June 06, 2016

Matt Wells: On the value of having a mentor

Matt Wells

Matt Wells


If you ask any successful business leader or entrepreneur how they got to where they are today, the majority will cite a mentor, or mentors, as one of the key factors to their success. Very few people climb to the top in isolation.

Not even the likes of Apple’s Steve Jobs, Google’s Larry Page and BNY Mellon’s CEO, Gerald Hassell, reached the pinnacle of their professions without help, advice and support from time-to-time. Gerald currently has a reverse mentor in BNY Mellon employee Darah Kirstein, who is mentoring him on all things technological.

Here in the UK, we have a strong mentoring programme and recently launched our third ‘Northern Regional Mentoring Scheme’ bringing together mentors and mentees from Liverpool, Leeds and Manchester in the north of England. The northern programme continues to flourish and this year we received a record number of applications with around 100 people taking part.

I personally sought out a mentor very early on in my career and have continued to consult a wide variety of mentors ever since – both formally through structured programmes and informally too. I feel my career has benefited hugely from having access to a variety of mentors from different walks of life.

The best piece of advice a mentor gave me was to never forget the need to have people to bounce ideas to and from; to talk through ideas, aspirations, plans and concerns. There is power in collaborative thinking and learning from others experiences.

To make the most out of the mentor/mentee relationship, I think it is important for both people to be honest and open, willing to discuss their personal and professional journey and their aspirations for the future. There is always a lot to learn from what others have done right, their accomplishments and achievements. Equally as valuable can be other people retelling their mistakes and discussing experiences about where things did not go according to plan.

A mentor may also be able to help you achieve something you didn’t know could be possible. I read an interesting quote from Bob Proctor recently, an American coach and author, who said: “A mentor is someone who sees more talent and ability within you, than you see in yourself, and helps bring it out of you.” This is very true. Sometimes what is holding us back from being our very best selves, is ourselves. Silencing that inner critic who tells you you’re not good enough. A mentor can help.

Virgin’s Richard Branson once said: “No matter whom you are, where you’ve come from, or what you have achieved, a good mentor is an invaluable asset in business.” And I couldn’t agree more.

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