To celebrate International Coaching Week (ICW) I’m running a series of daily blogs on both coaching & mentoring.
Today I am delighted to host a guest post from an experienced HR professional. Given the personal nature of the post they have asked to remain anonymous but I think you’ll agree it’s a tremendous story about the impact of a mentoring relationship.
WORKING WITH PEOPLE
I was fortunate enough during last year to be put in touch with a senior HR person who agreed to mentor me. At that point in my career I had felt lost and deeply unhappy. There were days when I wondered how I would escape the feelings of isolation and desperation and when I would have given anything not to work in HR anymore. I couldn’t see a way out but I couldn’t see a way forward either. Unusually for me, I started to feel stagnant and trapped. It had a very negative impact on my mental health and started to chip away at my confidence. Because of the impact it was having on me, I started to doubt my own abilities and all I wanted to do was run away from the problem because I couldn’t see how to fix it. I would like to add here that I’m typically a glass half full person and so once faced with this trap, my optimism and upbeat self slowly disappeared.
Then along came Harry* (*not his real name), someone who very quickly built up rapport with me and who earned my respect just for being himself. I remember that for the first couple of conversations that we had, I went around in circles, not really knowing what the problem was. Harry was one of the most patient people that I’ve ever come across and looking back now I realise he is someone who has a real gift for working with people.
After some time, Harry helped me to identify that my deepest trigger for being unhappy at work was not the work itself but my personal perception of a particular relationship with a person at work. I felt we were too different and that they didn’t understand me. From time to time, I saw challenge as conflict and slowly over time, I had built a wall around myself in order to cope with what I saw as a relationship that was slipping away. I had also felt ignored and because I felt that praise didn’t come very often, I started to believe that everything I did was wrong. It was made worse by a performance review that didn’t quite go as I’d expected.
Harry asked me to consider my Myers-Briggs personality and also think about the person I was feeling unhappy about. He was quite simply, amazing. Just from a few conversations he had decided my profile in his mind but also that of the person I wasn’t getting along with. From there, he helped me to see that the other person saw the world very differently to myself and highlighted where there were real differences in our views. Harry encouraged me to speak to that person about how much the issues were bothering me and he assured me that by asking for praise once in a while was not an unreasonable request.
I had a meeting coming up and I wanted to address the problems head on. Harry helped me with setting my agenda, the use of language that I was going to use to address the problem and talked me through the different scenarios. When the meeting came and went without a hitch, I started to see the world from the other persons perspective and I realised that there wasn’t a personal issue at all, we were disjointed and I had taken something personally that was never intended that way.
A year later, I’m in the same job. I wouldn’t say it’s perfect but for the most part I enjoy what I do. I still work with the same person and our relationship is much improved. The other person hasn’t changed much at all but I have adapted my style when I’m with them and I’ve learnt not to take things personally. I don’t think that Harry will ever quite understand what a difference he made to me. I feel indebted to him for his kindness, patience and empathy.
Before this experience I had never been mentored before and I wasn’t sure how it would be able to improve things. Sadly Harry has moved onto other things and I’m on the lookout for a new mentor. I’m hoping too that at some point I’ll get the chance to give something back and that I’ll be able to make a difference in the way that Harry did for me.
I really enjoyed this piece from quite a few different perspectives. Well done this person for having the courage to see that they could create change by being given a way to do this.
Well said Sukh. @verawoodhead also shared similar sentiments on twitter thus – "…Can empathise with what you have written. Good luck with finding a new mentor and thanks for sharing. It takes a lot of courage to open up…"
Good post. Difficult working relationships can eat up time and mental energy, and can cause stress, absenteeism and loss of effectivenss for individuals and companies with knock on effects on colleagues. If you are a manager reading this, get help from a third party if all efforts to resolve the issues have failed. Above all don't ignore the problem and hope it will go away.