17 April 2019
Meet Malcolm Follos. Malcolm has been part of the Regional Mentoring Programme since its start two years ago and is an active and dedicated mentor to schools kids from across the region.
What first caught your interest in mentoring?
As I approach 60 and after 33 years in a consultancy role I had been looking for opportunities to give something back and work with teenagers for a while. The mentoring programme caught my eye and I enrolled in the half-day learning session in Newcastle to find out what it was all about.
What do you feel you gain from becoming a mentor?
You get the satisfaction of trying to make a difference to a young person who is looking for help. The sessions can be very challenging as the mentees often lack the confidence and social skills to engage effectively so building rapport and trust can be a test of listening and pacing which are great skills to hone for all professionals. The sessions can also be fun as the youngsters present with problems that you have long forgotten how to deal with so co-creating options and solutions can be enjoyable.
How do you gain a mentee’s trust?
This can take time, so patience is required. I start by asking to tell me a little bit about themselves to see how much disclosure they are comfortable with. I then share a little about myself being careful to match the level of disclosure. I also explain a little about the mentoring process = it is confidential, I do not report or work for the school, I am not their parent, I try hard not to judge etc. The first session is all about creating a safe place for them to talk and share any concerns they may have. I also try and lighten the session a bit with a laugh and look to get them relaxed, smiling and only then bridge into area of interest to talk about. I find a little structure in the first session can help = personal introductions+ go through the ground rules for mentoring; + take a look at subjects they are studying get them to self-score their performance on the GCSE 1-9 scale and then ask them how good do they think they can be in each topic.
I also ban the response ‘I don’t know’ it usually makes them smile as it is their stock response to every question they get asked that requires a modicum of thought!
In subsequent sessions reminding them what we talked about last time allows them to reconnect with the last session before I ask them the standard opening question = ‘So what do you want to talk about today, what would be useful for you to discuss or ask?’.
How would you describe the mentor-mentee relationship based on your experience?
It is open and honest and can be challenging for both. It tries to be future focussed and not too much ‘in the moment’ I find getting the mentee to zoom out of their current perspective and consider their challenges in terms of their lifeline helps create a broader context for the discussions.
Are there any characteristics or skills that you think a good mentor needs to have?
Skills include listening and summarising; asking good quality open questions; being tolerant of silence; showing empathy (but not too much sympathy as our job is to hold up the mirror and get the mentee to take responsibility for their actions and responses); A level of Emotional Intelligence and a good sense of humour and fun can all help.
Have you ever had a mentor yourself? How did they help you?
I have had several mentors over my career and a coach. All have helped me re-frame challenges, supported my confidence when it flags and offered up insights and guidance from outside my situation all of which I value.