Ray Borella co-founder of the Mentoring Programme at Regent's shares some of the motivations, challenges and rewards of being a mentor.
How did you decide to start mentoring? Did you have a mentor yourself when you were a young professional?
I have always taken an interest in how people interact with each other and why miscommunication occurs i.e. when, what I feel I have clearly communicated, is not received in that way by the recipient. In my early career I went to a seminar entitled “How to deal with difficult people” which I thought might give me insights to this. The message from it was: “people have a variety of behavioural styles that shape the way they interpret communication from others and is also connected with how they see the world around them.” This encouraged me to learn more about these variations, which ultimately led to a feeling that I could help others improve the quality and success of their interactions with others by understanding these concepts.
I sadly did not have a mentor until I came to realise their potential when in my mid-career, but from that point on I did have a mentor (external to my organisation), who proved pivotal in supporting some major decisions in my career
What motivates you to mentor young people?
I think the fact that I missed out on this opportunity of having a supportive, confidential and experienced partnership with someone who could offer advice and engage in a thought-provoking dialogue, meant that I actively sought out situations where I could offer this to others in this early part of their careers.
Why did you choose Regent’s students to share your wisdom with?
Well that, for me, like for many others, was simply as a result of a colleague in my personal network who, knowing my interest in mentoring, asked me whether I would consider helping to establish a mentoring programme that Regent’s College (as it was then) was seeking to establish. Of course I jumped at the chance and, with a fellow experienced mentor, helped in the creation and launch of the current Mentoring Programme at the University in 2009. Since then, I have been an active mentor in the Programme.
What are some of the challenges you face as a mentor and how do you tackle them?
There have been many types of challenge along the way, but, many of them boil down to helping the mentee, gradually, to see if they can look past the assumptions that they hold about either themselves or others and re-rationalise whether these assumptions actually stand up to scrutiny and subsequently to explore with them what the possibilities might be were these assumptions to be circumvented or overcome.
What have you learned from your mentees?
The more mentees you mentor, the more you realise how rich and varied our behavioural styles are! Everyone has their own preferred modus operandi, value systems and nuances, which means I am always learning from the mentees new approaches to better communicate with each individual I come across. In addition, they give me an opportunity to appreciate the challenges that they face in an ever-more-rapidly changing workplace.
What’s most rewarding about being a mentor?
Personally, it is the satisfaction in seeing something we have discussed resonating with the mentee. It is only when you get this 'aha moment' from them, that you realise something has struck them with enough impact that they have the motivation to actually change their thinking and approach in dealing with a similar situation in future. Of course, sometimes the impact is only noticed more gradually, as the more analytical mentees prefer to ponder and evaluate the situation before deciding whether the change is sufficiently beneficial. Either way, the result is just as rewarding!
When do you consider your mentor mission completed?
Well, that decision is more in the hands of the mentee that the mentor. If the relationship is rewarding to both sides, then this will sustain it as long as the situation remains so. I have certainly maintained contact with some of my RUL mentees long after they have left. In fact, I am still in touch with the mentor I had in 2006, although he really is now what I would call a friend rather than a mentor!