Mentoring Lessons Learned from a Vital Voices Autumn Gathering at the Bank of America offices in London
November 2019 – On a crisp morning in March 2019, invigorated by a sensational panel discussion between retail legend Marty Wikstrom and British Fashion Council Chair Stephanie Phair, 200 mentors and mentees walked through the cobbled streets and blossom-smattered trees of London. These pairs were participating in the Global Mentoring Walks – events that happen every year to connect women leaders around the world through mentorship. In 2019, a historic 174 Global Mentoring Walks took place in 62 countries, reaching over 15,000 women. Motivated by the Vital Voices mission statement of ‘Invest in Women, Improve the World’, mentors and mentees shared ambitions, insight and experiences.
In autumn 2019, Vital Voices’ Europe Council was searching for an opportunity to follow up with mentors and mentees from the London Mentoring Walk. So we created a bespoke event, thanks to the support of Bank of America, to take stock of our 2019 achievements, set our mission statement for 2020 and host a panel discussion with thought leaders around mentorship.
On October 10th, the Vital Voices Europe Council hosted its seminal Vital Voices Autumn Gathering at the Bank of America offices in the City of London. With five inspiring speakers including Vital Voices (VV) Board Members Jennifer Taylor and Sagra Maceira de Rosen and VV GROW Fellow Genevieve M. Musey, VV Europe opened its doors to previous Europe Mentoring Walk attendees, Bank of America employees, and those who had heard about the incredible energy at Vital Voices events and wanted to learn more.
Welcoming our guests, VV Board Member Sagra Maceira de Rosen highlighted Vital Voices’ key achievements and outcomes in 2019, before announcing plans for new future walks in Amsterdam, Oslo, Copenhagen, Zurich, Athens, Milan, Paris, Dublin and Glasgow.
Moderated by VV Board Member and Bank of America Executive Jennifer Taylor, we the event included a panel composed of Cheryl Boucher (BofA Global Head of GCIB Credit), Norah Casey (Broadcaster, Publisher), and Genevieve M Musey (VV GROW Ambassador).
The key three takeaways from the organic, engaging discussion were:
- It’s ok to move on from your mentor. One of my key takeaways from the Mentoring Walk in March was that, for both the mentor and mentee to make the most of the relationship, the mentee needed to ask exactly what they wanted to of the mentor. I learned from the panel discussion that sometimes asking for what you want may involve tactfully and respectfully parting ways with your mentor if your mentor is not meeting your expectations, or if they are not giving you helpful advice. They will appreciate the honesty and you will be free to find a new mentor who better meets your needs.
- Be concise with your mentor. All the panellists agreed that in mentoring relationships, the key ingredient in an unproductive mentoring relationship was lack of brevity or focus. A mentor is not there for you to gossip with, or even to discuss your day-to-day role if that’s not what you are seeking guidance with. Your mentor is there to ask you challenging, sometimes not all that easy-to-answer questions. But, make sure you consider what you want to discuss with your mentor beforehand: setting an agenda and making sure you stick to it is key to achieving your goals for each session. Your mentor is likely to be time poor, but experience rich, so will appreciate your pertinence.
- Dare others to dream bigger. Whether you are a mentor or a mentee, a currency for success in any mentoring relationship is encouraging one another to think outside of the box. Thinking of not only what perspectives you can bring to your mentee, but also what your mentor can do for you will encourage a successful, productive and positive relationship.
I would love for anyone else who attended this event to get in touch so we could share ideas and any resounding thoughts we took away from the event.