Meaningful Mentoring at Airbnb
March 9, 2017
Mentoring can be a valuable and mutually-beneficial relationship. For mentors it can be a chance to develop coaching skills that come in useful in leadership roles, as well as a way to pass on advice and hard-earned knowledge. For mentees, that advice can help open access to new opportunities or accelerate early career development. It can help them master new skills, or simply grow in confidence.
On Wednesday 21st June, we partnered with YCN, a learning and development organisation for creative organisations. Bringing our networks together, we explored the benefits of mentoring for both mentors and mentees, sharing stories of successful relationships, and advice on how to get the most out of the process.
Joining us at Airbnb’s Clerkenwell office was a panel of speakers, each sharing their own experiences of mentoring.
Founder of Creative Mentor Network, Isabel Farchy works with talented 16-19-year-olds, matching them with professionals already working within the creative industries to help them gain the skills they need to pitch themselves to future employers. In an industry so reliant on networks, and where internships are too often unpaid, many young people are unable to access the advice and opportunities they need. Being a mentor is also a valuable way for professionals to develop skills that are essential when working in and leading teams.
Isabel talked through some of the skills mentors learn as part of the programme, and explained what makes for an effective match.
Joining Isabel was Lottie Unwin, Marketing Lead at PROPERCORN. She shared her experience of being mentored by a creative director to extend her appreciation for design and the creative process, and improve the way she communicates with the creative teams she collaborates with at PROPERCORN.
Lottie has also been through Pitch It’s mentor training programme, and mentored a young person last year. As well as sharing some of the skills she learned, Lottie explained some of the challenges she encountered, and gave tips on how to tackle them.
We also heard from Casey Bird, copywriter and president of SheSays, a global network of women working in the creative industries. She shared what she's learnt from setting up SheSays' mentorship programme Who's Your Momma, about how best to build productive relationships.
Here's what we learned.
Both mentees and mentors can learn a lot from the mentoring process. Quoting coach Julie Starr, Isabel highlighted that “being effective requires being as engaged in your own development as you expect the person you’re mentoring to be”. Although every pair’s direction is different, it should always be a simple conversation between two people in order for both members to benefit. Casey gave evidence of this, quoting a successful mentor with whom she had worked, who said that her mentee’s progress and energy had a knock on effect on her own performance. However, Casey believes that a lot of the ownership is on the mentee, adding that in order to get the most out of the process they must not become a passenger. “Think big” she advised, “let the mentee come to their own decision and find the answer”.
From a change in role to workplace bullying or maternity support, mentoring can be a huge help at pivotal moments in a person’s career. While long term mentoring relationships can act as a confidence boost and constant source of guidance and advice. Even so, Lottie explained that it was easy for people underestimate its impact. Isabel agreed, highlighting how vital it is to be patient; mentoring can be a long process. The panel described the importance of developing a structure and laying out expectations as a pair – plan what you want to achieve, and set goals. “Having an idea of what you want to get out of the process is really important” added Casey.
Mentoring is a great way to be reflect on the ways you communicate. Isabel spotlighted the role that active listening plays throughout the process, and why it is so important. Both participants must be fully engaged for a valuable meeting to take place. Having set up SheSays' mentorship programme, Casey has observed the ways that mentors have benefitted from active listening first hand. It’s helped them become more patient and thoughtful as managers. Mentees must listen as carefully too, always take notes and reflect on what’s been discussed after a session. After experiencing a mentoring programme from both sides, Lottie agreed with Casey’s point – engaging discussion is vital, “don’t lecture” she said.
For a good relationship to develop between a mentor and mentee, rapport is fundamental. Lottie ended her presentation by making this point – explaining that both being honest and nice is the only way to ensure ensure both members really do get the best out of the process.