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Douglas (Dougi) Bryce of JudoScotland, had participated in a sportscotland development programme for senior post holders within Scottish Governing Bodies of Sport (SGB). The option to access a mentor through the Chamber of Commerce was an attractive follow-on to complement the programme and potentially add some value from a different perspective.

Mentoring Process

Contact with the Chamber of Commerce and an outline of the desired characteristics of a mentor led to six potential mentor suggestions,  all with no Judo and/or Sports backgrounds as requested. One mentor jumped out in terms of background, experience and achievements. An initial meeting was arranged and the match completed with an agreed process to have regular meetings that would explore a range of business and organisational topics.

The initial discussion between Dougi and the mentor Steve led to positive and solid basis for the mentoring. Steve had a suitable way of working – meeting for coffee around a set of topics which was flexible to suit the requirements of the time. Meetings lasted between an hour and an hour and a half and covered a wide range of topics.

The Business Issues

Topics discussed included strategy implementation,  structures, staff reorganisation, review processes and internal communications.  The conversations shared issues and potential approaches to devising suitable solutions, drawing on the mentor’s experience in other organisations in very different sectors (non-sporting).

Relaxed but challenging discussion and sharing information happened naturally to produce a range of helpful ideas and relevant examples, especially around performance delivery and improvement.

The Mentoring Effects

The mentoring process had a positive effect on Dougi as the organisational leader in a SGB, with all the sensitivities involved in that role. As the mentoring relationship developed organically, the benefits also grew with increased clarity on the solutions to implementation challenges. Mentoring was helpful at a particularly busy time of change in the organisation, with many issues to be handled simultaneously. Having a mentor to act as a sounding board and a source of knowledge was an ideal complementary form of assistance.  Decisions and actions rested with Dougi but were informed by conversations and information sharing with Steve.
  Effective change has been achieved with support from the mentoring process and strategic discussions – mentoring support was accessed at just the right time when major changes were being implemented.

As a mentor, Steve provided a wealth of knowledge and interesting views on the challenges and how to implement change successfully.  Positive impacts on HR decisions, staff management and communications were notable - even if it is difficult to attribute precise impacts to the mentoring process. Mentoring has certainly been a contributor to change and the confidence and effectiveness of decisions taken. Many of the effects have been subtle yet effective in psychology of implementing change and how customers are involved.

What made Mentoring Work?

The relationship was the basis for mentoring success. The blend of knowledge and experience combined with an open trusting basis for all discussions laid the foundations for a productive mentoring match. The mentor Steve provided a valuable sounding board for thoughts and ideas, raising questions and provided Dougi with an outlet to explore solutions and their implications calibrated with experience elsewhere. The alternative, non-sporting perspective was essential to avoid any conflicts and maintain objectivity.

As Steve said “from my perspective, building a solid relationship is paramount.  Sometimes you don’t click straightaway and it takes time - we clicked very early on and our sessions were productive and enjoyable at the same time. Also it’s good to get some momentum and traction early on.

It was also interesting for me was that I have never touched this type of business before yet they faced similar challenges to any other as well as some unique challenges.  I learnt a great deal as well.”

Would you recommend mentoring?

Dougi said: “Yes I would recommend mentoring as a valuable service. It is always important to choose the mentor carefully,  ideally someone with a new perspective from outside the sector – in this case sport. It is also important to get someone who has an interest in you personally and learning about what you and the organisation does. It is still up to the organisational leader to find the right solutions and make the right decisions.  Mentoring provides a sounding board but is no substitute for the hard skills of organisational leadership”.