Ashridge and UK sports agency to launch mentoring skills course

Programme is for managers in charge of developing coaches in Britain for the Rio 2016 Olympics
Britain's Lizzie Neave competes in the K-1 kayak slalom heats in the 2012 London Olympics. Ashridge course could give Team GB's medal prospects a boost for next year's Rio Olympics

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Business leaders are being offered the chance to help boost Team GB’s medal chances at next year’s Olympic Games by honing their mentoring skills alongside the country’s top sports coaches.

A joint project between Ashridge Business School and UK Sport will see business executives develop and sharpen mentoring skills alongside a number of already successful coaches and leaders within elite Olympic and professional sports.

John Neal, director of the sports initiative at Ashridge, who created a mentoring scheme for UK Sport three years ago, from which the current partnership programme has developed, himself acted as a mentor to coaches during the last Olympics and believes he may have helped add a silver to Team GB’s medal tally.

“The coach had told me that they were not going to be able to win a medal and would see it as a chance for development,” Mr Neal recalls. “I told him the Olympic Games are not about development.”

Ashridge’s Mentoring for Leaders programme, which comprises of five one-day sessions spread over ten months, and starts in March, is a recognition of the importance of mentoring in both developing sports coaches and athletes as well as corporate executives, according to Mr Neal.

“Business can learn from sport and sport can learn business, so it’s a project where everyone can learn and develop their skills together,” he said.

Ashridge will support each participant with a range of teaching approaches to help them integrate and apply their learning.

Once students have been endorsed as mentors they can be put ino a matching process, where those looking to be mentored will be offered three potential candidates.

Those who are fortunate enough to be matched with coaches for the Rio Games can expect calls during the middle of the night while the Olympics are being run, Mr Neal notes.

“They will call you up because there are things that they do not feel able to speak about with people in their own sport. You end up talking about some pretty fundamental issues.”

Students on the course at Ashridge will be taught mentoring skills and techniques designed to unlock the potential and performance in others through a mixture of teaching through tutors, group work and experiential exercises.

“Exposure to the challenges of high-performance sport will enable business people to understand how winning mindsets, attitudes and behaviours can be clarified and cultivated through their mentoring skills,” Mr Neal explained.

The course programme is designed to challenge participants in high-performance situations to improve the way they develop others to achieve excellence, inspire creative teams and build winning cultures, Mr Neal added.

“Our approach is to stimulate and challenge them to develop their own model of mentoring, rather than constraining them within a particular academic or published model of mentoring,” he said. “Each participant will be encouraged and supported to build their mentoring model, based on each one’s existing experience and understanding of helping others to achieve excellence.”

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