Advice from the Experts: Mentoring the next generation of women leaders

By Holly Addison, head of hospitality & events practice, Odgers Berndtson

We know women are good for business – boards made up of just men will never be the optimal forum for challenging debates. Gender diversity on boards also strongly correlates to improved financial performance.

In the hospitality industry, despite having a good proportion of women in management roles, at board level, the picture is far less encouraging. Women now hold a record 30% of all FTSE 100 board positions, but a recent study showed that only three of the FTSE 250 businesses in hospitality had female executive directors.

Companies that embrace mentoring are reaping the rewards, with a more engaged, enabled and fulfilled workforce with greater retention at management levels.

It’s good for mentors too – skills such as active listening, building relationships and communicating effectively are essential competencies in effective leaders and vital to the mentoring process.

Tips for successful mentoring

Mentoring is about helping people progress their development. A mentoring relationship does not stand still. Relationships flourish where both parties feel they are getting something from them, so whilst mentoring meetings are usually informal, they do need a sense of purpose.

One of the critical elements of a mentoring relationship is setting clear expectations at the outset. Once you have agreed to be a mentor, you should agree with the mentee how the relationship will work. This should include:

Purpose: what is the mentee seeking to achieve?

  • Practicalities: how often and where will meetings take place and for how long?
  • Formal or informal: how formal will the meetings be?
  • Recording: will outcomes/action plans be recorded?
  • Limits on confidentiality: should any content be shared with third parties?
  • Scope: are there specific topics to be avoided, i.e. personal versus professional issues?
  • Review process: how does each person provide feedback on progress?

What makes a good mentor?

Mentors are not there to solve problems, but can highlight issues and help plan ways to tackle them. Through skilful questioning, they can help clarify the mentee’s perspective while bringing an additional view to bear.

Good mentors…

  • Commit time and willingness to develop a relationship with the mentee
  • Have relevant experience and skills
  • Have well developed interpersonal skills and relate well with different types of individual
  • Have a genuine desire to help and develop
  • Have an open mind and a flexible attitude
  • Are sufficiently senior to give the mentee access to relevant resources and knowledge

What makes a good mentee?

The primary responsibility for managing the mentoring relationship lies firmly with the mentee. The mentee must be clear on the objectives they are seeking to fulfil, recognise the value in the opportunity and take the lead in arranging meetings.

Good mentees…

  • Demonstrate commitment and enthusiasm for the process
  • Take responsibility for their own development and follow up on commitments
  • Show a flexible approach to new methods of learning Constructively review and reflect on their own behaviour
  • Are open to feedback, challenge and different perspectives
  • Openly share experiences and thinking

Successful mentoring should create value and learnings for both mentor and mentee; although the process should not always be ‘comfortable’ it should support self-exploration and enable questions to be answered in a totally safe environment.

If you are interested in having a mentor, would like to introduce mentees from your organisation or to lend your support as a mentor, contact PlanB@odgersberndtson.com.

Key Points

  • Mentees should drive the relationship
  • Mentor and mentee meet on a regular basis, agreed in advance and prepare for meetings
  • Set clear objectives at the outset
  • Use time between meetings to complete action plans
  • Help each other to expand individual personal networks
  • Celebrate success together