Tessa Jowell discusses the importance of resilience at a lunchtime briefing hosted by Mentore

Baroness Tessa Jowell is one of Mentore’s high-calibre mentors and has been a firm supporter of Mentore since the organisation was founded. She has drawn on her wealth of experience on many occasions to advise mentees from a range of backgrounds and careers paths, helping them to achieve their personal goals as well as their organisation’s objectives.

In May 2016, Tessa gave the keynote speech at a lunch event hosted by Mentore for guests from business, politics, not-for-profit and academia. This event formed part of Mentore’s on-going series of lunch briefings, which gives guests the opportunity to hear from and engage with exceptional leaders from a variety of fields.

At the event, Tessa discussed the importance of building resilience, explaining how today’s leaders tackle disappointment, and perceived failure, to emerge stronger, more focused and more positive.

Key highlights from Tessa’s inspiring speech include:

  • For key situations, conduct a “pre-mortem” with trusted contacts in order to identify potentially problematic issues and how best to mitigate these
  • Deal with what you can control, rather than focusing on external influences out of your control
  • Make sure you are “at the coalface” and outside your comfort zone - both are necessary for building resilience and confidence
  • Help as many people as possible, as you will meet them on the way down as well as on the way up
  • If someone makes a mistake, help them to understand how to avoid being defined by it
  • Make good use of your “trust barometer” to develop a support network and build loyal contacts. Do not act as a sole operator
  • Have the courage to ask when you do not know the answer

Tessa Jowell commented: “It is a great privilege to be able to download and share my experience with ambitious younger women. The Mentore lunch was a great opportunity to do this.. As people strive to do well in their chosen careers, it is important to build up a strong sense of confidence and resilience, drawing on this when you encounter difficult moments in order to bounce back stronger. I also firmly believe that you should help as many people as possible as you climb up the career ladder, helping them build and maintain a sense of optimism, ambition and aspiration.”

About Tessa Jowell

Baroness Tessa Jowell has served as a Member of Parliament for 24 years. She stood down from the House of Commons at the 2015 General Election and now sits in the House of Lords as the Baroness Jowell of Brixton in the London Borough of Lambeth.

She started her career as a psychiatric social worker, family therapist, campaigner for mental health charity Mind. She led a major national programme to raise standards of health and social care support for frail elderly people before entering parliament. She sat as MP for Dulwich and West Norwood from 1992 to 2015. She was Minister for the Olympics (2005-2010) and Shadow Minister for the Olympics and Shadow Minister for London until September 2012. She championed London as the host city for the 2012 Olympics and oversaw the planning for and delivery of the 2012 Olympic Games for 10years from 2002 to 2012. She served as a minister for 13 years, in the Cabinet for 8years.

Lunch with Dame Helen Alexander – Developing your career resilience

Mentore recently hosted a lunch with Dame Helen Alexander, current Chairman UBM, The Port of London Authority, Chancellor of the University of Southampton, former CEO the Economist Group and NED with a number of global businesses and organisations.

As part of the wide-ranging discussion with a group of senior professionals from various FTSE businesses, a number of interesting points were raised regarding the characteristics of successful business people.

Firstly, the need to develop resilience and to do this as early as possible in one’s career.  Everyone will experience bumps and setbacks, it is learning to navigate these that will set one person apart from the next.

Secondly, having an ability to distance oneself from gossip.  Gossip brings emotion into the workplace where it is neither necessary, nor appropriate. Being able to operate outside of these circles creates freedom in decision making.

Lastly, clarity is key.  Being clear about what you want and ensuring that this is communicated to the right person will have a significant, if not the most significant, impact on whether you achieve it. Working hard on its own will not lead to the promotion or the position one desires. A mentor, sponsor or boss can only help if they know outcome they are seeking to achieve.

Also discussed in the session was the need for everyone to have non-negotiables – activities or events or ways of working that  the work life balance a person seeks.

