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Lessons I've learned as mentor for ICE Presidents' Future Leaders

02 May 2023

Richard Burleigh, past ICE Council member, discusses leadership development and the role of mentoring.

Lessons I've learned as mentor for ICE Presidents' Future Leaders
A benefit of the President's Future Leaders scheme is access to a group mentoring programme. Image credit: Shutterstock

I have been fortunate during my career to work with great bosses, and for a company that values leadership competence.

I learned a lot, and now dedicate my time towards the development of tomorrow’s leaders. 

As an accredited coach and mentor, I work with aspiring, high-performing individuals, helping them to find new insights and grow their self-awareness as they advance their own style of leadership.

I’ve been an active member of the ICE for many years, and I’m currently supporting the President’s Future Leaders (PFL) scheme in the capacity of group mentor, helping participants in their leadership development.

As a group mentor, I’ve learned that there’s no winning formula or standard procedure to follow.

There are key success factors, however, which I’ll outline in this blog.

Leadership versus management

One of my favourite questions is asking someone to describe the difference between leadership and management. 

The answers to this question are fascinating and often illustrate how much of this crucial distinction are either misunderstood or just not considered as important.

I spent 35 years navigating a career as a civil engineer.

I began with setting out on a local town bypass ‘on the tools’ through to executive leadership at one of the world’s leading construction companies (Skanska).

I have worked in different countries and within varying corporate cultures, and I have experienced both outstanding, and appalling leadership styles.

I have frequently observed the impact a leader’s style has on their organisation and consequently how that organisation behaves in relation to how it describes itself in values statements or on its website.

The gap can be large, sometimes resulting in a toxic organisational culture.

This can cause high staff turnover, financial underperformance, and deteriorating stakeholder delivery.

I believe that proactivity in developing leadership in our industry is crucial.

Competent management gets things done efficiently, but it’s leadership that decides what are the things to be done.

Strong management without leadership can take an organisation to the wrong place faster.

The ICE President’s Future Leaders’ mentoring scheme

The group mentoring programme runs for the duration of the PFL scheme.

While the remit is broad, one of the core objectives is to help the participants to strengthen their sense of individual responsibility for self-development.

When it comes to developing leadership, I do not believe that this is a process that can be taught but I firmly believe that it can be learned.

This is what is so engaging about a group mentoring process.

4 ways to make group mentoring successful

So how does group mentoring work? I believe there are four things that are necessary for it to be successful.

1. Trust

The first key success factor is trust.

It is a critical role of the mentor to facilitate the building of an environment of trust between the mentees and mentor, and also between the individual mentees.

This should be the main focus at the beginning of the programme.

Each participant should truly feel that whatever they say during a session goes no further than that session.

2. Mentees own the agenda

Building on from trust, I would say that the next factor is to ensure that responsibility and ownership of the mentoring agenda rests with the mentees.

This is so important: often mentors (and mentees!) assume that the mentor is the smarter person in the room, and so they know what topics need to be discussed.

I believe this to be false - only mentees know what is important for them to discuss.

3. Listening and asking

Next is ‘listening and asking’.

A mentor should listen and ask compelling questions.

In particular, the questions should put the mentee into the shoes of the person with the responsibility - and authority - to solve whatever issue is being discussed.

The mentor should then call on other mentees in the group to build on presented answers and ideas, which brings continuing creative insights.

This habit also promotes inclusivity within the mentee group, making sure everyone’s opinions and ideas are heard.

4. Summarise

And at the end, it’s important to summarise and wrap up as the mentoring session draws to a close.

This process is best facilitated by the mentor to ensure that it is the mentees who are vocalising the key outcomes and takeaways.

They might also make some personal commitments to implement new learnings in their daily routines. 

There are many other important considerations, but this is a good framework to start with.

To conclude, as I reflect on the calibre of the participants in the PFL schemes and the quality of the discussions that take place within the groups, I’m confident that the future of our industry is in the right hands.

Become an ICE President's Future Leader

The scheme is open to ICE student members on degree apprenticeships, graduate members working towards professional qualification and technician members.

Applicants should submit the completed application form, their CV, a reference from their line manager, and their answer to the question either in written or video format to [email protected].

The deadline is 12pm (UK time) on Friday 21 July 2023.

Further details can be found on the ICE website.

  • Richard Burleigh, coach and President's Future Leaders group mentor