Tag Archives: mentor

What Should I Look For In A Mentor?

Finding a great mentor can catapult your career – here are the defining attributes of the perfect mentor to look for.


The saying goes that no man is an island, and in a career sense what that really means is: the office can certainly feel like unchartered territory without a mentor. A mentor is something even the most talented people in the world want and need – famously, Larry Summers mentored Sheryl Sandberg, and Maya Angelou mentored Oprah Winfrey. And everyone who has ever had a mentor knows that they can be the shining north star you need to succeed, and can help you navigate everything from difficult decisions to new opportunities. They can even become lifelong friends and sponsors within an organisation, helping oversee your ascension to dizzyingly heights.

Many – if not all – CPOs credit their success to a mentor or two along the way. And this year, with COVID making it one of the most challenging years to date for a lot of us, a mentor is more important than ever to help you navigate the murky waters of leading through and after a pandemic.  

But unfortunately, not all mentors are created equal. Some really go above and beyond, yet some are not quite as useful. But how do you know the difference from the outset? 

We spoke to two successful senior professionals, Sally Lansbury, Memberships Director at The Faculty Management Consultants and Helen Mackenzie, former CPO and Principal Adviser at Procurious, about how mentors have helped shaped their careers, and what exactly we should all look for in our next mentor: 

What should a mentor experience be like? 

Sally and Helen both believe that a mentoring experience should be an overwhelmingly positive one, where you get to tap into the wisdom of someone experienced, and use them as a sounding board to navigate challenging situations. Both women said that in their past, they’ve had both formal and informal mentors, and that these mentors have helped their careers in ways they’d never imagined. 

Sally found her previous mentors extremely valuable in that she was able to learn about them, as well as use them to help her navigate decisions: 

‘For me, I have found a mentoring relationship to be particularly important as I always learn so much from other people’s experiences.’ 

‘I’ve also found that mentors are great people to bounce ideas off when you’re unsure of something.’ 

Helen also felt that her mentors were great sounding boards, but found that they were particularly useful in a different way. When Helen was eyeing the top job (of CPO in the organisation she worked for at the time), she felt that her mentor helped her hone her leadership skills: 

‘The mentor I had leading up to my promotion to CPO was exceptional. She helped me understand what leadership skills I needed to take that next step.’ 

Since changing roles from CPO to consulting, Helen has herself had the experience of being a mentor, a role which she describes as challenging but ultimately rewarding. And in a nod to her leadership capability, Helen now typifies what we all aspire to in a mentor: 

‘Right now, I’m mentoring a young man in a leadership role who is trying to navigate how to do this in an inclusive way. It’s been challenging for me to think about issues like diversity and of course gender equality from this perspective.’ 

‘But that’s the beauty of being a mentor. You always aim to put in so much more than you get back in return.’ 

What qualities should you look for in a mentor? 

So how do you tell the difference between an exceptional mentor and one that might not be as valuable? Sally, who has overseen The Faculty’s Roundtable Mentoring Program, which has, to date, seen over 1000 people receive mentoring, has a good idea of the qualities you should look for. These, she says, are: 

‘The ideal mentor should have a growth mindset and a learning attitude. They should have a genuine interest in helping you, and be able to commit real time and energy to it.’ 

‘That also need to have current and relevant industry knowledge in the area that the mentee wants to develop in.’ 

Helen agrees that these qualities are important, but she says that you need to put more focus on the person, as opposed to the qualities. Specifically, she describes the ideal mentor as someone who isn’t the same as you: 

‘Your mentor should be different from you so they can give you another perspective on the world. We spend a lot of time these days on social media in an echo chamber with people who think the same as us.’ 

‘A mentor should give you the opportunity to challenge your thinking. But you also need to be able to relate to and trust them, otherwise the relationship won’t work.’ 

How do you know if your mentor isn’t right for you? 

If your mentor doesn’t have all of the above qualities, does it mean they’re not right or worse, that they’re not doing a good job? Not at all, says Sally. In fact, in a mentoring relationship, the ball is absolutely in your court when it comes to making the effort to make the arrangement work for you: 

‘With mentoring, you only get out what you put in. As a mentee you need to be organised and be clear on your objectives at all times.’ 

