24th October 2019 ff15

Hearing from the “Men” in Mentoring

Over the past five years, I’m proud to say Fast Forward 15 has gone from strength to strength delivering some career and life changing results for the women who have taken part. While the focus has rightly been on how we can support these mentees in developing and achieving their goals, I have heard time and time again from the wonderful mentors involved about what they also get out of being a part of these inspirational journeys.

I recently had the opportunity to discuss this with Toby Guest, who is the Global Procurement Manager, Congress and Events at Bayer who is one of our current crop of talented mentors. I want to share with you his experience of being involved in FF15 and his take on the value of “men” in this mentoring programme.

Fay: So, Toby how did you get involved in the FF15 programme and mentoring?
Toby: I was invited to the FF15 graduation event in 2017 and 2018 and was inspired when I saw the journey some of the mentees had made. Seeing the new year’s intake, appearing rather reserved and maybe shy but then the following year the transformation at the graduation to confident and gung ho – I wanted to be part of that journey and, if I can help even sharing one small part of my experience, it will be rewarding and of value.

Fay: Have you benefited from the programme so far?
Toby: I know you are keen for the mentors to get something out of mentoring too, I’m only 6 months in and I’m sure with the mentee setting goals it will trigger something. Ask me again in 6 months!
I have however started to appreciate that I probably take for granted the experience I have; once you start mentoring someone else things that are a challenge, as a mentor I can see clearly possible solutions for them.

Fay: What challenges do you think there are for women in the work place and how can mentoring help?
Toby: It’s hard to generalise with people at all, and certainly on gender, but I think confidence can be an issue. Some women historically have had their confidence taken away from them through unfair or overbearing managers/colleagues.

Women tend to be more empathetic and consequently attuned to what others think, therefore caring what others think and reflecting that back on themselves. Whereas men, in my experience, generally have rather thicker skins and at least outwardly, appear to care less about what people think, enabling them to bounce back from criticism or set-backs (or at least styling it out). I know many men and women who are the complete opposite of this description, but I think it’s a fair perception at least. Mentoring can help by both boosting confidence in the mentee by helping them realise how capable they really are, and by framing any past issues as opportunities to develop and progress.

Fay: What top tips can you give on how a mentor can help their mentee?
Toby: Look for areas where your experience can add value at work or personally.
Open your personal network / work contacts, take them to appropriate industry events and if you’re invited to be on a panel or speak invite them along.

Fay: What do you think is the key thing mentees take away from FF15?
Toby: I think the legacy they take away is the relationships they build from the FF15 community and other mentees. Working together on the charity event is a highlight and they defiantly learn a lot from the experience other mentees bring to the table. The mentee network is every bit as important as that with the mentor.

Fay: As a man mentoring on an all women programme were there challenges?
Toby: Yes, I had Gender guilt! When I first started I almost felt as if I should apologise for not being a confident female role model but a man! I think I’m over that now as my mentee is getting 20 years plus of experience! So there is value whether her mentor is male or female.

Fay: What advice can you give men looking to be a mentor on FF15 or elsewhere?
Toby: Key thing is to actively listen – men sometimes have a tendency to “Mansplain”, in other words give too much advice instead of listening. Only give advice if asked, otherwise be there as a sounding board.

People tend to come to their own conclusions through the process of discussion, so just be there to guide them if that’s what they need.

And finally, here are Toby’s top tips for mentoring:

1. No mansplaining!
2. Look at things from your mentee’s perspective.
3. Goals can be big or small, a goal’s a goal in my book and even if only a significant milestone is reached by the end of the FF15 programme, that’s at least a significant step on the way to achieving those longer-term objectives.
4. Use the network and build a legacy.
5. Feels good to help someone else so why not!

Applications for FF15 2020 will open in December, so if you are interested in one of the mentee positions then please explore this website for more information. Of course, if you would like to share your professional expertise as a mentor, then I’d be delighted to hear from you!

Fay Sharpe