“Mentoring holds a special place in my heart”
Learning and development manager at Hakim Group, Kath Truman, shares her experiences on mentorship, which she believes is a powerful tool for professional and personal growth
05 November 2023
Mentoring holds a special place in my heart. As the learning and development manager at Hakim Group (HG), one thing I’ve learned during the two decades that I’ve been working within the optical industry is that mentoring doesn’t have to be a stiff, structured process. In fact, some of the most valuable mentoring relationships that I’ve had have grown naturally, without any formal setup.
It’s important to know that mentoring should be a comfortable and easy-going experience, grounded in trust. What my experience of being both a mentee or a mentor has taught me is that it must be natural and fluid. For me, it’s never really been a formal process, it’s always just happened.
It’s important to know that mentoring should be a comfortable and easy-going experience, grounded in trust
A supportive shoulder
While my primary role at HG is centred around learning and development, I can’t emphasise enough the importance of coaching and mentoring. Coaching individuals to become self-sufficient problem solvers is a fundamental part of personal and professional growth. When someone seeks my advice, I often start by asking questions. These questions help individuals gain a deeper understanding of their situation. More often than not, they already have the skills they need; they just need a little guidance.
My diverse background in the optical industry, from being an optical assistant to a store manager, has helped shape my role at HG. Having a background of working both within a practice environment and at HQ has provided me with transferable skills that have enabled me to develop and shape my current role. I’ve had the incredible opportunity to establish a new team and department, whilst my ranging skill set, along with my ability to connect with different parts of the business, allows me to provide valuable coaching and mentoring to a wide range of teams both at HG HQ and within our practice teams, including with our partners.
Coaching individuals to become self-sufficient problem solvers is a fundamental part of personal and professional growth
Mentoring built on trust
Optics is a niche industry where knowledge is highly prized, and trust and credibility are key. Building trust with colleagues and mentees is essential. It’s trust that allows individuals to approach me for guidance without fear of judgment. In this kind of environment, learning and growth can flourish naturally.
Coaching and mentoring come hand-in-hand. Being a mentor, you do have to use coaching skills as part of it. It’s not always the right option to go straight to giving someone advice or they’re never going to think for themselves. You must use coaching to see if they’ve got it within them first. If people are really, genuinely stuck, that’s where you can offer the mentoring advice. It’s all about the relationship between both parties and understanding the trust in the relationship.
Mentoring is rewarding because you feel that you’re adding some value. It is just nice to give something back. One of my goals is making a difference: if I can think that I made a difference, even if it’s some small thing, just by giving somebody 10 minutes of my time, it’s all been worthwhile.
Mentoring is a powerful tool for personal and professional growth. My journey at HG has allowed me to witness first-hand the transformative impact of mentoring relationships. As we continue to grow as a company, our commitment to nurturing talent through mentorship remains a fundamental part of our success.
Kath’s top tips for effective mentoring
- Active listening: mentoring begins with active listening. Resist the urge to immediately offer advice. Instead, listen attentively to fully understand the mentee's needs. Sometimes, people just need someone to hear them out
- Combine coaching with mentoring: in my experience, combining coaching with mentoring has been highly effective. Encourage mentees to think critically by asking probing questions before offering advice. This empowers them to become self-sufficient problem solvers
- Create a safe space and establish trust: mentoring relationships thrive when both parties feel comfortable discussing various topics, there needs to trust between both parties. Establishing a safe space where individuals can share their thoughts, concerns, and ideas without fear of judgment is key to fostering growth
- Follow up: after providing guidance or advice, always make an effort to follow up with the mentee to see how things are going. This shows genuine concern for their development and provides an opportunity to offer additional support if needed.
About the author
Kath Truman is the learning and development manager at Hakim Group.
Making menopause normal at Specsavers
“The onus is on the provider to design their qualification as they see fit”
“People living in care homes experience some specific barriers in access to care and this needs to change”
“It is important for ECPs to understand what they need to look for in myopia management studies”