What kind of experience have you had with mentors? What qualities do you look for in a mentor? Let us know in the comments below.

10 Reasons Why You Should Be A Mentor

Mentoring is quickly gaining recognition as one of the fastest ways to develop talent and accelerate leadership potential. Here are 10 reasons why you should be a mentor…

  • Have you ever considered being a mentor?
  • Do you have a mentor?

These are just two of the questions that are starting to be commonly asked in leadership circles as more people recognise the value of mentorship. Both from the perspective of being a mentor, and the perspective of having a mentor.

Mentoring is quickly gaining recognition as one of the fastest ways to develop talent and accelerate leadership potential. What people are also recognising is the value and development that comes with being a mentor.

So here are 10 reasons why you should be a mentor:

  1. You are supporting a future leader

Seeing a leader developing their skills and knowledge first hand, and knowing that you have played a part in this, can be incredibly satisfying. There is a sense of leaving a legacy and fulfillment when you reflect on what you have given to your mentee.

2. You develop your communication and coaching skills

Your improved skills will allow you as a leader to communicate more effectively with the team in your workforce, making it easier to influence your team. It is important to recognise that not everyone is able to immediately step into the role of mentor. Being an expert in your technical field is one thing, being a mentor is something very different.

3. You build networks and become part of the mentoring community

Relationships are a key to your success in business and your network is a powerful resource as it allows you to share information, insights and provide support. The mentoring community is growing as more and more leaders recognise its value.

4. You gain insights into other industries

There can be incredible learning opportunities when you mentor someone from outside your own industry and you will pick up the nuances of that sector. It is very easy to fall into the trap of always looking at things through the lens of your experience and perspective. There is much value to be head from taking a wider view.

5. You are encouraged to practise solutions-based thinking

All leaders need to be able to understand business challenges as this allows them to make solid business decisions. Understand the problem, then spend more time focused on the solution. The practice of solutions-based thinking is a discipline you will be able to take back into your own leadership and own workplace.

6. Mentoring brings business opportunities

It may be that your mentee brings opportunities to you, or you may simply spot the opportunity as a result of the relationship. Depending how active you are on social media, opportunities might also present themselves as you share your insights along the mentoring journey.

7. Mentoring increases your credibility as a leader

Being a mentor can actually increase your credibility as a leader because it demonstrates that you have the ability to develop others. Employers are looking for leaders who can develop other leaders as succession planning becomes more of a challenge for organisations as expectations grow about career opportunities.

8. Being a mentor becomes a sellable skill

Having your mentoring experience on your resume can add to your leadership credibility, especially if you have been mentoring for a number of years. Leaders who are serious about their careers and recognise the value an external mentor can bring. The value comes in the form of a clear perspective because they are not working for the same employer.

9. Leaders who mentor leave a legacy

As a mentor, it is important to consider the legacy you will leave. You can have a lasting impact on people which goes beyond their working life. This is actually one of the most fulfilling aspects of being a mentor because sometimes just knowing the small contribution you have made to the life of another person is incredibly rewarding.

10. Mentoring gives you opportunities for self-reflection

As you work with your mentee on their career path, their career challenges and anything else which may arise, you will find yourself contemplating your own leadership journey. This can be a powerful experience as you will undoubtedly find lessons in your own development which can, of course, be shared with your mentee.

Mentoring is more than just a fancy word for supporting someone else.

It is a commitment of time and effort that is rewarding and provides a sense of fulfillment that goes beyond leadership and management. It is knowing that you have made an impact on your mentee whilst at the same time undertaking some valuable self reflection, which can only have positive outcomes for your own leadership.

Being a mentor is an idea that I believe all leaders should subscribe to and I imagine what the state of leadership might be like if this were the case.

My book Give Back. Lead Forward: Why every leader should be a mentor and have a mentor is published by Major Street Publishing and is available in all good bookshops and online.

Are You Considering Chasing A Procurement Career…?

…according to most of the ThomasNet and ISM 30 Under 30 Rising Stars, going after a  procurement career is a cracking idea!

