What makes someone a mentor?

What makes someone a mentor?

Monday, 25 February 2019

Mentors. What are they? Who are they? What do they do? How do you find one?


The Oxford English Dictionary defines a mentor as follows: Mentor noun an experienced person in a company or education institution who trains and counsels new employees or students.

We think there’s more to it than that. Who are the real mentors? Teachers? Partners? Parents? Bosses? Peers? Friends?....What makes someone your mentor? That spark, the relationship that just clicks, you can’t put a price on that. Today, with the hurricane of information and knowledge sharing out there, it’s actually more difficult to cut through to the stuff that you need for your career and your life. This is personal. What do we define as mentoring?


Take a look at the mentors of these successful women, the people who added that spark to their lives and careers and maybe we’ll find the secret…



The mentor Friend.  Sir Peter Parker Renaissance Man


Working with Travellers Fare, the British Rail catering arm, Pru thought it would be a great idea to privatise the catering and give the contract to the retail store Marks and Spencer. Her friend, then chairman of the board, knew it wouldn’t work. Why would Marks and Spencer want to put three croissants on the train at the beginning of the Hereford line? She hadn’t thought it through but he let her find out for herself and learn from the experience. When she was asked to chair the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures & Commerce, she didn't feel she had the experience but he encouraged her to take it on. She was asked to give a speech her opening line was along the lines of "I'm sure you're surprised to find a cook talking to you today about such a serious subject ..." He stopped her and told her not to apologise for being there, to just get on with the serious subject and let the audience be surprised by that. Similarly years later when she was asked to be on the Safeway board, part of the Argyll group, he told her she should make it a condition of her acceptance that within a year she would be appointed to the main Argyll board.

She says, "I learned from him that there is no need to restrict yourself to one area in life; a life that encompasses enterprise, charity and the arts is enviable and I’ve tried to emulate that".


The mentor Aunt.  Patricia Kelly writer and broadcaster


Sarajevo and your Aunt in a helmet and bullet proof jacket is reporting from the frontline! From her time spent in studios watching her aunt work as a journalist, to sharing time together with her and her children on their family farm Kelly saw first-hand the worklife balance in action.

She says, "When she wasn’t doing her high powered job she was getting on looking after her family. At Christmas she wraps her presents in the most beautiful, original way, using unusual materials. Watching her taught me to give everything, even wrapping a present, my best effort, to go the extra mile."


The mentor teacher: Don Jones


On school night, the young Hillary Clinton's youth minister drove her and other Sunday School students from their quaint Tudor-style church to a bare-bones community center on the South Side of Chicago to meet with black and Hispanic teenagers, many of them in gangs. As the children drew their chairs into a tight semicircle, the minister propped up a framed print of "Guernica," Picasso's tableau of wartime devastation. One black girl, tears streaming down her cheeks, stunned the visitors as she described her uncle being shot over a parking space.

She says, "My philosophy has evolved over time to reflect what I hope represents the best of the values I was exposed to and absorbed [as a child] and the exposure to the world by my education and other opportunities that were given to me."


The mentor Mother:  Dinah


Sometimes you’re too young to even know you’re being mentored. Indeed in many cases your mother probably doesn’t know the potential impact she is having on your life. She is just doing her job bringing up her daughter best as she can. Love, guidance, chemistry. Kay’s mum spent many hours spinning her wonderful stories-some of them true and some wildly embroidered.

She says, "Her stories always had a beginning, a middle and an end and were always working towards a wonderful moment, and so structuring a story has always been second nature to me. She encouraged me to let my imagination go and in a sense I never stopped playing"


The mentor Grandfather:  Charles Blomfield


Walking and talking for hours with your grandfather, one of those wonderful people who know the name of everything and is happy to explore ideas with you, Anita discovered how personal qualities in a mentor are just as important as professional experience. Having left school at 15 Anita’s grandfather was passionate about people grabbing every opportunity offered in life.

She says, "The key thing was the support and encouragement he gave me. He pushed me in a way that perhaps I wouldn’t have done myself had I been left to my own devices."


The mentor teacher:  Wynton Marsalis Legendary Trumpeter


Being taught by a teacher with a passion for learning is a pretty good start. Nicola’s teacher helped her to see the importance of learning and gaining knowledge throughout life. On top of that he never tired of telling her how vital it is in a developing musician to know precisely what her talent is and to believe in that; to see it for what it is rather than to try and be something else.

She says, "He has made a huge difference in my life: seeing someone who is so comfortable in his own skin and remains unaltered by the less serious side of the business has been vital".


The mentor boss: Sir Ralph Halpern formerly Head of the Burton Group


You’re 23 and display manager for Topshop in Oxford Circus. Not bad! And then your boss decides to take you under his wing, introduces you to the visual side of retailing and whoosh your career takes off. Studying retail practices around the world enabled Mary to develop creative concepts that helped launch her own successful business.

She says, "I remember admiring his energy and drive. He believed in my potential and in turn I grew in self belief."


So there you have seven successful women and seven inspiring mentors. We don’t know about you but we can’t see any one characteristic that sets these mentors apart from the rest of us. It seems that everyone has individualities that need individual relationships.  Today the seven women above, along with their peers, are busy mentoring or being mentored as we speak. Are you?




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