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Mentoring - For Life, Not Just for Christmas

Johanna, Resilient Pilot Mentor Development team

This week we at Resilient Pilot celebrated National Mentoring Day through our Wednesday Webinar. If you missed it, you can catch up here.

In honour of National Mentoring Day, we are continuing the theme into this week’s blog.

To avoid any charges of plagiarism or copyright infringements, we acknowledge the inspiration from that great Dogs Trust advert from a couple of years ago for the title of this blog.

Resilient Pilot is now blessed to have 68 volunteer pilot and specialist mentors providing over 200 mentees with support, currency and connection.

Our specialist mentors bring with them a real depth of experience across a range of organisations and types of people. From this experience, it is clear that coaching and mentoring is really sector, profession and grade agnostic.

There are, however, some common themes that are worth sharing here.

(Left: just some of our fantastic, volunteer mentors from around the globe)

One of the first things that mentoring and coaching has been used really successfully for is helping people make the transition into new or different roles, perhaps on promotion.

So, as an example, someone promoted into a director role in an organisation.

Or, perhaps the sector is completely different to that which they've been used to.

So, they had a different sector to get to grips with, as well as a different client base in addition to a different role. This kind of mentoring focuses on the culture changes that an individual may need to acclimatise to.

Or, perhaps getting really explicit on the role changes that they need to embrace in order to be successful such as purview, roles and responsibilities, or how they go about their business.

This sort of mentoring really helps individuals hit the ground running as they acclimatise to the new business and hence reduce that period of uncertainty or potential underperformance. Research tells us that folks who get the right support, get up to speed in about half the time.

The ‘neglected middle’

There’s another group that really benefit from coaching or mentoring.

In many organisations, particularly large organisations, there are plenty of learning and development offerings for those at the start of their career; like apprenticeships or graduate programmes.

Plus, there are often plenty of development opportunities for those in the most senior position - what are sometimes called high performance or future leaders programmes. The ‘neglected middle’ are those individuals that are not at the starts of their careers nor (yet!) at the pinnacle of their careers. They're in that mid to senior management stage, and very often there's nothing for those folks.

Hence the neglect.

Yet these individuals are the ones moving from managing to leading, which is a transition in itself. They're often getting used to larger spans of control, more responsibility, more culpability, more difficulty and complexity in their roles. They are the ones that help convert strategy into execution or operations. And yet, they get nothing. As well as leaving them feeling valued and engaged, those in the ‘neglected middle’ can benefit and would appreciate some form of coaching or mentoring to help them continue to perform at their best.

Mindset, not skillset

Another body of individuals that really benefit from some form of coaching or mentoring are those that need support with their mindset, rather than their skillset. Performance coaching suggests that 80% of our performance is actually down to our mindset, not our skillset. So, a number of regular learning interventions aren't necessarily getting at the root cause of what might be causing somebody to not achieve their peak performance, let alone even underperform. The nature of conversation you have in coaching and mentoring means that invariably you are looking at both mindset as well as skillset and so can have a profound impact on a person’s performance – whatever their role, grade or profession.

Who wouldn't want to be great instead of good?

Given that coaching and mentoring can be used so widely and have such profound impact, why don’t we all have a coach or mentor? Well, here at Resilient Pilot we think there are a couple of barriers which we’ll explore, and address, now.

If we take our ‘neglected middle’, maybe they think, “well, I've been doing my job for 10, 15, maybe even 20 years! If I don't know how to do it, maybe I shouldn't be in this job!” The Resilient Pilot way is to embrace the idea that we can be even better tomorrow. Or as Gandhi said, “Learn as if you were to live forever”.

We also think there's some nervousness about what the nature of the mentoring conversation is. Perhaps some wonder ‘Is it like counselling?’

Despite great progress on the, “it’s ok to not be ok” agenda, we still have a way to go for interventions like counselling to be seen in the same way as, say, a Personal Trainer, rather than a stigma. Maybe there's a perception that if I'm seeking mentoring or coaching, then that means that I'm underperforming in some way, or I'm broken, or weak. To be clear, coaching and mentoring is not like counselling. It's very future and forward focused. It's very action oriented. The aim of coaching and mentoring is to decide what you want to change and then make that change to go from “good to great”. Who wouldn't want to be great, instead of good?

‘Thinking Partners’?

Maybe there's something around the language that gets used?

Often when we talk about coaching and mentoring, we talk about “coachees” and “mentees”, and maybe that sounds a bit too much like “trainee” and therefore indicates again, this kind of perception that you don't know what you're talking about.

So, we can change that language. Maybe let’s talk about ‘Thinking Partners’.

What we do know about some particularly thorny topics is it can feel like we are stood right in front of a large wall. When we are stood right in front of the wall, we can't see how wide it is or how big it is or a way around it. Sometimes we just need a Thinking Partner to help us see the whole of the wall.

So, ask yourself, who is your Thinking Partner that can help you go from good to great?

Resilient Pilot would love to help. Because mentoring is for life, not just for Christmas.

Stay Resilient

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