by Danna Walker, Chair of Architects for Change
FLUID launched in 2012 with a mission to support the retention of construction professionals from diverse backgrounds and their career aspirations. This year’s programme has an amazing cohort of volunteer mentors working at every level of industry from a variety of disciplines encompassing between them hundreds of years of construction industry experience
As part of the recruitment process we ask the volunteers why they wish to dedicate their time to this programme The most common response is “to give something back” and this desire was beautifully demonstrated at the Mentor Session held in October and attended by a mix of alumni and brand new recruits. Over the course of the evening with patience, generosity and a good splash of humour our mentors shared their perspectives both personal and professional; they made new connections and inspired each other for the journey ahead.
I believe that some incredibly valuable, but sometimes underrated skills, are developed in the role of mentor. This lack of recognition of the business benefits of mentors may explain why some of our volunteers have needed to make the case for joining the programme. Here are just 4 of the reasons why having mentors in your company is great for business:
Improved self awareness
Self-awareness is defined as “conscious knowledge of one’s own character, feelings, motives and desires.”
In the context of a construction business this may not sound as important as technical skill but I believe that self awareness is a key ability, forming the foundation of exemplar leadership and management skills. For example a highly self aware team leader is better able to understand their own strengths and weaknesses and apply that understanding to others.
At its heart mentoring offers the perfect platform for the in depth self reflection required to be an effective mentor and studies reveal that self awareness is a critical trait for successful leaders, enabling them to identify the complementary skills required of their colleagues and team members.
Enhanced coaching skills
According to research undertaken by the Chartered Institute of Personal Development, the use of coaching techniques as a line management tool has proven to be effective in:
- Promoting learning within organisations
- Transferring learning obtained on courses back to the workplace
- Having a positive impact on a company’s bottom line
Perhaps one of the positive impacts of coaching management is the shift away from “command and control”, often seen in the construction industry, to a staff empowered and creative culture, where people do not need to wait to be told what to do or tell others what to do.
Developing as role models
Our programme evaluations have revealed how important role models are to our mentees. Often they seek out FLUID because they don’t see potential role models within their own organisations and networks.
The term role model can have a number of connotations from the infallible professional to the super hero. The truth is that we all have the potential to be a role model, good, bad or indifferent and we should embrace opportunities to be a positive one to others. Perfection is not a requirement but it is important to recognise that good role models inspire others to raise their professional performance.
Increased social capital
Social Capital is a term used to describe the links, shared values and understanding that enable individuals and groups to trust each other and work together. The central premise of social capital is that social networks add value.
Many of us understand the value of building relationships with others as a way of adding value to our professional lives. Those relationships may be with team members, stakeholders or clients for example. Building rapport is essential to creating trust in a mentoring relationship and key to building effective social capital.
Mentoring offers the opportunity to develop a number of skills for the mentee, but the impact on the mentor should not be underestimated. Mentoring has positive impact on the mentor which can cause a powerful ripple effect on their professional relationships and add value to the businesses they work in.