Mentoring - setting yourself to receive not transmitPublished on 25 Jun 2019
James Cook, Senior Associate, explains the value of listening to young people
Of all communication skills, active listening, is possibly the most powerful for a business. It is also at the root of what makes an effective mentor, according to James Cook, senior associate in Stonehage Fleming’s investment team. “Listening is so important. That and being able to refrain from directing too much,” says James.
For the past ten weeks James has volunteered as a business mentor with Envision, a charity that supports groups of young people through the ‘Community Apprentice Programme’. Loosely based on TV series The Apprentice, the programme is an inter-school competition, which requires young people to develop and demonstrate competencies most valued by employers. Fortnightly sessions provide a practical learning experience, enabling them to develop the skills they need to succeed in work and life.
“The young people we worked with were very motivated and switched on. They often already knew the answers,” says James. “But being a good mentor means acting as a sounding-board for people’s ideas. Encouraging them to follow their goals rather than telling them what to do.”
Stepping out of the corporate environment to work in the local community has been very rewarding for Envision mentors like James. “One of the things that attracted me to the programme was the opportunity to give something back,” says James. “We spend a lot of time working with very privileged families. Much of my work is about understanding clients’ needs and helping them reach their goals, but mentoring has enabled me to share my experience in a totally different environment,” he adds.
Working with like-minded colleagues of different seniorities across the business towards a common goal is another bonus. “It sounds like a cliché, but the highlight for us was watching the young people’s journey, significantly growing in confidence from the first time we met to the final presentation.” The experience of mentoring young people is something James would wholeheartedly recommend. “If you are enthusiastic, attentive and the young people feel you value their opinions, you find common ground. That is when you see the best results. It has definitely improved my communications skills both inside and outside of the office.”