Mentoring mojo… with Allen Ramsay

With a background in chemical engineering, a master’s in business leadership, and over forty years’ hard-earned experience as a senior executive at Anglo American, online mentor Allen Ramsay is keen to share all he knows on leadership and lifelong learning.

I joined The Mentorship Challenge to help as many people as possible achieve their aspirations and succeed. I have much to pass on to those who need guidance in making their ‘dreams come true’, and I understand what it takes to meet your own aspirations.

Mentorship is a relationship in which a more experienced, knowledgeable person helps to guide a less experienced and less knowledgeable person. The mentor may be older or younger than the mentee, but he or she must have a certain area of expertise. It’s a learning and developmental partnership between someone with vast experience and someone who wants to learn.

The nature of the mentorship experience and relationship structure will determine the ‘amount of psychosocial support, career guidance, role modelling, and communication that occurs’. I’ve pared down that relationship structure to six golden rules:

Get a grip on the golden rules to success…

1. Perform, perform, deliver, deliver

Never stop performing and delivering: unless you perform and deliver more than is required, it’s unlikely you’ll be noticed and recognised. You should always have an attitude rooted in hard work and high performance; you should be a strong team player and should always be enthusiastic and eager to learn.

2. Do not be afraid to make mistakes

It’s human to make mistakes, and one only learns from mistakes, so do not be afraid to err. Your boss will understand you’re still mastering the job or function. However, to make the same mistake twice is, well, total stupidity. Just don’t.

3. Manage your boss; keep him or her content

Always be one step ahead of your boss, by being attuned to his or her needs and requirements, and by delivering before requested to do so. Keep your boss ecstatic about your delivery and attitude, and they’ll be the first to notice you, recommend you for greater responsibility or promotion, and be willing to sponsor you. Don’t forget, the second most important person in your life, after your family, should be your boss.

4. The amount of authority you have is the amount you take, not the amount you’re given

The amount of authority you have is really what you are prepared to take to master your job or function. Do not be afraid to do what it takes to deliver without being told what to do or when to do it. However, remember to be fully accountable for your decisions and actions if things go wrong. And remember, if 50% of your decisions are good, you’re actually doing exceptionally well!

5. A boss is only as good as the team he or she leads

A boss is totally dependent on the success of the team he or she leads; if the team is successful, so is the boss. The boss must ensure the team is enabled for high performance by ensuring they have the necessary skills, resources, advice, coaching and leadership to succeed. Each team member must be a strong team player, and must be willing to perform and deliver on the team’s objectives for the collective success of the team, including the boss.

6. Manage your career

Your career is in your hands. It’s your responsibility to obtain the necessary skills and management development, experience and exposure needed for the advancement of your career. It’s not your boss’s nor your company’s responsibility to ensure your career is developed. Your destiny is solely in your hands, so take hold of it and manage it fully!

Much of my success was built on my own hard work, but I could never have done it without sponsors. I’ve had sponsors throughout my career, and their guidance has had an immense impact on what I’ve achieved. Mentors and sponsors serve different purposes, but their end goal is the same: to support you in achieving your goals.

Speaking of sponsorship…

You won’t always know who your sponsors are, but they are people who will advocate for you in the workplace when you need to be more visible. The totality of your work legacy relates to your perceived success in an organisation, so you should actively try to build relationships and prove your value-add to your company.

It’s important to be thoughtful about networking, because promotion decisions are largely based on the awareness of your contribution to the team and, like it or not, hearsay. You never know who might act as your sponsor, and you’re never guaranteed that the right people will recognise your hard work. So, try to identify senior people who have recognised you as a high performer and value-enhancer, and would be willing to advocate for and sponsor you. Cultivate those kinds of relationships and – along with the six golden rules – you’re more likely to succeed!

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