What Makes a Good Mentor?

By Ahmed Wafi

Want to go further in your career? You may want to consider getting a mentor as the right guidance from one is key in shaping the leaders of tomorrow.

Throughout history, we’ve seen many prominent figures guide their disciples through the ranks, helping them reach new heights and sometimes even surpass their achievements.

Lionel Messi under the tutelage of Ronaldinho, J.J Abrams under Steven Spielberg, Warren Buffett mentoring Bill Gates and many more. Even in fiction, you can’t help but question where Harry Potter would be without the wisdom and experience passed down by Professor Dumbledore!

To find out how to benefit from such a relationship, #teamGRADUAN checked in with two icons of Corporate Malaysia on what makes a good mentor, their personal experience with mentors, and the initiatives their organisations have taken in ensuring the younger generation are properly guided.

Azizan Zakaria, People Partner at PwC Malaysia

The People Partner at PwC Malaysia, Azizan is responsible for overseeing talent matters across the firm. Azizan has over 25 years of experience in providing audit, advisory and consulting services to government-linked corporations, public-listed companies and multinational corporations both in Malaysia and in the United Kingdom. In his free time, Azizan enjoys being one with nature by taking hikes and going fishing.

Koo Phaik Jin, Head, Talent Management and Organization Development, UOB Malaysia

Phaik Jin joined UOB Malaysia as the Head of Talent Management and Organization Development in 2015 after previously holding the role of Director of Group Talent Management at a leading local bank. She has over 20 years of experience in the field of learning, development, talent management, leadership development and succession planning among others.

She is also a certified coach, with certification in various psychometric tools including DISC, MBTI, SHL and Hogan Profiling, and is actively involved in assessing, coaching and mentoring talents across the bank.

How does a good mentor help your career?

Azizan: A good mentor can help identify your potential and give you guidance on your development. He might also be the one to connect you with his network or other influencers, giving you access to potential opportunities, be it a career move, a business lead or even a new hobby.

Phaik Jin: In a highly volatile and demanding work environment, a good mentor gives you access to open, honest conversations about your goals, fears and challenges – a rare commodity. A good mentor accepts you for who you are, sees your strengths and flaws but still believes in your ability to grow and gently nudges you to your full potential.

Tell us about your previous mentors.

Azizan: I have had the privilege to be mentored by a few former partners in the firm. They were all a pivotal part of my career journey and shaped me to be who I am today. One of them was like a father figure who supported and guided me to manage difficult clients and jobs. He was instrumental in my career progression and encouraged me to take up a secondment to London when I was a manager.

Phaik Jin: I have been very fortunate to have had many mentors in different stages of my career. They have all helped me (and continue to do so!) be a better version of myself.

My mentors’ belief in me gave me the confidence to experiment with new ways of thinking and behaving.

What goes through your mind when mentoring?

Azizan: I would like my mentees achieve greater heights and work towards realising their aspirations. When they see your sincerity in helping them, they will be more open in talking to you about their journey and the challenges they face. I would also like my mentees to believe that they have what it takes to be a leader because as a mentor, it’s all about giving them the confidence and opportunities they need to succeed.

Phaik Jin: I actively look out for the strengths in young talents and there’s always an abundance of it so we build from there. I have learnt as well that with the younger talents, you need to let them find their own way and in the process learn from it. I approach mentoring as a gift, both to the protégé and to myself. We are both reflecting and learning so it’s a mutually beneficial relationship.

How does your organisation ensure talent are guided?

Azizan: We launched a mentoring programme that pairs younger talent to be mentored by leaders in the firm. With one leader mentoring only a pair of mentees, this encourages a closer, more meaningful relationship with their mentor and between the pair as peers. We aim to provide them a platform to expand their network, gain insights and learn from leaders in the firm, in addition to connecting them with potential development opportunities.

Phaik Jin: Many of our young talent programmes such as the Smart Bankers Internship Programme and the Management Associate Programme include a senior business leader as a mentor to the young hires. We have also certified a group of business leaders as internal coaches, and staff can reach out to HR if they are ever in need of a coach or mentor.

What makes a good mentor?

Azizan: A good mentor should invest time to listen to their mentee and be open to sharing their life experiences with them. When the time is right, give them a little push to nudge them in the right direction. Mentorship is a two-way relationship. To make it work for you, it’s important to have trust and respect for each other.

Phaik Jin: Someone who enjoys helping others, and themselves, grow. They are genuinely interested and invested in collective success. They are good listeners, focused on the protégé, and possess the humility to know they don’t always have the answers. Anyone can be a good mentor as long as their heart is in the right place.

Share with us a story of your mentorship experience by tweeting us @graduan!

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