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Who Needs A Mentor Anyway?

Who Needs A Mentor Anyway?

by CO3 Mentor, Eddie Rooney

It seems like ages ago when my manager first suggested that I could benefit from having my very own mentor.  I didn’t react too well. 

Part of me felt that I was being told that I couldn’t do my job that well and needed a total stranger to help me out.  Another part of me was suspicious that I was being sucked into what was then a relatively new concept - sort of “Buy an expensive management course and get a free mentor thrown in”.  Some of my colleagues took up the offer, I politely refused and continued along the traditional management training route.  Looking back now, it wasn’t a smart decision.

Fast forward to what now seems like a working life time.  As a health sector Chief Executive in a challenging role, it was me who asked for help....and before long, I was brought together with my first very own, real life mentor.  To this day, I’m still not sure why spending a few hours every four months or so with somebody I barely knew – and who knew little about me or my work -  should have such a major impact on me.  Maybe it was the luxury of having protected time away from the day to day pressures.  Or possibly the security of being able to open up with someone who I could trust.  Or the challenge of having to answer some pretty fundamental questions like “Why are you doing this job?” or “What exactly are you trying to achieve?”.  Or maybe just being able to bounce ideas off someone who had different experiences from me.

Whatever it was, it worked for me in ways that I had not anticipated.  I really looked forward to these meetings.  It was precious time for me – challenging, unpredictable yet uplifting.  But this wasn’t just feel-good time.  It helped me get a sense of direction, a better appreciation of relationships, and encouraged me to reflect on what my job was about and why I was there.

I was quite excited when the opportunity came through CO3 to become a mentor – and a little bit anxious.  I was worried that I would struggle to understand the challenges faced by people who were working in a different environment from me, or that I just wouldn’t have enough to offer.  And I was a little apprehensive that I would not be able to adapt to the subtleties of the mentor role and learn to listen, or that I would annoy the mentees by acting like a boss or bore them to tears with stories about my past experiences. 

I am about to start my third year of mentoring with CO3, and the fact that I am looking forward to it immensely probably tells its own story.  My self doubts have not been as much a problem as I feared.  I have found that there is enough common ground in the experiences of leaders - regardless of the size of the organisation or the sector – to allow for a meaningful conversation.  And I am fairly sure that I have got more out of the relationship than the mentee: by sharing their experiences, they have added to mine and I have been inspired by the commitment shown to increase their own effectiveness in contributing to improving the lives of others. 

There’s something very grown-up about the mentor-mentee relationship.  Neither party is under pressure to pretend – we are who we are and we know what we know.  Nor is there pressure to keep going if the relationship is not working.  But when it does work, it really can make a difference to both.  I benefitted enormously from being a mentee and now I’m benefitting from being a mentor.  I hope I’m of some use to others in this role, but I’m enjoying trying.


Eddie Rooney


There are still some mentors available for this year’s CO3 Mentoring Programme so if you are interested in getting a mentor please contact Suzanne Courtney, Member Services Manager, by emailing suzanne@co3.bz

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