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Q&A with Hugh Maxwell and Grant Thompson

We were delighted to interveiw Mentor Hugh Maxwell from Chubb Global Risk Advisors, UK and Mentee Grant Thompson from Fox's Biscuits, UK about their experience of participating in the Mentoring Scheme. 

"It's rewarding when someone entrusts you to assist them in their planning, preparation, implementation and ongoing personal career and professional development."





Q: What inspired you to be a mentor?

Wanting to share my knowledge, experiences and enable others to accelerate their personal growth in their current and future roles. I was fortunate to work in large enough, forward thinking organisations who encouraged this kind of development support. For a long time, this was not always the case for many industries. I have mentored well before the IIRSM mentoring scheme was launched and was keen to give something back to the IIRSM, who I have great respect for all their work and contributions.

Q: What has been the biggest challenge?

Getting the right balance. Developing skills as a mentor to ensure you were giving the right support and allowing others to develop what is right for them. Mentoring is about supporting the development of your mentoring partner (mentee) in areas in which they feel that support is of value. It needs to come firstly from developing trust and a bond and mutual understanding of expectations.

Q: What has been the most rewarding aspect?

Seeing others grow as professionals and making a difference in their development – which in turn generally leads to them “playing it forwards” by mentoring others. Seeing others achieve their aspirations and development gives me a great sense of satisfaction and I find it most rewarding to see how far many of my mentoring partners have come and continue to develop in their careers and fields.

Q:  What advice would you give someone considering mentoring?

When mentoring the most important thing is to establish trust, confidentiality and impartiality. Listen and agree early in the process what the objective and aims of the mentoring agreement are? Never judge or dominate. Let your mentoring partner share their thoughts – guide them through processes to support their aims, but let them decide their own destiny. If they ask for advice, share it, but try to enable them to act as their own enabler and decision maker as much as possible. After all, it is about developing them in their ability to achieve their personal aims and objectives. Respect them for what they are and where they want to go.

Q: What have you learnt about yourself from this scheme?

So much about just how much valuable experience we all have that can be shared and applied to the benefit of others. To achieve success in any walk of life, there are always challenges and setbacks which you must overcome. This is a valuable part of learning how to deal with challenges in the future. It should also be used as a means of sharing lessons learned – why let others make the same mistake if you can share key learnings? It is also an opportunity for you to learn to share different skills – some informative, some investitive and some where you encourage your mentoring partner to push themselves out of their comfort zone and to grow in confidence and stature. It is so rewarding seeing others achieve their full potential and more.

Q: Do you have experience of being mentored or coached yourself and can you summarise that experience?

I was fortunate to receive career mentoring within Foseco and Vesuvius both in preparation for and when I moved into senior management roles. It was pretty much focused on making me a better fit for the demands of the roles I was to take on and undertake at senior levels. I have learned to share this and developed myself, more so the scope of the support I give focuses as much on the individual as on their current and future role capabilities and skill sets.

Q: Benefits of mentoring in risk related role for the mentor and mentee?

Having experienced a number of traumatic workplace experiences over the years, nobody wants avoidable accidents or incidents to reoccur. By assisting in the development and preparation of strong, resilient more-rounded HSE/Risk professionals, I truly believe we can make all workplaces and society safer. As many businesses and stakeholders now realise, there is more to being a Risk Leader than purely good academia. Soft skills, emotional intelligence, personal and organisational resilience and ongoing professional development are all key sustainable components which must be enabled and developed to meet situational and organisational needs. This is an ongoing requirement whatever level of leadership, stage of personal career or development and in particularly in shaping up better for the unforeseen and future challenges. Mentoring allows you not only to influence these critical aspects of development for your mentoring partners, but it ensures you keep in touch with the changing demands in different and constantly changing work environments. As a result, the mentoring relationship evolves and develops into a two-way dynamic which allows strong bonds and reliability to be developed with people you can entrust your development and needs outside of your current environment and organisation. I can honestly say mentoring has supported me maintaining strong personal resilience over recent months.

