Mentorship & Me I- the story of mentorship from Peggy’s perspective

Peggy Edwards Clinical Risk Manager at NWIS |PPP(Wales)

This is a guest blog, supplied by my Mentee(s) when they feel inspired to note their own mentorship journey.  All views are those of the mentee about the process they are going through.  Aresko retains editorial rights but publishes the story of the experience as told through the voice of the mentee.

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Part 16

Another great mentoring session recently, based around a specific piece of work. I thought I would try and draw the strings of my development together by focusing on a paper I need to take to my Board. The aim of this was to see if I had improved in presenting information and arguments (which has always been clear in my mind) to others.

It was, as always, a very useful exercise, the fundamental idea soon became clear that a refocus around a more suitable model for stakeholder engagement, would produce more of my desired outcome. So, now I have an even greater idea and paper to present as a result of working through the real issues in play.

However, the new challenge now is; how can I achieve that again without taking a whole day (and a few muffins) out of the office to bounce ideas around and polish the final product? We rarely have the luxury of that sort of time and contact with another in a normal working day. So my ‘tool kit’ going forward? To ask myself “What is it I really need to achieve with the idea” and ‘really’ being the core. Say it as it is, instead of trying to put a fancy wrap around the ‘it’ and use too many words. Read it out loud…….you think I would have got that lesson ingrained by now.

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Part 15

After spending some idilic time wondering around the Aresko estate, my latest  mentorship session took a reflective view of progress to date. We have now reached a point in our sessions where there are less ‘what am I going to do with you’ comments and far more ‘thats good’. My reflection skills have improved to the point where I have stopped rocking in a corner and my mentor has to drag painful self analysis out of me, to an ability to recognise what I wasn’t doing so well in the past. I hope others have seen a change in me, I know I certainly view my professional life so differently now. Little things which seem to dominate my personality have now gone; the pressure of my in box, my constant to-do lists, my need to read and research things to the minute detail. I am developing ways of seeing myself from another view point, spending time reflecting on how I can do things differently and how others traits can influence me and how I can then influence them. Without mentorship I would still be stuck with the attitude of ‘this is me and they have to get over it’  and wondering why I could never seem to get things quite right. Now I can see more clearly how what I do makes a difference. Onwards and upwards……………well there are some lovely hills on the estate.

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Part 14

Well folks I have fallen off the wagon; emails going fine, to-do list still banished but the red in me did rear its ugly head again last week, be it for a brief moment. I reacted badly and immediately to what I took as a personal and public verbal onslaught by a manager. Instead of taking in a deep breath, they got my old self, responding with as good as I felt I received. So my mentor poses the question what has changed (and what on earth is she going to do with me)?

Actually, a lot has changed, yes the genie was out of the bottle, but he was put back in again very quickly. Also I recognised that the situation was handled badly instead of justifying it to myself as I would have done previously. I also took the time to reflect and discuss it with my line manager and formulate a strategy for handling the ongoing situation and future potential encounters. Mentorship has helped me recognise that my behaviour, at times, isn’t how I would like the world to think of (or remember) me, those times are now few and far between.

Mind you it was a bit of a shock to those around at the time…….they now know what they are in for if they rattle me enough.

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Part 13

Well it’s done and I have the results! I have put off doing a 360 feedback exercise for years as I have always been scared of the results, and now I don’t know why. The results were great, not saying I am perfect but nearly everyone provided really positive feedback which was not only touching but also has helped me realise that I am a valued member of the team. There wasn’t a huge gap between my own scoring and the scoring of others which is reassuring that I have a certain degree of self awareness. It has also provided me with new perspectives to take to my manager to inform my PDP and gave me pointers on where I can improve my support of the team and my behaviour in my workplace, which gives me a great way forward. The whole process was very easy and the delivery of the feedback from my mentor was (as always) supportive, professional and also probing about next steps.

So my advice to others? Go for it!  I intend re-doing the exercise in 12 months time but with far more people to get a wider view.

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Part 12

I have spent many years teaching people how to investigate patient related incidents. I emphasise that hindsight is a wonderful thing and on many occasions people are “too busy doing it instead of thinking whether they should” (points for those who can name the 80’s film this is quoted in).

