Connect, Learn & Share: Mentor’s Event

Target Global, 2-3 Golden Square, Soho, London

Thursday 14 November 2019 at 6.30pm

A big thank you to all the mentors who came to our ‘Connect, Learn and Share’ mentors-only event hosted by Target Global on Thursday, Nov 14th. The evening was very successful with the INSEAD alumni mentors reconnecting, learning and questioning – creating a real sense of community.  Special thanks to our host at Target Global, Malin Holmberg (MBA’00, Mentor), our featured speaker Avivah Wittenber-Cox (MBA’84, Mentor) and the five mentor-panelists.

Given the depth of discussions at the event, we wanted we share with the entire mentor community, the main takeaways and summaries from our event panelists and featured speaker.

We look forward to seeing many of you at our future events.  In the meantime here was a note from a new mentor who has just joined our program:

“Thank you for organising the meeting last week. It was my first chance to participate in the Insead Alumnae Mentors’ family and I found it truly inspirational. It was also a chance to reconnect with some old friends and acquaintances. I received my first mentor request this morning and I am very much looking forward to starting! Hope we get a chance to connect again soon.”

Keynote speaker

Avivah Wittenberg-Cox, CEO and Founder 20-First, MBA'84

Avivah gave a talk on the 4 phases of a woman’s career based on her book and took us through what each decade represents, where companies’ demands conflict, and how to adapt to 21st century talent realities. 

According to Avivah, once you realize your career just is not that straight line it used to be (or that companies still pretend it needs to be), you can savour every decade of your life for its distinct advantages and imperatives. And it all becomes a lot easier whether you’re in your 20s, 30s, 40s, or 50s as long as you manage your career and understand the different phases of life that still affect women more than men.

Book: Four Phases of Women’s Careers >>

- BookCover

Takeaways from the panellists

Paul Hamilton, Partner PA Consulting Group - MBA'96

My key takeaway from hearing from others, as well as my own experience, was this: it really makes a difference. At the very basic level this programme can really helping to change lives. If you’re thinking of becoming a mentee – you can know that it works. If you’re thinking of becoming a mentor – this is a completely invaluable use of your time, and you’ll even enjoy it!

Alex Oliver, Kantar, Strategy Consultant; Exec & Life Coach - MBA'95

A safe, honest and trusting space is what underpins all successful mentoring relationships. This allows the mentee and also mentor, to share openly experiences, hopes, successes and failures. It allows trial and error, and learning, all of which are essential for growth. 

A trusting, non-judgemental space, where the mentor really tunes in to the mentee and what is important to her, also means that mentor and mentee can come from very different places, have different values and goals, but still achieve a great deal. The mentor can then still ‘offer’ a point of view and challenge the mentee to take steps forward, which might be uncomfortable, with the mentee knowing that there’s no judgement if she fails.

As some wise person said ‘There is no learning in the comfort zone. There is no comfort in the learning zone.’ And this applies to mentor as well as mentee.

Anne de Kerkhove, Group CEO at Freespee - MBA'98

 I was struck by the passion in the room to ensure this mentorship programme has longevity and expands as we see great impact. As mentors, we all shared the impact that the mentorship had on our own lives and how much we are enjoying being mentors.

Themes that were mirrored by all panellists are around transparency and honesty. This is not a corporate mentorship program so we have an opportunity to create a much more personal, safe space without taboos, with far ranging topics. The evening highlighted for me that for most of us the reasons the mentees state as the reason for requesting a mentor are often radically different from what we actually discuss. So the mentors have to be very open to mentor on a great range of topics.

We all noted the lack of confidence/impostor syndrome in our mentees and this is a topic we should understand better on a cohort basis and explore with INSEAD how society can change this. 

Bob Meadows, Owner Saxonbury Ltd - COL'02

I enjoyed all the discussion but was particularly struck by:

· Female executives might engage their male partners to better understand them and what they are going through AND negotiate a better balance for carrying the family “load”

· Helping mentees to get a “reset” on the company/system with which they are engaged so that they develop a clear and up to date understanding of hurdles/ barriers to be overcome in relation to realising their goals

· There seemed to be a high degree of traction for the notion of creating an open and honest context for the mentoring relationship to be really productive both ways……this might include some plain speaking/ poignant open questioning at times e.g. if a mentee is straying into or indeed parking in the position of “victim”

· The idea of a mentor revealing “who” they are rather than just “what” they had done and thereby encouraging the mentee to do the same, could also be productive in bringing a higher degree of reality and clearer context to what a mentee is seeking to achieve

Kathryn Gordon, Executive Coach, Supervisor & Coaching Psychologist, Innovation Works - MBA'88

On the mentoring, I want to bring in the academic evidence base that the intention behind and the quality of the relationship is what matters the most. How each pair create the relationship will be adaptive, vulnerability on behalf of the mentor, particularly male to female can be really helpful as Paul was talking about.  Mentors come from all sorts of different experiences, and what mentees ultimately want from a mentoring relationship will change depending on the quality of the relationship. So a mentor’s background is not key and this will help to inspire mentors to bring the full breadth of their experiences into mentoring. The ‘being walked with’ and care are what make the difference, as Anne was also saying in one of her examples. Tools, networks, contacts, how to’s are helpful, but ultimately not critical. Safety through confidentiality and no judgment are also key elements as Alex mentioned.

We have to ask ourselves what our interventions are motivated by, do we allow the mentee to make their own minds up, or are we pushing and judging (I was talking about this).  Self-actualisation is important (mentioned by Bob) and I would like to add that I think we have to be careful as mentors that we are not judging what someone else’s self-actualisation is. One mentee shared with me that she had to stop a mentoring arrangement because she was being pushed, and I believe that male mentors have to be particularly careful to avoid pushing an agenda, because of the wider systems issues around gender.

I loved Avivah’s material and the visualisation of the arc and of the changing stages, and I think sharing this will be a great tool. Remembering the wilting flower of the second stage of Avivah’s cycle, we are in the business of bringing water to keep the growth alive. Learnt lots, and look forward to more. 

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