader and established a clear strategy to take you towards your personnel objectives. There is also the option for you to extend the six month mr alex Private Mentoring Service to a monthly basis.
A Team of Two
Both of us should be perfectly aligned and focused on the Mentee's objectives. It requires us to build trust over time through confidence, the sooner the better.
A Mentor sits alongside you, they are someone you can confide in, a team player in your Team of Two, who want the same outcome as you do. When two Leaders combine as one, the results can be nothing short of fabulous.