Hannah Telfer

A Relationship of Equals … the mentor / mentee partnership

Posted on June 12, 2018

In part one of our feature on mentoring, Hannah Telfer, a Managing Director at a leading publisher, reflects on what she both takes from and brings to the mentoring partnership…

Somehow, in the formal language of mentors and mentees, we struggle to convey the real value that comes from two people, at different stages of their careers but equally passionate, spending time together and listening to each other.

Mentoring offers the chance to leap across generational, or hierarchical, divides and have the richest of conversations that can broaden and deepen perspectives for both the mentor and mentee.

Chemistry is everything in a successful mentoring relationship and it’s critical to ask at the start if you’re the right match – and to be pragmatic about walking away if the answer is no.

But if you think you can help, do. I’ve been fortunate to be mentored at various stages of my career and every time it’s helped me to think more clearly, to consider a different way forward and to be bolder. And every mentee I’ve worked with has reminded me what it’s like to navigate those first years of your career. It’s made me more empathetic with my own team. And it’s given me invaluable insight into what matters to a generation that does, sometimes, think differently to my own.

The Creative Access mentoring programme is particularly brilliant as it provides the connections to work with mentees from different companies and backgrounds, but still within the creative industries, bringing yet more diversity of opinion whilst remaining relatable to our work.

Now, as the head of a large team with broad expertise, I can better see the benefits of our differences but also the common ground; the places where we all unite and from which we build.

Mentoring can make all the difference to an individual’s performance.

Let’s face it a little emotional intelligence goes a long way but it can be hard to develop in the maelstrom of the workplace. Conversations between mentors and mentees often path the way for the tough conversations that need to be had at work. They offer the safe space to test out approaches and explore scenarios. These are the places to broaden horizons, check biases and build confidence. A chance to sharpen points and soften delivery, bringing clarity and impact where it’s needed most.

Like every good relationship, it’s worth spending time in the first conversation agreeing what both parties want to achieve. What’s the breakthrough your mentee really wants to make? And to be upfront about the time commitment each can give. Will you meet every month for breakfast? Every 6 weeks for an hour? Perhaps the most valuable question to answer at the outset is how long you’ll work together. Somehow, it’s easier to agree 6 meetings over 6 months, and then to extend for a couple more, than it is to keep your commitment open-ended. Often there is a natural conclusion to your conversations; a mentee comes to their decision that it’s time to move on, they secure their brave next step, or take control of a difficult work situation.

Now, as I celebrate with my current mentee the job offer that will take her on an exciting new path, I’m exhilarated. We’ll work together until she’s settled in her new company and then it will be time to move on. I wonder who I’ll meet next? And what we’ll learn from each other.

Hannah Telfer, Managing Director, Audiences & Audio, Penguin Random House UK

Twitter: @HTelfer1

If you are interested in becoming a mentor to a Creative Access alumni please follow this link to fill out a partnership form and we will do our best to match you as soon as possible.