When asked how we can help other women in their careers – Dame Helen’s advice was, amongst other points, in promotion or progression situations, always put a woman forward.  This does two things:

(i) ensures women are always on the shortlist; and

(ii) challenges others to think differently about the pool of talent available

Mentore and Women on Boards FTSE NED Breakfasts, Bi-monthly

Mentore and Women on Boards run bi-monthly breakfast forums with the aim of bringing together women looking for board positions with senior NEDs and executive search firms, including Egon  Zehnder, Korn Ferry, MWM Partners, Odgers Berndtson, The Miles Partnership, Warren Partners and Zygos Partners.

The discussions are focused on sharing advice and experience around topics such as:

  • Key success factors for getting onto a board, including having a good sponsor, raising your profile, being yourself.
  • Considering the value you bring to the role: “What is the boardroom question to which you're the answer and then project this”
  • How to operate effectively as a NED and the role of Nominations, Audit and Remuneration Committees

2015 presenters include:

Sally-Ann Hibberd, Non-Executive Director of NFU Mutual and Loughborough University.  Until 2014 she was Global Operations and Technology Director of Willis Insurance Group.

Kirsty Bashforth, Group Head of Organisational Effectiveness for BP and a Non-Executive Director of the FTSE listed Kier Group, a leading property, construction and services company that employs 16,000 people worldwide.  In addition to this NED position Kirsty sits as a Lay Governor on the Board of Leeds Beckett University. 

Paul Dreschler was chairman and chief executive of the family business Wates Group and now chairs Teach First. His other roles include SID and chairman of the remuneration committee at Essentra plc, and chair of the National Skills Funding Agency Advisory Board. He is also involved in Trinity College Dublin Business School and is on the board of the CBI.

Alison Wood, Alison Wood is Non-Executive Director and Chair of the Remuneration Committee of Costain plc.  Alison is the former Global Director of Strategy and Corporate Development at National Grid plc. Before that, Alison spent nearly 20 years in a number of strategy and leadership roles at BAE Systems plc including Group Strategic Development Director. Alison has also held Non-Executive Director positions with BTG plc and Thus Group plc.

Past presenters:

Amanda Burton, COO of Clifford Chance and Non-Executive Director for Monitise plc, Galliford plc and Fresca Ltd

Christine Cross, Non-Executive Director Next PLC

Margaret Johnson OBE, CEO of Leagas Delaney and Non-Executive Director of Admiral Group PLC  

Helen Mahy, NED SVG Capital, Bonheur ASA (Norway), Ganger Rolf ASA (Norway) and Stagecoach Group, Chair of The Renewables Infrastructure Group, Obelisk

Vanda Murray OBE, Non-Executive Director of Chemring Group plc, Fenner Group plc and ex Carillion plc

Gillian Sheldon, Managing Director Credit Suisse, Senior Independent Non-Executive Director Capita PLC

Emma Avignon on Networks, Sponsors and Mentors - Remarks from the Women on Boards Conference

In my work with rising business leaders, there are three elements that I have seen foster the greatest change in accelerating them to top roles in their companies. These are the same skills that are needed in order to successfully obtain a board role - networking, sponsorship and mentoring.

Each element is simple and achievable in its own right, but it is applying them together, with strategic focus that yields the greatest success.

If getting to board level is the ultimate goal, how do your everyday activities support this? How does your network and sponsor help to introduce new opportunities and connections that will get you one step closer to achieving your objective?

We encounter three different types of networks in the course of our day to day lives: operational networks: our direct connections with colleagues; strategic networks, those with people we have no control over, but will enable us to achieve our organisational and personal objectives; and our personal networks, our family and friends. Women are great at their internal networks and but do not build or leverage strategic networks often enough. These are the key to getting an NED role. It’s important to be strategic and carve out time in your week to attend different events and make new connections with individuals who you like, are interesting, inspiring and can also provide further connections and potentially open doors for you. A strong network is key to not only getting on a board, but also operating effectively once there.

