Having responsibility for the AHRI mentoring program has enabled me to see first-hand some of the benefits gained by both parties. Apart from the traditional view that a mentee gains perspective and learns from the mentor’s experience, the development of mentoring and coaching skills along with gaining insight into the challenges faced by the mentee, can be very rewarding for the mentor as well.
Despite knowing this in theory, it wasn’t until I entered into a mentoring relationship myself that I saw what a positive effect it could have on all aspects of my working life and often on my personal life as well.
Being an HR practitioner in a relatively small business is a new situation for me. The opportunity to debrief with my mentor Heidi, and discuss the day-to-day challenges I was facing was a big relief. Just to hear from someone who has ‘been there, done that’ in some shape or form, was comforting and allowed me to have confidence in the actions I was taking.
Often you have decided how to deal with a particular situation and that’s when your mentor can take on more of a coaching role, helping you to articulate the approach you already know that you need to take.
I don’t always agree with my mentor. Some healthy debate about the best approach to an HR issue can be a great way to draw out a full picture of the situation and what the options are in terms of dealing with it. In some instances my mentor plays devil’s advocate to help confirm in my own mind that the decision I am making is a good one. Perspective is a huge part of dealing with a highly-charged people situation and the external view she provides to me can help me separate the facts from the emotions of the situation and provide clarity. Particularly in a small business, it can be more difficult to separate yourself from the people you are dealing with and look objectively, and my mentor is able to look at the situation without it being coloured by personal relationships or experiences. These are all things that can be achieved on your own but a mentoring relationship can really help you get to there more efficiently. Oftentimes I really needed to just be able to vent about a situation to her so that I could then stop and think about it in a more rational and objective fashion. It avoids taking home burdensome work issues and unloading them in your personal space.
One thing we encourage mentoring pairs in the AHRI program to understand is that, like any relationship, there is a need for open and honest communication on both parts. As a result of this, you often find yourself sharing on a professional basis as well as a personal one. It can be difficult for someone to help you deal with the challenges you are facing at work, without understanding if there are personal aspects also contributing. Understanding how the context of how your work life interacts with your personal life is valuable in helping identify whether external factors are contributing to the way you are handling a workplace challenge. One of the challenges I was finding most difficult in my role was the isolation that can sometimes come from being an HR practitioner. Not everyone wants to have lunch or grab a coffee with the HR manager unless they have a problem to discuss. It was great to hear from my mentor that I wasn’t alone in this position and to talk through some different ways of being involved without people being threatened by the HR role.
One of the added bonuses of having a mentor is the insight you receive into another practitioner’s experience. My mentor has been going through an EBA negotiation and I have found her account of the process of consultation and compromise to be fascinating. While we only meet monthly, each instalment has given me a little more of an idea of what occurs during a negotiation of that scale. I would like to think that having someone to bounce ideas off in relation to the process has been helpful to her as well.
The greatest value I have found from having a mentor is the conversation. It’s the ‘not feeling alone’ in making a decision. It’s the gaining of confidence to have the conversations I need to have in the organisation to achieve the necessary outcomes. Having a mentor is a not a requirement, but in a role where we need to bring different experiences and knowledge to the table every day to do our jobs effectively, it’s great to have that extra tool in the kit to perform effectively.
I’m sure everybody uses the workplace mentoring relationship in different ways. What I value is having a sounding board and confidante for the challenging times.
How does your mentoring relationship help you be a better HR practitioner?
For more information on the AHRI mentoring program visit the AHRI website.