Written by Michael Ambjorn.
It can be easy to get caught in the daily grind of hard work for clients and customers. There is always something going on. As you look to the year ahead though, what might help make a real difference?
A who’s who of business schools offer short courses in the Middle East- Ashridge, Cass, London Business School, INSEAD and even Wharton. That is one option for sure: a couple of weeks can be a refreshing and insightful way of stepping away from the fray. And, with less time and less budget, you could also consider attending a profession-relevant conference. However, for many of the most successful practitioners in the Middle East, there is one more approach worth a look: mentoring.
A two-way street as old (and as long) as time itself, which can complement traditional professional development. The practice goes back to pre-history- and why ‘long’? Because it is in part about good karma; paying it forward.
During a recent #CommChat the International Association of Business Communicators explored the topic, trying to get input from the Middle East and from across the world. This tweet from Stephen Welch summed up the value concisely, “From my experience as both a mentor and a mentee, it is about ‘critical friend’, ‘different perspectives’, and ‘challenging the status quo’. Help think about things from a different angle, creating the courage and conditions for success.”
You may have heard of reverse mentoring, which is the idea of pairing a senior professional with a younger executive. The young executive gets to explore concepts, such as strategy, while the elder professional gets to learn about new concepts, such as social media and digital engagement. The idea is that managers can learn a thing or two about life outside of their areas of expertise. Reverse mentoring also helps to retain young talent, by giving them a glimpse into how management works.
A different take on mentoring is borne out of how we have adapted to working in the digital age. Collaborative mentoring is all about a two-way flow of information and respect, based on an understanding that we can all learn something new and different from another person, no matter their years of experience. The best form of mentoring is one which is bi-directional and where there is no mentor and mentee per se, but instead, both people realize that they can gain knowledge and insights from the other.
Clare Woodcraft, the former CEO of the Emirates Foundation, says: “Formal mentoring programs can make a real difference. That said, don’t underestimate the opportunities for mentoring that arise whenever people get together. Ask people ‘how can I help?’ – and don’t be afraid to ask for help yourself! One such opportunity coming up in the Middle East is #EMENAComm in Bahrain in February. In turn, I encourage all conference organizers in the region to actively think about how they can help facilitate mentoring connections.”
The bit about asking for help is borne out by an interesting statistic I recently came by: only one in three people ask for help, whilst it turns out that two in three are often willing to help if asked in the right way. Indeed, participating in a conference is a great way to create lasting connections, especially if you ask questions beyond the regular business small talk.
As you wrap up 2018 and both plan and budget for 2019, now is the time to make sure there are opportunities for learning built in. Whether you need a perspective from others or can help others with yours.