The next element or accelerator is having an effective sponsor. A lot of people confuse a sponsor with a coach or mentor. A coach is someone who listens to you and helps you find your own solutions to a problem. A mentor guides you based on their own experiences. A sponsor does neither of these things. The role of your sponsor is to recognise your talent and to help open doors for you when appropriate. This person is your advocate, part of your fan club and are willing to put themselves out there on your behalf. Sponsors are in the know, hearing things before most. They have conversations with other influencers and decision makers early on and thus play an important role in advocating for you to have an fruitful introduction and to be recruited to a board.

Women need to use their network and identify someone with influence in the area they are seeking a role in. It's about asking and most people are flattered and say yes!

The third accelerator is having a mentor. A mentor can help you with practical steps to executing your strategy to getting on a board They help plan your road map to success, how you can achieve this and show you avenues that you may have overlooked. They help you get clarity around your personal brand and leadership style. Most importantly, a mentor builds your own self-belief, enhancing your presence, gravitas and overall impact. They uncover the achievable from what you may have previously thought was impossible. A good mentoring experience should be transformational in its impact. It should help you identify the opportunity, dare you to succeed and inspire you to bring others on your journey.

Mentoring is a personal relationship and finding the right mentor can be a daunting task. Nevertheless, to reach the highest levels of business, we need to take the same tenacity that we show in our day-to-day roles and apply this to developing our career path. That means committing time to outlining what success looks like. It also means reflecting on your fears, your blockers and then finding a person that can help you tackle them.

A good mentor has what I call the 3Cs. They are high calibre in their own right; they advise you confidentially, and they are not afraid to challenge you to exceed expectations and be more than you are today. With these three elements from a mentor matched with a mentee that is ready to invest the time in their own development, fabulous outcomes are achieved.

Hays Leading Women, Navigating your Career Seminar

Emma Avignon lead an interactive discussion around the tools and techniques of effective coaching, mentoring and sponsorship and how these can have a key role in delivering the next generation of senior female business leaders.

The audience heard first hand from Paula Ickinger, MD Santander, who has benefited from high level mentoring and networking via Mentore’s group of leaders.

LondonLovesBusiness, Dynamic Round Table

Mentore participated in a breakfast discussion focused on the two questions: So what can we do to boost women’s chances of reaching senior business roles? How can we get to more like 50% women on boards?

LondonLovesBusiness and Hays Recruitment gathered 15 experienced business women from across the business spectrum. The panel agreed the issues are varied and complicated, but there are signs of progress and opportunity for change ranging between the role a company's culture plays, the need for role models within and outside organisations, the benefits of having an advocate and mentor and how education plays a role in empowering women early in their careers.

The Department of Business Innovation and Skills, Women on Boards Conference

Mentore hosted the Workshop session - Mentors & Networks. A practical session covering opportunities and barriers to increasing the number of women on the boards of UK listed companies.  Emma Avignon covered the three key elements to address to get oneself ready for a board position, why each is so critical and a key action that the women could take away for each of these:

  • Sponsors
  • Networks 
  • Mentors

Emma was accompanied by one of their mentees speaking about the value she's gained from having a mentor – her experiences, what she's found most valuable both the mentoring and the networking, and the impact for her and her company.

BritishAmerican Business  Autumn Conference 2013: The New Transatlantic Market: Gamechangers, Opportunities and Risks

Emma Avignon participated in a panel discussion on Diversity & the Race for Talent. With the raised awareness of diversity issues already changing the face of workplaces from business to politics and the imperative for female business empowerment moving from being a talking point to the basis for business models. Culturally diverse workplaces are seen as competitively advantaged.  

The panel comprising senior women from EY, Mercer and Thomson Reuters addressed the questions including “What will the new work landscape look like?” How can your business manage the change and harness the potential? Who will make money from diversity, and how? Is the US further down the path and what does that tell us in the UK?

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