Do you think I listen to this philosophy myself? Well I didn’t this week. I had a very difficult workshop to facilitate which was vital to a key development at work. It involved external delegates whose input would be invaluable. So did I excel, did I perform at my peak and was it a success……NOPE. It was a nightmare!  I tried to run a workshop over video conferencing, web ex and face to face across five different sites; why did I ever think this was going to work?

So, after a rather large Gin and a good whinge I decided to follow my mentors advise and reflect; what went well, what didn’t and what I would do differently? One of my personality traits is that I want to please people and help; I thought I was helping and being supportive by allowing this farce to go ahead. I knew it wouldn’t work but I wanted to ensure we bent over backwards to engage with as many people as we could. Instead of getting people on board we actually alienated them and some even walked out!

Too busy doing it instead of thinking whether we should…what would I do differently? I will never ever use VC again for workshops, it doesn’t work, it isn’t good enough for multiple sites. It is web ex or face to face from now on. If I have to run workshops regionally so be it, I will never be in that situation again. I am also going to be a bit more assertive about my concerns, I knew this wouldn’t work so why didn’t I just stand up and say so? I was trying to please again, but that isn’t my job, my job is to manage risk and I didn’t manage the risk of that workshop going wrong. Lesson learnt, onwards and upwards………

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Part 11

My challenge this week was to develop my 3 year plan; in order to do this we agreed I should do a stock take on what I had learnt so far and what I need to concentrate on developing, going forward. Also, I had to look at my CV to see how well I am selling myself so when that golden opportunity comes along it is ready. Well I am about half way through and it suddenly struck me how much I have reverted back to my core values trying to bring all this information together; I did a list of 10 sins, just a brain storm of what I had learnt throughout my mentoring sessions. Then guess what; I tried to find the evidence to back this up, I got out my Myers Briggs scoring, the exercises and feedback from identifying my learning style, my ‘colours’ feedback etc and started to link these to my sins. Even as I was reading the information and mapping it out it took a while for the irony of it all strike me. The facts were in front of me, written down, that I thrive with a logical /evidence based approaches and use processes that I am familiar with and that is exactly what I was doing. My mentoring sessions clearly have identified I need to develop a more reflective style and I have been trying really hard to do this and yet I have, within minutes, gone straight back to what I am comfortable and familiar with. I like to think I embrace change (the evidence suggests once I have accepted change I develop a plan going forward) and yet there is something quite deep within my psyche which needs to be fundamentally moved  for me to do things in a different way.

Now I am sure there will be a book on that someone where I can read…

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Part 10

I have been a bad, bad girl according to my mentor; I hadn’t done my homework which was to start to map out my 3 year career plan. Whilst trying to tease out of me where I see myself going it dawned on me that I needed to do an honest reflection on what I had learnt on my mentorship journey so far, what were my strengths and where did I need to develop further. What skills do I need to enhance to get that dream job and what do what I really want to do? I came to the conclusion that perhaps it was time to do a 360 degree appraisal; something I have feared for many years! I once said to someone that I didn’t need to a do a 360 degree appraisal as I knew I was a rude, stroppy person and I didn’t need anyone to tell me. To which my colleague said “well as long as you know that…”. But perhaps it is time to get some external insight from colleagues and peers. I mentioned it to a close colleague I work with and he looked horrified and said you do know it can be a painful experience, he obviously has not had the tough love of a mentorship relationship, bring it on.

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Part 9

As my mentor was poorly this week we didn’t have our usual catch up. It was only planned to be a short catch up rather than a full on session so I was surprised how much I missed it. I didn’t get my regular hit of analysis and exploration of the; what and why I do things. I constantly write sound-bites in our meetings, mostly to do with the home work she gives me, and occasionally I revisit these to remind me of the reflections that week. I even have a classic one-liner (see part 5 on the blog) in front of me every day in the office to inspire me. Perhaps I, and potentially my mentor, should collate these together to form some sort of guide, like a thought-for-the-day so I can revisit them to inspire or curtail my activities! Let’s hope she gets better soon, else I could really go off the rails……

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Part 8

In the beginning Thursday Thoughts! were interesting but easy, now they are getting harder and mean exposing the real you for others to see. This is scary to me, despite this world with the internet, when everyone can see what you are doing and saying. Defining yourself by a record or a moment in time can make you feel vulnerable. However the one-to-one relationship with a mentor doesn’t (or shouldn’t) make you feel that way at all. My mentor probably knows more about me and how I tick than ANYONE I know. That relationship needs to be based upon trust, honesty and respect; trust that the conversation doesn’t go further but also trust that that person won’t think you are completely mad! But you do need that honesty to get the most out of the relationship, what you may think is a different facet of your personality can be explained as just another way a deeply ingrained trait is revealed. Respect is also needed, respecting the view of the mentor and also respecting that fact that they are taking all your emotional baggage on board as well. It takes a very special person to do that…