Q: Summarise your experience in a statement.

With over 30 years  experience in high-risk industries, it is truly rewarding to be able to give so much back to so many. It is great being a high achiever and making positive in-roads in businesses internationally. It is equally rewarding when someone entrusts you to assist them in their planning, preparation, implementation and ongoing personal, career and professional development. What greater honour can someone give you than this level of believe and trust. It should not be wasted and should be reciprocated with as professional and competent support as you can return. I am so proud to say I have never had a mentoring partnership where we did not have a positive outcome on the part of both the mentor and mentee. Much of this is down to the professional manner in which I try to approach the process – supported by enabling the mentoring partner to take the opportunity to structure, shape and develop our mentoring experiences how best befits their needs – short, medium and long-term. This takes into account and tries to scope the important balance required for working life, family life and career ambitions. I would like to think that having done mentoring for over 15 years, I have trained, developed and honed my skillset in a manner that enable me to make the experience rewarding and fun for all involved.

"Hugh has expanded my network, nominated me for awards, guided me in the implementation of new systems and initiatives, answered technical questions at unsociable hours and most importantly pushed me and challenged me to do better"



So Grant,what attracted you to become a mentee? 

I applied for the mentoring scheme shortly after moving into my first managerial role within the FMCG field. Everything was new to me and I felt I needed an experienced, knowledgeable and trusting mentor to lean on, to learn from and to bounce ideas off. Having worked in numerous high-profile roles and having mentored over 70 people in the past 20 years, Hugh was just who I needed.

Q: What has been the biggest challenge?

Remembering that your mentor is there to support you, not to make your decisions for you. Mentees can sometimes fall foul of this.

Q: What has been the most rewarding aspect?

The partnership has benefitted me greatly. Hugh has expanded my network, nominated me for awards, guided me in the implementation of new systems and initiatives, answered technical questions at unsociable hours and most importantly pushed me and challenged me to do better. However, the most rewarding aspect has to be how over the years the partnership has evolved and developed into one of two-way support, whereby Hugh equally trusts my feedback and challenge in his endeavours, professionally and personally.

Q: What advice would you give someone considering the IIRSM scheme?

Be clear on your expectations, respect the time of your mentor and most importantly remember that the success of the partnership is down to you. You must arrange the meetings, the agenda and have clear objectives. Over time, as you build trust and rapport, the relationship will become easy and informal. 

Q: What have you learnt about yourself from this scheme?

I have learnt to push myself out of my comfort zone. Without risk, there is no reward. I have also learnt the value of shared experiences, most notably negative experiences and setbacks. You are not alone, the majority of your fellow risk professionals have experienced the same issues, including your mentor. With that, your mentor can help guide you through choppy waters and build resilience. Mentoring is now something I want to pursue myself to help others, like Hugh has helped me.  

Q: Benefits of the scheme and being mentored by an experienced person in a risk related role?

Hugh has experienced traumatic workplace accidents over the years and has lived the day-to-day challenges of risk professionals. With that, Hugh is always able to illustrate his points with real-life examples. I have used many of Hugh’s experiences to emphasise my points, to help get my message across to stakeholders and to ultimately achieve buy-in. Although Hugh’s background is in steel manufacturing and mine is in food manufacturing, we are both managing risk and have transferable skills and shared learnings.

Q: How do you feel you’ve developed professionally and personally?

Hugh was motivated to nominate me for the Health and Safety at Work’s 40 under 40 award, which I was lucky enough to win. This recognition and support has fuelled my passion for HSE and risk management further and has also given me credibility within my network, opening up new opportunities I may never have had previously. The partnership has also helped me develop my emotional intelligence and resilience, key traits that risk professionals need to have.

Q: Summarise your experience and/or what you have learnt in a statement.

The mentoring programme has been invaluable to my development as a risk professional. It has helped me see the bigger picture, know which traits to develop, know which traits to exploit, understand the importance of emotional intelligence and soft skills in our industry and ultimately continue to push myself out of my comfort zone in order to grow and excel.