Being a mentor at IHG has been both a highly rewarding experience and a learning curve for me in many ways. I had begun my latest role as Executive Assistant Manager of Holiday Inn Pattaya, Thailand and I was made aware that I had a colleague who was taking part in the Future Leaders Programme – Atsawin Bordinthanawong (Bird). Bird and I worked quite closely together, so were able to speak almost every day. However, I made sure we scheduled a formal meeting every two weeks for us to sit down and talk about his successes, challenges and goals – ensuring he got the most out of our time together. Alongside our structured meetings, we also frequently took the time to casually get together over lunch. Since Bird has completed the Future Leaders Programme, he has successfully been promoted to Express Assistant Manager and has consequently moved to our sister hotel. However, he still works close by, so once he has adapted to his new position, we will continue our mentoring relationship. Here is our mentoring story.
Creating a Safe Space
With a mentoring relationship, there’s a strong sense of trust that goes both ways. I felt it was important to create a safe space so that Bird felt able to chat about anything he wanted, including any sensitive topics that he wanted to remain private. When I embarked on this journey with Bird, I immediately found value in instilling a sense of confidence and comfort in him that I had experienced with my own mentors. It’s absolutely vital to build trust with each other to ensure that the mentee feels comfortable enough to express themselves honestly. I found great enjoyment when we reached that stage and he was able to confide in me.
This close mentoring relationship is also beneficial when providing feedback. I believe that it’s necessary for a mentor to be completely open and honest with their mentee. Feedback can sometimes be hard to accept, but often it’s even harder to give. Therefore, if the mentoring relationship doesn’t have a sufficient level of trust, giving honest feedback could backfire. I’ve always had the best intentions in mind for Bird and want him to be the best he can be, so feeling comfortable when providing feedback was key to our mentoring relationship’s success. In my own experience, I’ve found it helpful to have someone to talk to who I trust and whose feedback I willingly took onboard.
Reverse mentoring is a term that my old mentor used – he would say that every time we had a conversation, he would learn something new from me. When I began mentoring Bird, I found this to be true, too. He was always so eager to do more and to succeed, which I found really inspiring. Once you’ve started to climb the business ladder it can become easy to forget what that thirst to develop feels like, yet by mentoring Bird I experienced that thrill once again.
Alongside this, I learnt a number of valuable leadership skills. For example, in the beginning I found it hard to not tell Bird exactly what to do. During most of our conversations he would present me with a situation that I had previously experienced – my immediate reaction was to tell him how I would overcome or solve the issue at hand. However, I felt it was more constructive to allow him to come to his own conclusions on the next steps he should take, rather than simply offering my own verdict. Of course, sometimes it was important to share my suggestions, but first I would try and coax him to think further for himself. Bird always had the capacity to come up with his own solution, but from time to time he needed a helping hand to guide him there.
Developing the Next Generation of IHG Leaders
With the solid mentoring platform on offer at IHG, it’s important as a Future Leader to take advantage of this opportunity while keeping three pieces of advice in mind. Firstly, it’s okay to make mistakes – you’re at the start of your career, and everything will be new to you. Remember that your mentor is there to support you on every step of your journey. Secondly, you must be receptive – listen to your colleagues’ and mentor’s advice, try new things and learn from every experience. Lastly, always celebrate your successes, you’ll have many more of them than mistakes!
I have seen Bird leverage the programme to its fullest potential, and he is definitely reaping the success now, which he has outlined in his blog . I look forward to us picking up our mentoring relationship once Bird has settled into his new role, and I hope to see him sharing his wisdom by mentoring others in the future – they’d be lucky to have him.
Have you got the skills to mentor the next generation of leaders? Find out more about what an IHG career could mean to you here.