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The voice of Scotland’s vibrant voluntary sector

Published by Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations

TFN is published by the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, Mansfield Traquair Centre, 15 Mansfield Place, Edinburgh, EH3 6BB. The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) is a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation. Registration number SC003558.

The power of mentoring

This opinion piece is about 5 years old

Phili Wetton reflects on a recent conference on mentoring and the impact it has has for individuals

“Mentoring is a bridge helping individuals reflect on where they are now and supporting them to get where they want to be,” says Dr Iain MacRitchie of mentoring charity MCR Pathways.

But are we using mentoring well enough in the third sector?

Alongside the Law Society of Scotland, the Association of Chief Officers of Scottish Voluntary Organisations (Acosvo) recently held a mentoring conference. It aimed to provide an informal, engaging and reflective forum, and offer a chance for people to share experiences and best practice, learn about new practical mentoring tools and techniques, and celebrate the impact of mentoring.

Phili Wetton

Taking stock, it feels like we all face similar issues no matter what sector or role we work in – we need to build confidence, capacity and resilience.

Phili Wetton

Following an early, frosty start, the chatter and networking of the incoming delegates soon warmed the room. With a rough split of 67% third and public, and 33% private sector delegates, we were happy we had a broad range of interests and expertise reflected in the room. We had people from environmental organisations, education, health, arts and culture, finance, manufacturing, legal, and various government departments.

The morning began with an inspiring keynote from Dr Iain MacRitchie, founder of MCR Pathways, a Glasgow-based charity providing mentoring support and talent development programmes to disadvantaged young people. With staff now in every secondary school in Glasgow, and many others across Scotland, thousands of the most disadvantaged young people are being supported each week by the charity.

Throughout the day it became evident that mentoring relationships are all about soft indicators. It is the human element that really makes the difference, the invaluable support of someone who wants to be there and wants to listen. But it is the hard indicators that are needed to be able to demonstrate the positive impact mentoring is having on people’s lives.

Case studies from both mentors and mentees were shared and we learned the value both sides place on these relationships. The sharing of experiences, supporting, and empowering others to reach their full potential very much sits at the heart of successful mentoring, enabling individuals to grow and believe in themselves.

Taking stock, it feels like we all face similar issues no matter what sector or role we work in – we need to build confidence, capacity and resilience.

A late morning of workshops looked at the tools and techniques of advanced mentoring skills and ways to reflect and refresh the relationships. Both rooms were buzzing with enthusiastic conversation which continued through to the discussion panel, covering a variety of topics including mentoring models, accreditation, questioning, and disengaging relationships.

It became very clear throughout the day that mentoring also changes the work environment. It helps individuals manage conversations within their own teams better. It enables openness and confidence, helping mentees feel more empowered. Being able to open up a different mind-set, see more clearly, and then be able to navigate the road ahead with confidence.

I left that afternoon feeling refreshed, empowered and motivated to spread the word of mentoring more than ever, and in parting words from one of the conference delegates: “It was a truly inspirational day and what a great feeling to be surrounded by so many people who are committed to the power of mentoring!”. I couldn’t agree more.

Phili Wetton is Acosvo's engagement manager and mentoring programme co-ordinator