ABM Member Nicki Deeson recently mentored two charity Chairs, on a pro bono basis. Both provided case studies that Nicki would like to share with the ABM and members.
Samantha, a young black woman, chairs a national charity. Samantha requested mentoring after a tough 12 months, to support the charity’s CEO through COVID and to get the charity to a good place for the long term, before she steps down as Chair next year. After completing the programme, I asked for her feedback and this is what she told me:
"It took me a little time to get my head around the core principles but once I understood the value of mentoring, it was easy for me to use the sessions to help me decide on a goal and focus on the stages I needed to go through to achieve it.
I learned how to manage tasks and issues that seem daunting. I started with an ambitious goal which seemed insurmountable at first. Through my sessions I was able to divide the goal into more manageable stages, evaluate my achievements and progress and reflect on what I had learned about myself and my approach. I will be using this staged process in future to help me mentally and emotionally manage difficult challenges.
The programme has had an enormous impact on my organisation. We are about to embark on perhaps our most ambitious project in decades, that will help us to focus on who we are and what we want to achieve. I would not have had the courage to introduce the conversations to instigate this project if I hadn’t been through the programme.
I would recommend mentoring to anyone who is facing a difficult challenge or question, even if only in the short term. Having some external counsel and guidance to help clarify your thoughts and intentions can be really helpful in helping you to achieve your goals."
 For confidentiality we have changed names.
Elaine had been Chair of a regional arts centre for two years, and requested mentoring in order to give the new Director (who had recently been promoted) the best start. When asked for feedback on the programme, this is what she said:
"The power of individual agency, of collaboration and networks, and of using positive lived experience to create transformational change, are the things that matter to me most.
I’ve long been interested in mentoring, from both perspectives – being a mentor and being mentored. So I jumped at the opportunity.
It’s been a great experience. I had a clear idea of the areas I wanted to explore; I’d been talking to family, friends and peers, but I knew that mentoring would bring fresh thinking and a different perspective. What I needed was an impartial sounding board, who would ask the right probing questions.
Our sessions were spread out across several months which allowed time for reflection. The whole process was professionally managed and Nicki checked in with me at the start of each session to make sure we were good to go.
The sessions reminded me of the benefits of positive thinking; of constantly visioning the future I want to create and how I enable others to create their own. I can be a better Chair because of this process. It taught me that, to be the best Chair, I need to let the Director become the best CEO they want to be (not the best CEO I want them to be).
I didn’t always have an answer for the questions Nicki asked me, but I learned that this is a process, and that, “What else is there?” is one of the most powerful questions you can ask.
The first question Nicki asked me, “What do you most enjoy?” gave me the best homework I’ve had in a long time. I hope you get to hear Nicki ask it too.
Enjoy discovering the answer. It’s one I keep going back to.
I would absolutely recommend mentoring. Text books say the top 3 traits of an effective mentor are: building rapport, listening, and summarising and reflection. I would add empathy, shared values, and good observational skills, which Nicki has in spades – watch out for the words that are repeated back to you that you never knew you said!
It’s vital to go in with an open mind and a willingness to embrace the experience. Be ready for the personal reflection that needs to come out of it. Be willing to learn, and you will have a better understanding of yourself and what you can achieve as a result."