One of my professional bodies arranges sessions for its members involved in and/or interested in Non-Executive Director roles, and I particularly enjoy attending those sessions. As an experienced professional myself, I find the interaction and discussions at these events both enlightening and inspiring – debating practical situations with fellow professionals and learning from their decades of wisdom about possible approaches to challenges, what works and what doesn’t, and applying professional judgement.
It’s partly the value I’ve gained from participating in those events, and other discussions with the leaders involved, that inspired me to write a number of articles for Non-Executive Directors (NEDs), and share them all with you on our website. We hope you find them useful at different stages along your own exploration of (and fulfilment of) these roles.
This article is based on a position paper on mentorship for governing body members by the Corporate Governance Network (CGN), a forum set up by the Institute of Directors (IoD) in South Africa and PwC, the multinational professional services firm. The CGN describes itself as a “forum for professionals in the corporate governance field to amass their combined knowledge and experience to provide directors and senior executives with the tools to understand and implement sound governance”.
It builds on our previous NED-focused article which shared the IoD’s advice for future NEDs and concluded with discussion on evaluation of your performance as a NED, plus how the IoD highly recommends mentorship as it provides “valuable support, advice and insight into complex problems”. However, the IoD also noted that “careful thought needs to be given to the nature of the relationship and individual responsibilities within the [specific] context”.
Read more for discussion around the why and who of NED mentoring, differences in skills required of executives and non-executives, areas where mentoring and skills development can help NEDs, and skills required from mentors.
Behind every successful individual, there is a squad of supporters who’ve contributed in different ways over the years: inspiring them to realise their potential, spurring them on when the going gets tough, or celebrating the wins along the journey. Mentors, bosses, colleagues, coaches, champions… Each supporter brings different skills, experiences and perspectives to bear as they grow.
Behind every successful individual, there is a squad of supporters… Mentors, bosses, colleagues, coaches, champions…”
At Protagion, we often advise our proteges to build their own ‘board’ of individuals with diverse insights – we find this offers invaluable reinforcement for achieving professional career goals as well as other life goals. Speaking regularly with the members of our personal board helps us to refine our ideas, challenge our assumptions and hold ourselves accountable to others. Connecting with them guides us to consider the regular improvements we make in the context of our aspirational longer-term goals, and allows us to gather input to course-correct as we proceed, learning from others’ experiences and suggestions.
Examples of different mentors and coaches include: aspirational mentors, skills mentors, leadership coaches, technical mentors, professionalism mentors, purpose coaches, robo mentors and more…
Leadership coach, Daphna Horowitz, refers to her own support squad as her “A-Team” and says they help her be at the top of her game. The members of her A-Team are:
If you’re developing people you need to begin with developing yourself… your knowledge, skills and personal effectiveness…”
Daphna also climbed Kilimanjaro in 2012, and wrote a book about her experiences, describing it as a “life-transforming journey for me. In every step I took, I was drawn to the parallels between the climb and leadership.” In her blog about her preparation, she referred to her “Kili training coach” too who helped her prepare physically and mentally. “Climbing Kilimanjaro was an experience of extremes – the toughest thing I’ve ever done and the most beautiful.” In the book, she thanks too the “amazing team of climbers, guides and porters who made this trip possible” and her “writing coach and mentor” who helped her share her experiences with others through her book.
I’m proud of the fact that while the Kilimanjaro trip is a personal journey of meaning and growth, it is also about a cause that is larger than myself. This trip is about inspiring women in challenging circumstances to know that anything is possible, one step at a time”
For more on this topic of assembling your own board, see our article “Mentorship: the value of a Personal Board of Advisors”. In it, we thank Protagion’s own advisors, and touch on Glenn Leibowitz’s views including his summary of an MIT Sloan Management Review article’s recommendations on developing self-awareness and diversifying your network. We also share Eric Barker’s thoughts on picking mentors, and reference Daniel Coyle’s ideas on desirable characteristics for mentors.
To explore the mentors and coaches available on the Protagion platform for your own board, sign up as a protege. Once you’ve logged into your protege account, select "Connect with Mentors" from the menu on the top-right to browse the headlines of the mentors and coaches available. Select each one you want to engage with from the list to see their detailed information, and "Book a Session" to book time with them, selecting a timeslot from the calendar and providing your payment card details.
Perennial advice from Ian McAllister in this post about both proteges and mentors getting value out of their engagements, recognising that both parties invest energy and effort in building the relationship.
Ian is Director of Amazon Day, and previous Director of Product at Airbnb. He’s had several mentors himself over his career, and mentors a number of professional colleagues and also start-up founders.
He explains that the most successful mentor-protege relationships share these attributes:
Read more to explore these in additional detail.