Member Insights: Why join the ICRS Mentoring programme as a mentor?

Alex Mayes is Social Value Business Unit Lead at Laing O'Rourke. Alex found his passion for Sustainability after globetrotting for nearly a decade in the travel industry. He saw the systemic social inequalities and disregard for the environment which often occurs when countries are trying to establish themselves economically. Coming home with eyes wide open, he saw similar themes of social inequality and environmental damage in the UK. Leaving the Travel sector for the Built Environment, and a range of organisations from global organisations, to small social enterprises – but all with a remit of ensuring their work leaves a meaningful impact. He loves inspiring others to see the difference they can make by taking deliberate steps to address the biggest issues Society faces today.   

"Finding a way to convert my lived experiences into appropriate principles or concepts that are useful to others is a great skill to practice"

What motivated you to become a mentor in this program?

I have a real desire to ‘give back’ to those in the ICRS community.  I enjoy sharing my knowledge and experiences with others, to help them navigate professional situations which I have previously faced myself.   Mentoring often involves connecting with individuals from diverse backgrounds and experience, and it is a great way to refine my communication, broaden my perspective on the sector and have interesting and stimulating conversations

What are the benefits and challenges of being a mentor?

I have mentioned the sense of personal fulfilment but it really helps my growth professionally. Finding a way to convert my lived experiences, into appropriate principles or concepts that are useful to others is a great skill to practice. The biggest challenge is often striking the right balance between offering guidance and allowing my mentee to make decisions and learn from their mistakes. Also, understanding that the success of the mentee is not my responsibility.  When things don’t go well, it can be disheartening, but it's important to remember that personal growth and success are ultimately up to the mentee.

How do you set goals and expectations with your mentee?

I have found that setting clear goals and expectations with your mentee is essential for a productive and mutually beneficial mentoring relationship.  For me, I always encourage my mentee to pick just one goal to focus on.  I also try and have a conversation to explore what the motivators are behind this goal. Sometimes the one goal they originally think of, will evolve to be something else – something more specific, powerful and motivating.

How do you balance your time and energy between mentoring and other commitments?

Even with a busy role, it is possible to carve time to have productive and engaging mentoring conversations.  I put aside about 90 minutes and try and let the mentee choose the time and format. Previously, I have mentored someone over the phone whilst they were walking their dog at lunchtime, but often it relies on Teams meetings. Being flexible on timings will build a trusting relationship and enable honest and productive communication.  

What are some of the key lessons or insights you have learned from being a mentor?

Be open with your mentee by sharing personal experiences both successes and failures, and let them reflect on the learning – before you give your own reflection. Provide personal anecdotes of the sector to enable them to figure out options and opportunities independently.  As a mentor, it’s vital to be patient and empathetic throughout, especially when mentees are working towards goals that might not have immediate results.