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Part 7

During a recent, intensive, face-to-face mentoring session a couple of weeks ago my mentor questioned my obsession with being ‘overly prepared’ and informed to the point of saturation, when I am making decisions. I like to think I am a decisive person, and believe I make decisions very quickly, but on reflection she might have a point. I do obsess, do my research both on the web and through literature. Not unusual you might think but it’s the extent to which I undertake both that we were discussing. I believed it had come from the years I have spent doing two degrees. My mentor perceived it as me wallowing in my comfort zone, wanting an extensive array of evidence available at my fingertips because I eternally sought to justify my decisions. She suggested it was a confidence in my own judgement issue, or perhaps an issue in treating everyone else as “logical, rational thinkers” so they too would be convinced, beyond all reasonable doubt, that my decisions were good sound ones, in the same way that I am persuaded with an armoury of logical, rational evidence. Food for thought! Does this say more about what persuades me than what persuades others??

Well, its time to bite the bullet and get a grip and in 2012 I will do just that; stop collecting interesting articles which may come in handy (just in case), clear those files on my computer which again may come in handy (just in case), clear those web sites from the favourites (just in case)! I have to say, it was going really well until I thought I would just read them before I deleted them………….. doh!

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Part 6

I have always had a degree of self-awareness and known that I have often used my personality traits to get what I want, but until my recent face-to-face coaching session I never really understood how this could affect others. So we had a concentrated session on this topic and this honest, (and I admit sometimes uncomfortable) critique into what I do, how I do it and what my ‘Red’ personality means, has given me much to think about. My session gave me a level of understanding I hadn’t achieved before; I can now see how my behaviour and that of my colleagues can affect not only the day-to-day work I do, but also contributes to both the stress they and I am experiencing. It coined the theory of, “for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction” nicely, and revealed much to think about going forward, even if Newton didn’t foresee this application for his theory.

The thing is, now I have to do something about it!  The effort to produce change is mine and it won’t change overnight. But by taking time each day to re-examine my actions and behaviour (before and afterwards) I can see there is huge potential to not only make my life more productive and less stressful, but perhaps that of others as well.  This could be an interesting phase of the process!

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Part 5

Sometimes it takes a simple piece of information to make the whole picture look completely different. I have always felt I had a certain degree of self awareness, but have never really had confidence in the written work I produced, but didn’t know exactly why. Despite having a masters degree, I never thought I got the point I was trying to make, across with clarity. My mentor reflected back to me what the basic problem was, and it was incredibly simple!  I just brain dumped onto the paper and expected others to be able to follow the idea in the same way as it came out of my head.  She was right, that was exactly what I did. In fact I had been consciously doing this to make sure I got everything down. I just never sorted it out once it was down on the page!

A simple piece of advice was despatched … think ’beginning, middle, and end’ and hey presto, this has made a huge amount of difference to my written work. My eureka moment came when a colleague said to me that ‘yes it made sense straight away’, when I sent them a document I had then written outlining a long process. This light bulb moment would never have happened (or it would have taken me years to work it out) if again, I didn’t have that insightful mirror reflecting back to me what the issue was. If nothing else, mentorship has helped me to crack a difficult and long-standing nut I have carried around for years, and I will always be grateful ……..

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Part 4

‘Get outside your comfort zone’ is the latest challenge I have from my mentor. She knows how much I hate ‘touchy feely’ concepts and how hard facts drive me. Do some appreciative inquiry, and do a bit every day, in her dreams…. but hey let’s have a go.  Looking at some of theory behind AI I can see if you want to drive an organisation and team forward then it is a useful exercise. HOWEVER, where I feel it gets lost is when you walk out of the room then nothing changes. Is it because I do not do anything different and I am expecting my organisation to make the change for me? Do I have a vision of where I see my role and development should be heading? Well yes, I think I do. I am getting the hang of this reflection business, even if it does bring unexpected but honest views about what I really want to do. What is it that I do that makes others do or act in a certain way, can I change that reaction? Taking a step back, every day, and asking what could I do differently to make it better is starting to pay dividends, small ones but we are only at the beginning of that journey….

