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It's time to sack your mentor

By Dr Phil Renshaw and Jenny Robinson
We are all witnessing enormous changes to the world that we work in through the impact of COVID-19. It is way too early to tell which changes will be permanent versus those that are only temporary. Although some would surely seem to have an element of permanence already.


For example, if your business has continued to work effectively despite sending employees home to work virtually this will raise questions regarding the most effective physical structure for your business. Of course, this could be interpreted differently because longer term impacts may be hidden, such as a loss of overall team effectiveness through a lack of face-to-face interaction without the additional leadership skills that requires. There are all sorts of new possibilities that may affect us all in many different ways.

One thing is certain, however. In the past people sought mentors in order to bring their experience to bear. In other words, the mentor had experience of something that you were interested to pursue or learn from and hence you turned to that mentor to benefit from their experience. For the same reason we often recommend that people, especially young people, with less experience in a particular business might seek a mentor. Or senior people seek a younger mentor with very different perspectives. Mentors help guide people. And yet given the significance of the changes that are happening right now in the world, who can we turn to who has greater experience?

Whilst politicians may not have succeeded in their attempts for us all to be in this together in the same way, we have certainly been in this together. Events have shifted daily. Trying to understand the implications is challenging for all. Experts are disagreeing with each other and this would seem quite reasonable.

And hence we think it’s time to ask yourself a serious question about the mentors that you currently rely upon or are seeking. Do they truly have greater experience of this new highly complex environment that we work in? Do they truly have better ideas than you? Can those expensive management consultants really add value or will they have to rely on their old models and their old theories that have served them so well for years – in a different world? Are the young and inexperienced in a better place, less blinkered and biased than the older experienced hands?

We suggest the solution and the way forward for the way of work is a more collaborative style of engagement. The old paradigm of a clear mentor-mentee relationship has surely disappeared. Leadership is generated between us, together, bringing our different experiences, perspectives and feelings into a combined melting pot. Future successful leadership will require acknowledgement that no one has all the answers. The world of work is too complex and uncertain. We must rely on a coming together and leading collaboratively. Recognising that the old paradigm of the hero leader has gone. We are all leaders and together we create leadership.

It's time to look very closely at your existing community of mentors, consultants and guides. Are they still right for you and your business or should you invest your money elsewhere – in you perhaps?


Preparing people


About the Authors

Dr Phil Renshaw and Jenny Robinson are academics, entrepreneurs, teachers, and both have extensive private coaching businesses. Both deliver workshops for Cranfield Executive Development and Cranfield School of Management. Phil and Jenny met on the first day of their PhDs and immediately realised that they shared a depth of business experience from around the world that, combined with coaching, provided a unique perspective on leaders and their leadership. They are the authors of Coaching on the Go (Pearson, 2019), which offers a unique perspective on coaching skills for leaders and the power of coaching by focusing on everyday life situations. To learn more and to respond to their views please contact them via www.coachingonthego.co.uk

Tags: leadership, article