Meet Our Mentors: Tony Sweeney

We’re passionate at Deltra about helping women in the transformation and change space break through the glass ceiling that unfortunately stops many from progressing. It’s for that reason that we created our Mentoring Programme, which pairs talented women with senior leaders in the industry to lend their support.

Our programme wouldn’t be as impactful as it is without the help of our trusted mentors. To give you an insight into what you can expect from the programme, we spoke with one of the longest-standing participants, Tony Sweeney.

Tony is a Senior Director at leading global professional services firm Alvarez and Marshal. As well as being an integral part of our Mentoring Programme, Tony has been heavily involved in our Women in Transformation event series, where he gave a presentation on the moral and performance case for women in the industry.

In this interview, Tony speaks about the impact mentoring can have, why diversity is a necessity, why it’s important for men to speak up about these topics, and what skills a good mentor needs to have.

Why did you get involved with Deltra’s Mentoring Programme?

I became frustrated at the lack of gender diversity within the transformation and change industry. I truly believe that businesses are more effective when there are more women in senior leadership. Women generally bring a different set of skills. Transformation requires a very broad range of skills ranging from detailed financial analysis through to coaching and the ability to develop relationships 

That’s not to say that men don’t have all those attributes, but you need an inclusive and diverse environment to access the fullest range of skills. An organisation which doesn’t have a diverse workforce is competing for skills with one hand tied behind their back.

On a personal level, I just think organisations that have more of a gender balance are more enjoyable places to work. Also, I feel like I’m at the point in my career where it’s my responsibility to help others climb up the ladder. And frankly, I really enjoy it.

Why do you think mentoring can be helpful to women in transformation?

In my own mentees, I’ve noticed that they have developed a greater awareness of their own capabilities. It’s not that I’m giving them confidence, but just assuring them that they already have the abilities to succeed.

I’ve seen my mentees have self-limiting beliefs. For instance, they may not apply for a role if they don’t tick every box on the job description. