In January, Chris Mayne took the leadership baton at navigation engineering company Forsberg, from its founder, who had run it for over 30 years. Mentoring has supported his transition into the role and provided a valuable objective challenge to the status quo in the company.
Chris Mayne has always been hungry to learn and develop – with plenty of evidence for that found in the last three years. In 2017 he took part a Productivity through People course run by Be the Business. In 2018-2019, Chris completed a masters in professional practice at Lancaster University. Adding to those in 2019 was a leadership course from Made Smarter. “My goal is continuous improvement,” he said.
So, when he was offered a mentor through Be the Business earlier this year, he embraced the opportunity with characteristic enthusiasm. The timing was serendipitous: in January he’d taken over as managing director of Forsberg, the navigation engineering company been part of for nearly 16 years – the past seven of which as operations director. Its founder, Charles Forsberg, had run the company for over 30 years.
Getting an outside perspective
“I’ve worked very closely with Charles over the years, but I felt an outside perspective would bring valuable new insight,” said Chris. “Someone I could trust, with a completely fresh and objective pair of eyes, would challenge us and prompt different ideas.”
While mentoring is, Chris believes, “part of a personal development journey”, he wanted the focus to be on the company itself. Be the Business quickly matched him with Howard Simms, co-founder and director of strategic partnerships at technology company Apadmi. The relationship began in April, and the sessions have focused on Chris’ strategy and vision for Forsberg.
“I’ll tell him what I plan to do, and he probes – saying ‘why?’ and ‘have you thought about doing it this way?’,” explained Chris. “When he offers a suggestion, he gets me to look at it and write a plan –– and only then am I allowed to discount it. That process, in itself, is really valuable. It opens up avenues rather than closing them down and enables me to assess the business more objectively.”
The “action learning” style suits him, added Chris. “It’s important to act on the discussions we have, and I have built up a framework to do this – essentially embedding things into our business strategy document. This framework means I can reflect, make changes, refine and step forward.”
Not only is the business exploring new products and markets, but it is also doing it faster now. “As a result of working with Howard I’m making quicker decisions because I can discount some things more quickly.”
Despite the focus on the business, Howard’s mentoring has inevitably made Chris think about his own approach too. He explained: “I’ve refined the way I question and challenge my own team as a result of working with Howard, and I’ve developed other parts of my skills set.”
He describes the mentoring experience as “excellent” – but the benefits cut both ways.
The feelgood factor
“There’s a real feelgood factor for me in mentoring Chris,” commented Howard. “Apadmi is a well-established company, with good growth, and we’ve overcome some big challenges. Therefore, we want our time to be very beneficial to the companies we work with. Chris is high calibre, while Forsberg is a good company and has great potential. He has no ego: he’s only interested in making the right decisions for the business. He’s very receptive to the alternative ideas I suggest – and, to be honest, we’re not a million miles apart in terms of the way we think, therefore sometimes I’m just nudging him along the path he’s already on.”
Howard has noticed a difference in Chris over the course of the mentoring. “He’s more confident in his own ability, and looks more at ease in his leadership role,” he concluded.
Learn more about the Mentoring for Growth programme, find out how you can become involved or get access to an experienced mentor.