By Jrm

March 11,2020

Top Tips for Mentoring with Lisa Hobbs.


Last month Women in Hospitality (WOHO) launched a mentor program, an initiative which JRM proudly sponsors. The program allows WOHO to deliver on their promise to ‘inspire, support & foster the career development of women in the hospitality industry and the team at JRM definitely wants to be a part of that!

WOHO Board Members, Claire Van Vuuren, Julia Campbell, Lisa Hobbs, Kylie Ball, Lisa Margan, Adele Lausberg & Lyndey Milan OAM.

The program encourages women to gain the confidence to seek more senior leadership positions, preparing them on how to gain those roles & in turn achieving greater gender balance at a senior level.   

We sat down with WOHO board Director Lisa Hobbs to chat about the program, what it means to the industry and her top tips on finding the right mentor for you.

Let’s start with you. Do you have a mentor & who inspires you?

I do have a mentor. We worked together years ago in an advisory capacity for a family business I was CEO of and we clicked due to a commonality of having a corporate background in banking and shared understandings and beliefs around business. He has had a long successful career, is entrepreneurial and supportive of women in business. Among other things he has a highly regarded career as an executive in banking and in one of the world’s leading outplacement and career management firms. He now has a portfolio career as Chairman or Non-Executive Director with a range of diversified companies and is an author of three books focussed around enhancing the quality of peoples’ lives and ensuring they fulfil their desired potential. Since we first worked together, he has been there for me as a strong constant, providing well timed advice and encouragement with his sense of humour and candour. He has taught me many things, including how to deal with the ‘imposter syndrome’ using his “harden up & get in there” attitude – he never hesitates to challenge me where he thinks I am holding back or not backing myself. I value the time he shares with me and believe I am fortunate to have his support.

In terms of who inspires me, I am not one to idolise – I am very much my own person. People around me motivate & inspire me more than big names. That said, I admire Simon Sinek for identifying the human side of life & Brené Brown for pioneering the way for leaders and like Simon, for challenging us to look at leadership in a different way. I naturally gravitate towards people who have been both inspiring and helpful and I believe people gravitate towards me for those reasons – although I’m not everyone’s cup of tea! Apart from my mentor, I have had support and inspiration from a supervisor Jackie, who has guided and encouraged me, and given me the courage to follow a passion of mine which is people and what makes them tick.    

Can you tell us what you love about mentoring?

Mentoring merges the personal with the professional – you get to celebrate a person in their entirety. It encapsulates training, motivation, advice, success, direction, coaching, support & goals all in one. It is highly rewarding – you see people develop and grow.

Mentoring is transformational and involves more than acquiring a skill or knowledge. It’s about developing a relationship, it’s behavioural, it’s about building confidence & developing the mentee and the next generation. The goals, objectives & timelines are set together and if they are reached ahead of time I can stretch them! One of the beauty’s about mentoring is having the opportunity to push the mentee beyond their perceived limits and perspectives.

Through the WOHO mentor program we hope to enable more women to approach senior management with confidence, we hope that the mentees learn more about business in its entirety increasing their understanding of areas such as finance or HR.

When applying to be a part of our program, we asked all mentees to outline where they needed help and nearly everyone wanted career advice or direction and while we can’t tell them what to do, we can certainly help guide them in the right direction.

Do you think there is an optimal age to start working with a mentor?

We never stop learning so you can start working with a mentor at any age and at any stage of your career. You may need different mentors throughout your career depending on what roadblocks and challenges you are facing and where you need support and guidance. My personal preference is to work with a mentor who is older than me and therefore more experienced so you can really learn from their wisdom.

You have made a huge impact on those who have worked for you which has earned you the reputation as ‘the lady the industry would take a bullet for’. What do you think leaders can do in their everyday life to enable their employees to reach their full potential?

I know my staff would do it, but I’ve never asked them to – and I think that is important.

