Olympian Alex Danson: Why a mentoring scheme can help you win

Olympian Alex Danson: Why a mentoring scheme can help you win

HR is always looking for ways to nurture and enhance talent and, frequently, they look no further than their own workforce.

In Team GB the development of leadership skills is encouraged by pairing team members with mentors – but what is the key to implementing a successful and rewarding programme?

We spoke to Alex Danson, a gold medal winner at the Rio 2016 Olympics for Team GB and an ambassador for Shakespeare Martineau, who gave us her tips for doing so. 

Don’t force it

“One of the most crucial factors for businesses to consider is that a mentoring scheme won’t necessarily work for everyone or every business. Forcing this type of initiative can be counterproductive for all parties involved and it shows no weakness to admit that it’s not your bag.”  

Set a clear objective

“The first step organisations must take when developing a scheme is to establish an overarching aim for what they want the initiative to achieve. Individual mentees should also have their own objectives to work towards to keep sessions focused and avoid them digressing into general conversation with no productive outcome. In doing so, tracking development is made clearer and gives mentors tangible elements to measure progress against, as well as allowing them to set new goals moving forwards.”

Lead by example

“A good mentor needs to encompass all of a business’ core values and should set a good example to not only their mentee but the wider workforce, and this is something to keep in mind when identifying individuals suitable for the role. Needless to say, if an employee works to the highest standard possible, junior colleagues are likely to follow their lead. Similarly, if they’re seen to be doing the wrong things, it’s likely that mentees will copy and pick up bad habits.”

Reverse roles

"For a programme to work, mentors must recognise that younger and/or more junior employees with less experience can add just as much value to the partnership as some of their longer-standing colleagues.

"Whilst senior staff may assume they are expected to impart all of their knowledge for little in return, they should recognise the benefits of being a mentor and that it can be mutually rewarding. Even more importantly, working closely with new talent can really help to show a new perspective as they often bring new skills and ideas.

“Some of the most valuable lessons I have learnt have been from some of the newest and least experienced players.”

Branch out

“The role of mentor doesn’t have to be confined to the workplace. Making a positive difference to somebody’s life in a more personal capacity can be a rewarding payoff for the mentor. Similarly, it can be beneficial for mentees to have more than one mentor – one in the workplace and one slightly removed from their immediate team or office. This helps to provide unbiased clarity and a fresh outlook.”


Image courtesy of Flickr user fourthandfifteen.

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