Last summer we interviewed Dennis Stanley as he was about to embark on a Mentorship role with the One Million Mentors programme. You can read about Dennis’ hopes and aspirations for the scheme in his first interview here. Now, one year on, we’ve returned to find out how the scheme is going and whether that ‘itch’ to support others has finally been scratched!
The One Million Mentor scheme is a scheme with an aim to connect a million young people with a million opportunities through a mentoring relationship, to increase youth employability, support social action and break down social barriers. I’d had a desire to do something for the local community for some time, and have benefited from mentoring myself, particularly in the early part of my career, so it felt like a great way to give something back.
The organisation of the Scheme took a little time, so I only began my mentorship journey earlier this year. I’ve committed to one session per month over a six-month period and we’re half-way through our journey.
I’ve been paired with a mentee who is in her late teens who has low confidence and is extremely shy. So one of the biggest motivators for me is to encourage conversation and be able to support her to increase her confidence levels in a safe and meaningful way.
The mentorship scheme is online, and due to safeguarding, the sessions operate through audio only. Whilst this is understandable, it does represent a challenge for me as the mentor. Not being able to see your mentee means that you can’t pick up on visual clues in body language; conversely, I’m an expressive person and use my hands (a lot) whilst talking, all of which is lost through audio only sessions. To compensate, I’ve had to work harder at really engaging my “active listening skills” and continually test my understanding of the limited amount that is being said (typically sentences consisting of 3-4 words) in order for me to offer any useful interventions!
And I’ve found that establishing rapport has been very different in this mentoring context. In a workplace scenario I might draw on similarities in our working approach(es), shared sector experiences, topical news pertinent to a project or client etc. But with a young person the dynamics are different. You need to find a credible common ground that you can build upon to establish a rapport and build trust, which is challenging when your mentee gives you very little to work with!
I’ve found that a storytelling approach has worked well so far. By re-living my life experiences and explaining how I have overcome challenges, and the ensuing results, I’ve managed to bring topics to life for my mentee. So, for example, I can draw on my own feelings of shy-ness in my younger years and articulate how it affected me. We have discussed tactics such as modelling behaviour, a technique where you mimic the behaviours of peers or someone you respect and perceive as capable of achieving ambitions that you hold for yourself. It’s a technique that I still use today, so I would put it in the “life skills” bracket as it can be used in different aspects of life!
But I’ve also had to ‘throw out the rule book’ to some extent in terms of traditional mentorship principles. So for example, the principle of not filling the silence with your own voice and giving your mentee “the space to think” before responding, hasn’t been a successful approach for this mentee, hence the use of storytelling as a way of imparting ideas for the mentee to explore.
I’ve learned such a lot in only three sessions.
I’ve learned that nothing is straight forward – sometimes you have to take a couple of steps back to take a step forward, but it’s recognising that that’s ok and it’s all part of a natural process and a bigger picture.
Linked to that, the pace with each mentee is different too. You might share an idea or a piece of advice with your mentee and it might be another two sessions before you can see the impact of that advice you gave; different people take time to absorb, reflect and utilise (or reject) that information so it’s difficult to set a timeframe on achieving your mentees desired goals within a specific mentorship Scheme which is time bound.
Before I began the 1MM scheme I said that I hoped that the mentee would have space and time for judgement-free conversations with someone who is actively listening, and that would empower them as individuals., We’ve had three sessions now where that time and space has been provided, and I hope that she has found it a valuable and empowering use of her time. My aim is to help her grow in confidence. It’s small steps at first but with time, I hope she’ll be proud of the steps she’s taken forward.
Initially I was hoping for the satisfaction of seeing someone grow in confidence and achieve their goals through the conversations I’ve had with them. Currently I’m only three sessions into the Scheme so it’s difficult to say whether that feeling of satisfaction of someone achieving their goals will be felt by me personally at the conclusion of the Scheme, but I know that progress is being made already and that of itself is rewarding.
I’ve also always felt that mentoring was a two-way process, and certainly this experience has helped me learn a lot about my own mentorship style. It’s taught me to be adaptable and to recognise the “milestone achievements” that are littered throughout a mentorship process.
Dennis is a senior purchasing professional, with 30 years’ experience having worked across Aerospace, Financial Services, Pharmaceutical, Retail, Telecoms and Utilities. Specialising in technology sourcing, specifically in Software, SaaS, Business Applications, and IT Services. He is experienced in leading complex sourcing deals ranging from £0.25m – £100m.
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