Sally Percy, journalist

The late US politician John C Crosby once described mentoring as ‘a brain to pick, an ear to listen, and a push in the right direction’. It’s not a one-way process, however.

Both mentors and mentees benefit from their involvement in mentoring, as it enables them to hone their interpersonal skills, improve their ability to give and receive feedback, and gain exposure to new ways of thinking.

ACCA recognises that mentoring can help to facilitate career success for accountants. So in 2018, it launched a pilot mentoring programme that was originally open to six countries.

The programme, which was extended globally in September, now has more than 360 mentors and more than 400 mentees enrolled, with more than 120 active relationships under way. It is supported by a platform that matches mentees with potential mentors and supports progress throughout the mentoring journey.

Mentoring in action

Sharon Critchlow FCCA, an ACCA Council member and a qualified strategic performance coach, signed up for the pilot as soon as it launched. She has since mentored two ACCA members.

‘I’m a firm believer in mentoring and coaching,’ she says.

One of the members Critchlow mentored was Catalina Cotoara FCCA, a finance director who was looking for support with starting her own business – a company offering part-time financial advice and business partnering services.

‘Do be prepared for your ideas and beliefs to be challenged and to change over time’

Cotoara initially contacted Sharon through the programme platform and the pair spoke on the phone every four to six weeks for nearly a year.

During their discussions, they focused on Cotoara’s long-term vision and also on how she could sell both herself – and her business idea – to others. ‘I’m an accountant,’ says Cotoara. ‘I keep my head down and do things rather than talk about my achievements or explain to people how what I’ve done has benefited them.’

They also looked at how Cotoara could pursue networking – something she had not done before.  Throughout the process, Critchlow offered robust challenges to Cotoara and also held her to account for achieving the goals she had set herself.

Cotoara found the mentoring process invaluable because it helped her to grow as a person. ‘It was a big step forward for me,’ she says. ‘Sharon was good at listening and at asking the right questions to help me figure out what I really want.’

Critchlow also found the process very rewarding. ‘Whenever you talk to another person, particularly if you’re challenging something, it invariably challenges something in you,’ she says. ‘It’s very common in any form of coaching and mentoring that if you’re asking a question of someone else, you’re also asking that question of yourself.’

Focused and challenging

Both Cotoara and Critchlow would recommend ACCA’s mentoring programme to other members. ‘Don’t think about it too much,’ Cotoara advises potential mentees. ‘Just join the programme. The good thing about a mentor-mentee relationship is that the learning is focused on your particular needs, so it’s really focused where you need it most.

‘But do be prepared for your ideas and beliefs to be challenged and to change over time.’

Use your experience

Critchlow believes that anyone who is interested in becoming a mentor should try to find out more. ‘Because accountants work in a world of specifics, we think we’re not qualified to do mentoring,’ she says. ‘But if you have a few years’ experience behind you, that will be really valuable to somebody with no experience. Anybody who has ever managed anyone before would take to this very easily.’

Ultimately, mentoring is a great way for ACCA members to achieve personal and professional development, while connecting and networking with peers around the world. As Critchlow says: ‘One of the lovely things about the ACCA mentoring programme is that wherever you want to go, whatever sector you want to be in, there will be an expert who can help you.’

Further information

Find out more about ACCA’s mentoring programme