Rafal Szozda/Shutterstock.com

Last month, THOMASNET and ISM announced the 2016-2017 winners of the 30 Under 30 Rising Supply Chain Stars award, presenting the profession with an inspirational batch of role models who are sure to attract more Millennials to the supply management profession.

Procurious has been lucky enough to sit down with many of the winners to find out what the award means to them,  how they got into procurement in the first place and the key skills needed for a procurement and supply chain career.

We were interested to find out what advice the winners had for any students contemplating a career in supply management. Answers varied wildly, covering everything from “make sure you have fun” to “ask loads of questions” and  “do the things that scare you the most!”

There was one recurrent theme, however:  The 30 Under 30 Stars are all adamant that a career in procurement and supply chain is the way to go!

Opportunities Aplenty Await You In Your Procurement Career

Jon Futryk, Senior Sourcing Specialist Crown Equipment Corporation, advises young professionals to “get involved with a supply-chain organisation in order to gain exposure to the industry”.

Andrew Bagni, Procurement Manager at General Dynamics Mission Systems, concedes, asserting “it’s a great career path for anyone, because there are so many opportunities for growth. In the US, manufacturing companies are bringing their facilities back home, a move that needs to be supplemented with a strong supply-chain team.  This is a great opportunity for young people to be involved”.

Dan Kaskinen, Strategic Sourcing Manager, Sonic Automotive, Inc., is another strong advocate for the profession: “My advice to any young person getting ready to join the workforce is that supply-management could be a great fit – I would fully recommend it.”

Benefiting From Diverse Experiences

Several of the 30 Under 30 winners make mention of the varied experiences on offer within a supply management career and advise any young professionals to make the most of these opportunities.

Barbara Noseda, Global Sourcing Associate at Johnson & Johnson explains why this is a brilliant way to diversify your skills: “At JNJ people transition between finance, operations, marketing and supply-chain. Movement between functions helps you build your knowledge and helps you to better understand your counterparts.”

Andrew Bagni agrees, explaining that “working in supply-chain offers a plethora of  opportunities. Over a lifetime of work you’ll switch between a variety of positions. Supply chain gives you the flexibility to learn about a lot of different things, very quickly, which builds a great foundation. There are so many different projects to work on and it’s possible, particularly for millennials, to move up the ladder but also to move laterally to widen your learning prospects.”

Nurturing Your Procurement Relationships

Of course, this wouldn’t be a piece about procurement careers without mentioning relationship management. In our previous article we revealed that the majority of the 30 under 30 stars hailed communication as the most important procurement skill. Now, they’re keen to remind aspiring procurement pros to make the most of their workplace relationships, whether it’s networking, managing supplier relations,  finding a mentor or doing the mentoring.

Barbara is particularly passionate about mentoring programs. “I’ve had multiple mentors. One was assigned to me at Johnson & Johnson and I was very lucky because we clicked; it just doesn’t make sense to have a mentor relationship if you don’t. I would strongly advise young professionals to find a mentor that they share the same values with. It’s always great to get an external opinion from an experienced person who went through the same thing 20 years ago”.

Barbara is now a mentee and a mentor for younger employees. “It’s great to be on the other side – I’ve also learned a lot, and got a lot, out of being a mentor.”

Jeff Novak places huge value on networking and the chance benefits it can bring: “Having the ability to meet people is so important because you never know when it’ll be someone who can help you and make a real impact. I completed an internship a while ago, and  one of my recruiters is now on an ISM regional board. I’ve been able to connect with him.”

Matthew Montana, Category Lead at Pacific Gas and Electric Company, warns young professionals to not get too caught up with technology or big data. “Don’t forget your suppliers are real people too! It’s important to develop relationships that are transparent and honest. This is the key to a successful partnership.”

More top tips for budding supply management stars

  • Develop your Cultural Intelligence (CQ)
  • Work hard and keep learning/ gaining new qualifications
  • Ask lots of questions
  • Be curious
  • Be resourceful
  • Have the patience to accept you don’t know everything, yet!

The 30 Under 30 Rising Supply Chain Stars will meet for the first time as a group at ISM2017, where ISM and THOMASNET.com will roll out the red carpet to celebrate the winners’ achievements and broadcast their success stories to other young people considering a career in supply management.