Our Vice President of Strategy, Nicola Spooner, recently took part in Nabs’ Fast Forward programme and spoke to us about her experience and what qualities she believes make a great mentor.
Fast Forward is an eight-week training programme that brings together delegates from across the media industry in the UK to work on a live brief for a charity. Each year is different and this time around, we tackled a brief from the suicide-prevention charity Campaign Against Living Miserably.
Being a mentor was an amazing experience for me, and something that I’d never done before. I learnt a lot about myself, how to work better with others, and how to pass my skills and knowledge in a helpful and engaging way.
Over the next few paragraphs I’ve listed five key qualities that I believe you need to have to be a successful mentor.
1. A great listener
The most important thing to consider when mentoring anyone is to identify how to get the best out of your mentees. During Fast Forward, the first thing I asked each member of my group was to name their top strength and then also something they wanted to get better at. Listening to them, and knowing those answers meant we put the right people on the right areas to deliver the best pitch possible. I also had everyone feel like they’d stretched themselves out of their comfort zones, which is where I believe the true learning really begins.
During the process I learnt that I am very much a “do-er” and like to get involved. Being a mentor meant I had to take a step back, listen, and allow the team’s ideas to steer the ship. I will be doing more of this from now on!
2. A good communicator
Being a good mentor took more prep than I originally thought it would. During the process I was constantly aware of the time pressure and tried to build a good structure to each of the group sessions so we all remained on track. I also recommended frequent meet ups across the week to keep up momentum. We also created a group Whatsapp for quick communication, troubleshooting, and as a place to record ideas when we were not together.
The biggest challenge I found during the mentorship was absenteeism. When you have a team who are relying on each others contribution and one person doesn’t show up, that has an impact on everyone’s work. We all have things that come up last minute which can be unavoidable, but it’s how you deal with that to pick up the slack and deliver what you promised as quickly as you can.
Being a mentor means you have a responsibility to those who you are mentoring, it’s not something that you should take lightheartedly as people are relying on you. You need to ask yourself if you can commit the time needed. With work commitments of your own it can sometimes be a challenge to stick to your promises but it is so worthwhile if you can.
I hope that my team saw me as someone who was able to offer a constructive view of their work so they delivered the best pitch they could. I’m quite a supportive person by nature but have learnt the value of good feedback. Delivering good, honest feedback meant the team were able to make informed decisions about the project. It’s really hard to see the bigger picture when you’re in it day-to-day, so an objective person is always beneficial.
I felt very passionate about the whole experience and believe this was the key to leading my team to success. I truly wanted us to win and wholeheartedly believed we would. It was great to feel inspired by the hard work and original thinking that the team delivered. The cause was Male Mental Health and we got so involved in the brief that the stakes felt high as we really wanted to make a difference to such an emotive and valuable cause. It’s good to care that much about your work.
Unruly encourages staff to use the skills and knowledge that they have built up at Unruly, and throughout their careers, to help and encourage others in our communities, and the wider industry. Interested in working for us? Take a look at our latest job opportunities.