People work for people, it’s simple & obvious but often forgotten. People need to know that someone believes in them. If you give staff a sense of fulfilment, they will work for more than pay. Simon Sinek puts it well ‘good leaders understand that they have a responsibility for the people inside their organisations. Leadership is not about being in charge; it’s about taking care of those in your charge. You can’t lead a company; you can only lead people’.

Richard Branson also covers it well when he talks about looking after your staff first and then everything else follows.

I like to take my staff on a journey, I tell them where we’re going, how they fit in, what’s in it for them and ask who’s coming! We work together collaboratively. I also believe in an ‘open-door’ policy and will always make the time to listen to the team. Leaders need to remember that we are all human, so it is important to have empathy with your staff.

I am passionate about people and studied counselling so I could understand people more. This has made me extremely effective in the boardroom, with my peers and with the staff I lead. In the hospitality industry there can be a focus on many things other than a focus on the people. There is pressure on margins, growth and limited time to spend on staff and staff development. I understand and accept that every day in hospitality it’s like ‘the show must go on’, but it is really important to get staff thinking about where they want to go and how they are going to get there. Staff within the industry can often be quite robotic whereby they do their role today and don’t think ‘past their nose’ in that tomorrow doesn’t matter. You need to talk to managers regularly and get them to talk to their staff so everyone in the organisation realises they have the potential to go further and then take them on that journey. 

What advice would you give mentors who are just starting out.

Firstly, I would tell them to research heavily. There is so much available information on mentoring, so learn as much as you can before you embark on the mentoring path.

You must be clear on the reasons why you are mentoring – is it for you, or is it for the mentee? Mentorship is bi-directional, so the mentor indirectly gains from the relationship, but this should not be the primary reason to become a mentor.

Set boundaries. Mentoring is generally a free service and you are donating your time, so it is essential to set boundaries from the get-go. Agree on the goals & objectives and set a time frame in which to achieve them. Schedule catch ups ahead of time & make sure you prepare for these catch ups. Get your mentee to share their questions with you before your catch ups so you can be prepared & answer them efficiently. Also, let your mentee know that it isn’t acceptable to text at midnight after a few drinks!

Be clear about your skills and experience and let your mentee know what you know and what you don’t know, so that together you can both decide if you are the right fit.  Remember however, if part of a program such as the WOHO Mentor Program, you have been matched with your mentee for reason so back yourself that you have plenty to give.

Don’t be afraid to bring the elephant into the room! The mentoring relationship is a reflection on you, so you need to make it work. If you are hearing about the same challenges time after time you need to address this, assist the mentee to take responsibility & accountability for the issue and move on.

Always remember a mentor is not there to do something for the mentee, but rather guide them to be able to do it for themselves.

I like the idea of a mentee taking minutes & emailing to me within 24 hours of our catch up. This quickly establishes whether or not they understand my advice and immediately ensures they are back on the right track. This also puts a stop to repeating discussions and allows the relationship to develop faster.

And finally, what are your top five tips for finding a mentor?

  1. You need to be clear on what you want to achieve through a mentor relationship. Conduct a self-assessment and identify your strengths and perceived weaknesses.
  2. Always look at a mentor’s experience. Who have they worked for & have they had the roles & experience that will benefit you? Aligning yourself with the right mentor is very important. Find out what they are like. They might be good on paper, but not everyone is good at their job or a great person to partner with as a mentor.
  3. Ensure that they are in it for the right reason, they must be there to help you and not showcase themselves.
  4. Talk to your direct report & see if they have any suggestions. If they are involved in the process they may feel less threatened about somebody else giving their time to develop you.  
  5. Finally, look at places that are running programs, such as WOHO. See what is available & what sits well with you.  
Lisa Hobbs with her mentee Alice Mod Newport, from Les Nouveaux.

The WOHO program lasts for 6 to 12 months, but many of these relationships will be lifelong as personal goals evolve. We recommend a one hour catch up once a month with communication via email or phone calls in between.

If you are thinking about becoming a mentor or would like to be mentored click here for more information or contact a WOHO representative as they would love to hear from you. 

Thank you Lisa for your insight into such an important program.