‘What Mentoring means for me.’

Meet Mark Richards, a Connect Mentor who shares his most memorable mentoring moments from a financial services career journey.

Mark is current a non executive Director of a number of Global businesses.

I had had a bad day at work. I was stuck. I didn’t know how to solve the problem. I wasn’t happy and it showed!

My boss saw me. “Mark!” he said, “You’ve got a monkey on your back! Tell me the problem.” Fifteen minutes later, the world looked very different, he’d given some great advice, and I knew how to move forward. The weight was lifted, the relief huge, and it’s a day I still remember 30 years later.

Another job, another problem, I had to research and write a speech for the company CEO. After two minutes writing, I realised, I knew nothing whatsoever on the topic and had no point of view at all. It was clearly going to be a disaster, rather awkward as the boss was speaking to an international conference the following morning covered by the press! Up to then, I thought I was quite good at the job, but now humiliation was beckoning. In desperation, I phoned a colleague, he didn’t know much either. “Try Ahmed”, who worked in a different country for the firm, he said, and whom I had never heard of. Miraculously, Ahmed turned out to be the world expert on the subject, and kindly saved the day!

These two memories are seared in my mind, two disasters rescued at the last moment by kind thoughtful interventions of colleagues who I’m in touch with to this day. It taught me, to succeed at work or life we need to harness the power of friends, family, colleagues, or even strangers. I had learned the value of Mentoring and teamwork! It’s a journey everyone who is successful goes through.

Years later I was the global co-ordinator of a business operating in 15 countries, most of its success depended on my ability to phone a friend. I was able to assemble teams of experts across the world because I’d remembered the power of asking for help, and kept going until I found the expert I needed.

I had only got that job, because someone I had mentored in my first firm as a graduate trainee, had moved firms, prospered and stayed in touch, and introduced me. So great mentoring relationships are not only to the benefit of the mentee, that’s why it so rewarding. Everybody is interesting, by sharing experiences we all learn something from one another.

Someone said of me you keep asking “why?” — it’s true, and it was a tip shared to me by one of my mentors. If you don’t understand you won’t achieve, so never be afraid to ask that question. Common sense is a lot more uncommon than you might imagine!

The hardest interview question I was ever asked is “What is your personal brand?”. i.e. ‘What do you stand for, and what do others see in you?’ It’s a question about self-awareness, and emotional intelligence, and is one you can only answer by asking others. A good mentor will hold the mirror up to help you see yourself more clearly, a voyage of self-discovery that can be hugely empowering.

These days I do various jobs, but they can be summarised as ‘joining up the world’. I link and share ideas and people to do exciting things, in interesting places. In reality that’s harnessing the power of networks.

We are all surrounded by mentors if only we take the time to notice. Try talking to the person next to you on the bus, or plane, and you’ll be amazed by what you will learn to enrich your world and perspective. Over the years I have sat next to great business leaders, but also a Buddhist who was certain she was reincarnated, a Sufi poet in Pakistan who transformed my understanding of the kindness of his culture, and Miss Hollywood, who shared a glimpse of her glamorous world. I’ve learned a lot from them, and many more chance encounters, but also much from family and friends. Share your hopes and dreams, and you’ll be amazed at how many kind helpful people there are in the world who’ll help you on your personal journey.

So that’s why I joined Connect Mentors, it’s a great way to meet new people and learn from each other. I am interested in your journey, dreams and aspirations. Only you can achieve them, but your mentor can be objective, share experiences, tell you how they survived seemingly insurmountable problems, frame choices ahead, introduce new people and hold that mirror up so you can see yourself in a new light. So what’s stopping you? I look forward to connecting!

Mark Richards, sits on the Boards of a number of international companies. His journey took him from Somerset to Zambia and many more countries, via Banking and Emerging Market Private Equity and many great conversations.

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