At Protagion, we regularly suggest forward-looking self-reflection exercises for our members, especially as they can help us imagine possibilities by shifting our focus from present constraints. One example is our career timecapsule exercise which encourages long-term thinking.
We came across another application of this future-self idea, thanks to Tara Mohr, author of Playing Big*. It's an exercise she herself learnt from the Coaches Training Institute, and involves imagining an older, wiser you, decades into the future. Tara refers to this vision as our “inner mentor” and with her coaching clients has found that once we have a vivid sense of this future version of ourselves, we discover that he/she exists as a voice within us right now.
There is a voice in each of us that is unburdened by fear and untouched by insecurity, that has utter calm, that emanates love for oneself and others, and that knows exactly who we would be if we were brave enough to show up as our true selves. The ‘inner mentor’ is a way of accessing that part of us, a tool to tap into it. It can then become one’s personal guide to playing bigger.”
The visualisation exercise is most useful when we have some life experience, including being more open to listening to our elders – even if it’s an internal rather than external elder we’re tapping into. So, it works better for qualified professionals than scholars or students, for example. We feel your inner mentor is a helpful addition to your Mentorship Board, especially as they will know you best of all your mentors, and are always accessible to you. Our inner mentors function as a source of guidance, a voice we can draw on to develop a vision for our lives and careers, to help us make tough decisions, and to chart our unique paths.
Interestingly, an inner mentor is conceptually aligned with, although opposite to, the ‘advice I’d give my younger self’ style of career guidance experienced mentors share. An example on our website is Tim Rozar’s career advice. In this vein, we can consider an inner mentor as ‘advice I’d ask my older self for’.
Read more to see how to envisage your inner mentor and consult with him/her, compare ‘outer’ and inner mentors, and consider how to grow toward our inner mentors step by step, decision by decision.
Our recent article on reflective practice, "Professional Reflection: Learning through Experience", discussed the value of reflection in our Continuing Professional Development (CPD). It considered a number of professions encouraging reflective practice such as the healthcare/medical, teaching/education, and actuarial and accounting professions, and described some practical frameworks for reflection.
While collaboration and feedback are inherent in some professions, others may view reflective practice as a solitary activity. There can be value in forming your own opinions first, but at Protagion we believe strongly that working with others is fundamental to our professional development, including reflecting and discussing together.
Christopher Johns, a professor of nursing, in “Guided reflection: a narrative approach to advancing professional practice”* argued that the act of sharing reflection with a guide, colleague or mentor enables the experience to become learned knowledge at a faster rate than reflecting alone.
Read more for our brief thoughts on feedback, followed by more detailed exploration of “reflective practice discussions”, part of some professions’ CPD requirements i.e. their members are required to discuss their professional development with others. We look into who the reflective practice / diffraction discussion could be held with, the general elements of the discussion, and end with specific examples of possible questions to explore between the professional and the discussion partner.
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.