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Paul received multiple nominations and it is clear that he has had a significant impact on the development of many people. Speaking about his entry, the judges said, "Paul demonstrates a varied approach to suit the mentee and consistently goes the extra mile to make sure his mentees are supported and encouraged, whilst developing their own skills and tools to become self-sufficient. A worthy winner of the 2022 mentor of the year award."

How did you get into the industry? Can you tell us about your career to date?

I came from a manufacturing background as a time-served mechanical engineering apprentice, holding various senior engineering and management positions within the Foundry industry and traversing the globe also as an engineering consultant within that capacity. Due to significant upheaval within the manufacturing sector and both parents working for the GPO, later BT and Openreach, I took the leap to diversify into the telecoms industry, starting with Openreach in January 2011 as a customer service engineer. After c.5 years working within this capacity I was offered the opportunity to cover an operational management role within customer service, later successfully passing an assessment centre and becoming a substantive manager, responsible for a team of c.26 engineers. After a management restructure I was again successful in becoming a Patch Manager within customer service delivery, then moving into FTTP service delivery and responsible for c.60 engineers.

Why and how did you start mentoring?

We owe everybody the opportunity to develop and grow, conscious that we will never get the very best out of people unless we invest key time to maximise and optimise their potential. In a business where trust is the very foundation of what we do, promoting the commercial awareness and autonomous decision making is key to success, ensuring people feel valued and appreciated, rather than fearful when they don’t know. Mistakes are not always negative and the consequences need not be punitive. These are opportunities that will lead to key development and learning, this is how we drive confidence in individuals that contribute to the wider success that promotes the brand and the associated reputational element; in turn we become the best we can be.

I started mentoring essentially to ensure people have the tools and knowledge to offer their very best, to maximise their potential and again feel the sense of valued empowerment without fear of consequence. By doing such we make the working environment a happier place for all, a happier workforce will always be more productive. If we neglect this we are the failures by not supporting these key development opportunities and thus will always be stressed in a micro-management culture – that is never a good place to be. We work in a very diverse world, this is where we tap into the wealth of diversity and whilst diversity may separate us, inclusion brings us together and we all learn from each other for the greater good.

Essentially, mentoring makes our lives easier, this promotes integrity, confidence and trust. We have all been in situations where we simply didn’t know something, that makes us fearful – never forget those moments.

Mentoring is vital for younger members of staff, but can you tell us about benefits you have experienced?

All members need mentoring, irrespective of their age thresholds. Of late, Openreach has invested heavily in recruitment, people from all walks of life and backgrounds have had the courage to invest their time and lives into something that again is unchartered territory for them and I commend that level of courage. To see hairdressers, checkout assistants, care workers and so on take that leap of faith is credit to them, how we mentor and shape them thereafter is key to their futures, success and happiness – we owe them that. On the other side of those individual journeys, to see them come out the other side is the reward, to see them talk technically, commercially and with a customer-centric tone is priceless!! If we fail from the off, we fail forever.

Can you tell us about your approach to mentoring? How does it work and what is most effective?

Mentoring is living and breathing, not something you switch off at will, talking openly, without the business bureaucracy, alleviates the fear factor, resistance to change and promotes trust throughout – if you promise something, deliver on that commitment. I will never treat people dismissively, good engagement to ensure that they feel valued pays the dividends. Investing time with one individual may not change the world, but it will change the world for that person, multiply that by the exponential and you’ve succeeded because that baton will always be passed on, this is the chain reaction of mentoring. Fill the knowledge gaps and you remove the indecisiveness, promote confidence and ultimately future proof your investment; your greatest assets will always be your people.

In essence, always make time for people, promoting the ‘no question is a stupid question’ ethos ensures we have the open and honest culture, people will speak up and share best practice, drive innovation and ultimately pride.

What would you say to anyone considering becoming a mentor?

Never forget that we’ve all been afraid of the unknown, respect everyone, treat people fairly, eliminate unconscious biases and listen. Be honest, promise only what you can give and ensure you give people the time they deserve to learn. Never be patronising, always be mindful of what goes on in their personal lives and accommodate for that wholly, and be mindful that everybody absorbs knowledge at different rates; don’t let your initial perception be your judge. Drive the hunger to learn and always have time for your people. If you miss a call have the decency to call them back without fail or you fall at the first hurdle, and never make a promise you cannot keep. Lead by the examples and standards that you set and expect.

You received over 20 nominations for this award, what does winning an award from the ITP mean to you?

This is where words fail me, but essentially the high point of my career to date. Being recognised solidifies that I am doing something right and I am exceptionally proud of the award and more so the people that I, hopefully, have had a positive influence on. The award is a tangible result to compliment being nominated. Thank you.