Nicky Little from Cirrus in People Management

Do HR leaders need mentoring?

When everyone from business moguls to music icons has a mentor, shouldn’t HR professionals follow suit, asks People Management?

The concept of mentoring should need little introduction to the average HR professional. They’re often the individuals charged with introducing mentoring and making sure it delivers value throughout the company. So why is it that they so often forget they might need mentors too?

As HR’s remit becomes more complex, the benefits of having a mentor increase. Nicky Little, director and head of consulting at leadership specialist Cirrus, believes her mentor helped her cope with a period of major transformation when she worked in people development for a large retailer. She says: “My role was very focused on influencing key stakeholders, getting colleagues on board with change, challenging thinking and changing mindsets. My mentor had navigated a similar path during her career so I found it very useful to bounce ideas off her. She helped me reframe my thinking, develop resilience and remain positive – and I in turn enabled others to do the same.”

Drawing on someone’s experience from within the HR function can be useful – particularly if they have undergone something similar. They can also help identify where there may be skills gaps preventing you from progressing in your career.

The important thing is to know what you’re looking to achieve from having a mentor – simply signing up to be mentored because it’s on offer at your company or because you feel it’s the right thing to do will not necessarily guarantee results. Even the best matched mentor and mentee on paper can fail to hit it off in real life – personal chemistry is a huge factor in the success of the relationship.

Blocking out time in an already hectic schedule can be tough, but it’s essential, although technology means a face-to-face meeting at a set time is not always necessary – tools such as Skype or even WhatsApp enable mentors and mentees to see how each other are doing or answer questions on the hoof.

Having a mentor need not be a one-time thing, either, and you can even have multiple mentors at the same time. There’s an increasing trend to seek a ‘portfolio’ of mentors depending on your particular career need at that point – perhaps you need temporary support while managing a merger, for example, or have board presentations coming up and want to hear from someone who’s been there and done that.

Ultimately, the relationship needs to have mutual respect to succeed – forcing ideas on to someone will likely backfire. After all, when it comes to advancing your career in HR, knowing someone has overcome similar obstacles and survived could be the thing that makes all the difference.

© People Management 2017

This is an edited extract from Jo Faragher’s article, Mentoring: Who’s looking after your career? Read this article in full on the People Management website.

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