Lou Kiwanuka, The Shaper Group, The Ops Nest

I was delighted to be asked to be part of the UFI Leadership Programme earlier this year, and even more delighted when I found out that my mentee, Erika, was pregnant with her 2nd child – what more privilege can you get than being part of someone’s preparation for a new life!?

As with most life situations, our challenge was to configure a plan so that Erika could get the most out of our mentoring programme in the time we had. There is no doubt that this mirrors what I believe to be the core of being a working parent; how to achieve a superior result in a set timescale when there is a hard stop.

It’s what many of us do in the events world when juggling the realities of work/life balance and I have learnt many lessons on this topic from being a single parent in events.

Building rapport remotely, via zoom, is a tough ask of anyone, so getting to the point where you both feel comfortable disclosing and talking about weaknesses or frailties to overcome felt like the biggest and most important challenge.

Considering this ‘not ideal’ format, it was essential that we developed a framework so that we both knew what direction and topics would be covered each time we ‘met’ yet be flexible and continually amend the framework based on feedback as to how things were developing for Erika.

Halfway through the programme we realised that what worked really well for both of us was that hard ‘stop’, condensed timeline. We cut to the chase on what Erika wanted to achieve, we put a plan in place and began to meet more regularly; fortnightly rather than monthly and as a result we built our rapport more quickly.

Making sure there were plenty of work sheets and exercises for Erika to do between sessions meant that we always had something to discuss when we met up and enabled Erika to invest proper time and thought in application of ideas to her own life so we could discuss what worked and why.

A big learning moment for me came around culture. A number of the issues I have faced in my career around being a working mum were in fact redundant in mentoring Erika and we quickly found that the context of family / work life balance in the UK verses Sweden are worlds apart.

I have learnt so much from the experience and being Erika’s mentor has sharpened my desire to work with working mums in cultures where there is not as much support.

It just goes to prove that mentoring is not a one-way street!

As a mentor you should be learning as much from your mentee as they from you, whether that is experience, knowledge or perspective, you just need to find the right framework for you both to coax that all-important rapport!