Former corporate banking sector mainstay Carole Berndt talks to Treasury Today about how treasurers can manage career progress in a changing world.
Successful careers do not look after themselves; there needs to be a focus on the right training, coaching and mentoring to stay on top. So says Carole Berndt, a former executive banker who is now Strategic Advisor to Transition Hub, an organisation helping professionals navigate change in a volatile world.
Although the concepts of training, coaching and mentoring are related, Berndt says they are discrete methods, each being called upon at different times. Training is about developing a specific set of skills; it reflects the tactical and transactional aspect of a role or activity and is typically (but not exclusively) aimed a less senior employees.
Coaching tends to be about the individual, and is usually a bespoke approach in which the subject develops the wherewithal to hone their own skillset. “It is where you get to differentiate,” notes Berndt. Coaching is not an advisory service but about empowering self-development. As such, it best suits senior personnel and those on the path to senior roles.
Mentoring is akin to having a personal advisory board, giving you another perspective on you career, your skills, your plans and your life. In companies it is typically suited to younger or less experienced individuals, however mentoring can play an important role throughout all stages of a career. It is, explains Berndt, “a way to collate, consolidate and validate inputs, enabling you to get greater clarity on the directions and outcomes you want to pursue in your career, and life”.
The dynamic nature of a career means professionals should seize upon all the relevant training they can, says Berndt. “To not do so is crazy; it’s almost like a free gift.” Coaching and mentoring are slightly different. “Where people have been in middle management for a long time, they may have had lots of training but very little coaching and mentoring,” she notes. “But with all the disruption in the market, where jobs are being relocated or terminated, these people are the least well-equipped to navigate change.”
Their skills may be up to date but if no one, including the individual themselves, has invested in how to best apply and make those skills transferable across different situations, and even industries, then that person will be disadvantaged. This is the role of coaching and mentoring. In fact, says Berndt, the use of coaching and mentoring “marks the difference between successful leaders and those who flounder mid-career”.
Above and beyond
Treasurers are transactional creatures by nature and may see this investment as a means of making staged rises up the ranks. “But we’re a lot more than just the role we play in our organisations,” comments Berndt. “Coaching is as much about helping the individual be effective in their role as it is about being effective in their everyday life. Mentoring takes that idea to the next level because it is entirely career- or job-agnostic.”
It is often observable, she says, that people who have never had coaching can be too fixated on the task and be the least adaptable. “When that job is disrupted it can completely pull the rug out from beneath their feet. Life-coaching is a way of acquiring the skills to balance your life, cope with change, and recognise that opportunities come from both the good and bad things that happen to you.”
Recognising the need
Whereas the need for training will be obvious – an individual either has the skills or not – the need for coaching can be difficult to judge. Coaching can be an entirely positive experience, where it focuses on getting the best out of the individual. But it can also be a matter of the individual recognising that, although skilled and motivated, they are just not as effective at applying their skills as they could be. Berndt suggests contemplating why promotions or job opportunities are not forthcoming, and considering if this is an indication that it is time for coaching.
A strong sign that it might be time to investigate mentoring is when the individual is feeling uncertain of their direction, or are feeling the need to address certain career issues ‘in confidence’. For Berndt, mentoring is a very personal experience and thus should be a naturally developed relationship, not a process forced by a corporate programme.
Investing in your future
However it is achieved, it is worth noting a recent study of Fortune 500 CEOs revealed that 75% believe mentoring or coaching to be one of the top three critical factors for their career success. Furthermore, of the FTSE100 CEOs, 80% claim to have benefitted from investing in a mentor or coach.
In a changing world, Berndt says treasurers at every level should take control of their careers, using training, coaching and mentoring, in any combination, to help direct their own future.
While many look to their employer to determine their professional development plan, your career is too important to leave it to others. Making your own investments, in both time and money, in your career, puts you in control and drives future success.
A feature-length version of this topic will appear in the March/April edition of Treasury Today.