ARESKO says: “be the change you want to see” (Ghandi).  Looks like we have an interesting mentoring conversation to look forward to tomorrow 🙂  Can’t wait to hear about those dividends.

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Part 3

Well she has done it again, my mentor has managed to hold a mirror up to my skills and attributes to enable me to clearly see where I need to develop and grow professionally. She has set me some homework to put me outside my comfort zone and take on a practical challenge to tackle areas of weakness we have identified. Will let you know how it goes, but I might end up rocking in the corner.

Our mentorship discussions also gave me the opportunity to work through a problem I had in the workplace which I was struggling with to find a suitable way forward. By taking the emotion out of the issue and helping me see the problem from a different perspective, she helped me achieve the clarity I needed to find a simple solution to the problem. The advantage of having a relationship where someone can help you see the wood from the trees and ask the right probing questions to disentangle the emotional from the actual issue, cannot be under estimated. Its helping hugely.

I’m off now to check out exactly how bad my therapy bill is going to be….

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Part 2

Well, I knew my mentor would start to challenge me right from the off.  She asked what my dream job would be if money was no option. Being someone who quickly makes her mind up about something, I immediately stated that I really enjoyed teaching when I have occasionally been invited to lecture at the local universities.  However, afterwards, I sat and reflected on our conversation (not something I do often) and wondered whether it was indeed my dream job or whether it was something I would like to just dip into now and again.  After some thought, I came to the decision that it wasn’t something I wanted full time after all, what I did want to do though was to improve and expand my skills in the risk management arena.

I have spent the last couple of years doing a part time mix of jobs and although this did give me a nice variety of work, it never felt like I gave both jobs enough attention.  So I don’t want to fall into the trap of trying to do too much again and I’m clear that I will pursue some lecturing possibilities without committing myself to a regular session.

Without my mentor challenging my initial responses, I would never have taken the time out to really sit and think about what I wanted in the longer term. Why did I immediately respond like I did to her initial open question?  It made me sit back and reflect, I am a ‘get up and get on with it’ type of girl so reflection is something I need to nurture further in the future. I think it will help me make better, considered, decisions which have a chance of proving more fruitful and fulfilling to me in the longer term.  Having a mentor has forced me to start to question my immediate thoughts, qualify them a bit more, and refine what I really want out of my professional life.

Our journey has just begun!

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Part 1

Well considering I am more than happy to chat via email and Facebook and use text rather than phone anyone this is my first blog! Seems a bit odd to put down my thoughts and feelings in this way, as I have never been a diary type person so this may all end up being random ramblings but here we go.

Mentorship and me – a conversation with my current Director lead to the suggestion that a mentor would be a great idea, the whole team were getting them, so I should think about it too. This provided me with the ideal opportunity to rekindle a relationship I really enjoyed and appreciated with an old line manager. We have all had those managers that get you in for your annual appraisal tell you that you are doing a fab job and then dish down the work they don’t want to do from their own objectives. Well, my appraisal with this person certainly wasn’t anything like that; it was an insightful conversation about my strengths, weaknesses and character. I do have some self awareness but this person set it into context around why I act in the way I did whereas no other manager had ever taken the time or trouble to invest in that way with me. Sadly our professional relationship was over too quickly for me to truly benefit from her support – until I recently thought “who better to have as a mentor?”

Our first discussion picked up straight away with insightful challenges around my career path to date – which had been a theme of accidently stumbling upon opportunities- and how I had no real plans for the future, professionally. She made me more aware, and asked me to consider how, I always worked within my comfort zone and never put myself under any pressure to do something different. Also,  we discussed how I stayed in positions far too long instead of actively going out to develop myself for the next post. She also pushed me to consider what the ideal job would be and my immediate response was teaching, however on reflection I am not sure it is!  I have now thought in more depth about my short-term goals and this doesn’t feature highly in them, so I definitely need to reflect on this more; something I am not good at but hope this mentoring relationship will help me get better at.

I am looking forward to “Round 2” with my mentor.  She sets me “homework” and I’m very aware that this process puts me at the centre of this development process and that its my effort which will generate progress, but I’m keen to see how else she can probe my mind and set me challenges going forward.

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