Dennis Kerslake has worked as a mentor at Merryck & Co since 2010. Having held MD, CEO and Chairman roles in a 30 year international career in the advertising industry he trained as an Executive Coach. He now helps senior executives in large, complex, multi-territory organisations deliver outstanding business results and develop exceptional teams of future leaders.
“…A key part of the mentor’s role is to encourage you in your ambitions, to help you to have confidence in your own decisions and build real commitment to the course of action you have chosen…”
“If only I knew then what I know now.”
How many of us have used this expression at some point or other in our professional careers? I was telling a client just the other day of my first entrepreneurial adventure and re-living the mistakes I made along the way – mistakes that could so easily have been avoided if I knew then what I know now.
Of course there is much to be gained by making our own mistakes and learning from them but often we don’t have the luxury to do so. When the stakes are high, and the need to perform is pressing, the experienced, impartial guidance of a mentor can be invaluable. It’s not just about avoiding expensive mistakes though – it is just as much about realising potential.
Experience of failing and then winning
It is no surprise to me that Andy Murray made it over the line to become a tennis major winner following the introduction of Ivan Lendl to his team. More than a coach, Lendl brought the experience of failing and then winning at the highest level to the equation.
Mentors can of course come in different forms. Senior colleagues can give valuable insights into the deeply held values of your company, and can help you to navigate your way around the organisation. External mentors can give a dispassionate perspective on the situations you may be facing and can ensure that you always keep an eye on what is happening in the wider world.
So what should you look for in a mentor?
Relevant experience certainly. Not necessarily from within the industry sector you’re in (in many ways an un-tarnished view is more valuable) but certainly relevant to the journey or challenge ahead.
Personal chemistry is critical. For the mentoring experience to be truly rewarding it will be intense, personal and challenging. Can you be sure that the mentor is a person you can share this experience with?
The ability to share knowledge and experience in a way that suits your own learning style. Are you looking for dos and don’ts or do you prefer to explore and examine options?
A high degree of personal reflection. We learn as much from adversity as we do from unbridled success. A mentor who has examined his / her own past and reflected on what might have been done differently is much better qualified to be an effective mentor than the latest celebrity success story.
Belief in you and your potential. A key part of the mentor’s role is to encourage you in your ambitions, to help you to have confidence in your own decisions and build real commitment to the course of action you have chosen.
Thus far I have deliberately not mentioned gender as I believe that the benefits of a well-chosen mentor apply equally to both men and women.
I am extremely fortunate to work at Merryck & Co with some truly exceptional women mentors, but whether you choose a male or female mentor you are unlikely to look back and say “I wish I knew then..!”