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Mentoring the way

Put your hand up if you were at school in the 1980s and remember the careers officer whose role it was to point you towards a job you might succeed in? writes Michelle Bailey, pictured, the Managing Director of South Yorkshire-based security contractor Active Response Security Services Limited.

A story that makes me smile is about Olympic champion Kriss Akabusi MBE as a boy in school. Staff told him that if he didn’t stop running around and sit down he wouldn’t amount to anything! The moral of the story is that people both need and deserve better support and encouragement in life. Why is that?

To be a positive contributor to any industry they need someone to guide them to adopt best practices and maintain high standards of professional ethics. My encouragement for more women to join our industry is well known but this needs to apply equally to men. The modern way of developing the highest potential is to use a mentoring process. In essence it’s a voluntary, intentional relationship that benefits both the mentor and those being mentored. You will see immediately that it relies on giving best quality time and attention by both parties. It involves sharing advice, life experiences, resources and knowledge.

Mentoring also involves getting to know the individual, his/her background, strengths, weaknesses, and future career goals. I am reminded of the success that can result from the feedback of a member of my own senior team. She joined us in a key role because of her skills, aptitude, experience and approach that was a perfect blend for our goals.

Very quickly unforeseen circumstance struck; a family illness that would demand time and attention. My manager assumed that this made it impossible to carry out her role effectively and efficiently and the inevitable outcome was we could not support her. Our attitude was that we have an obligation to support our staff, particularly in such challenging circumstances. It obviously came as a surprise to her but some years on, this member of staff is still performing exceptionally and we have achieved a loyal bond. A key factor was developing a flexible way of working and sharing strengths that benefitted everyone.

Her feedback was: “I would not have been able to balance a career and my family responsibilities as they were. I will be forever grateful for a mentoring approach that valued me and invested in me. During my time with Active I have completed various courses and I am currently doing my ILM Level 5. It has imprinted on me that I should now return the investment to my company.”

Good mentoring may well last a lifetime so it needs to be ingrained in the culture of a business. Who are the best career advisors in the security industry? It’s you, it’s me, it’s all of us. It’s our job to break down any barriers to joining our industry. They are more likely to join us if they know we have their long term interests at heart. I have a plan to visit local schools to reaffirm this with older students. It seems the wheel has turned and I am becoming a careers officer! Schools have already welcomed this idea. The same will be the case in your own area. Wouldn’t it be good for many of us to take this initiative to promote our industry? As a speaker with Barnsley Business Inspiring Barnsley (BBIS) I am readying myself to take action and not simply to express words.

To be productive and effective we all need to create a good work/home balance. At times this will mean we need to be creative and flexible. If we want the best from staff we will need to take the lead in giving it. Getting to know them closely without being intrusive tells them they matter and that they have a fair-minded, listening ear to turn to. It produces a healthy environment to grow.


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