He presented as an extraordinary site. Standing, absolutely soaking wet in the immediate interior at the entrance door to the hotel in Madrid where I was staying, he had the 1,000 yard stare of a combat veteran. His grey hair, normally neatly combed over his balding pate, stood out at ridiculous angles. His hands were filthy and a little bloodied, but I instantly knew that he was the man I had been waiting patiently for and who was now around 20 minutes late – a state of affairs that simply never ordinarily happened.
His name was Chris Wallis and he was my first ever boss. He had plucked me from the post graduate Summer torpor of my BA Business Studies degree and had generously given me a much sought after job in the marketing department of Tarmac Quarry Products which, back in the late 80s, was a darling of the stock market.
What’s more, he had just demonstrated immortality by surviving being electrocuted through a faulty wire in a Spanish pelican crossing, the button of which he had pressed in a torrential rain storm. Having been thrown back some 12 feet, he had simply got to his feet, wiped the worst of the dirt from his Macintosh, and marched to meet me for our pre-arranged rendezvous. His arrival and the story of his mishap told by fellow pedestrians ensured that we received gold standard treatment in the hotel thereafter.
Perhaps most importantly, this story dates back 34 years and the reason that I share it with you is that he was much more than a boss – he was, without doubt, my early mentor.
It is extraordinary the impact which a good mentor can have on a career, personality and life. He was perhaps my age now back then and he demonstrated an incredible capacity to listen, offering advice as required or when he felt it would be helpful. Often our talks would have nothing whatsoever to do with immediate work projects, but would range over career ambitions, personal issues, skills development and a host of other stuff. I felt confident that I could talk to him about anything and that he would be discreet if appropriate. He had spent his entire career at Tarmac and was universally admired and respected.
When I left his department we continued to have a cup of tea together periodically and when I left the firm to further my career elsewhere he retired! I owe him a huge debt and often think of him when I am asked to act in a mentoring capacity today.
At the IHM we know from our email correspondence that mentoring is in great demand and we were absolutely thrilled to recently launch our IHM Short Course Certificate in Mentoring, terrifically well constructed for us by Amanda Reynolds and Chris Birbeck at Blend Ltd. The course is entirely on-line, takes around 6 hours to complete and is based on video tutorials and practical coursework. Over 120 of you have enrolled and we were thrilled when the first 7 ‘completers’ were signed off by Amanda and Chris today. It is our intention to create an IHM-member mentor register within the IHM which members can access should they want to avail themselves of the service.
We are launching our Coaching and then Mediation short courses imminently to a similar template but, for now, I wanted to use this week’s editorial to make you all think about who has helped to shape and guide your career. It is to be hoped that they were not electrocuted on a Spanish pelican crossing whilst doing so!
Enjoy your weekend, stay safe, stay strong and thank you for the brilliant work which you are all doing.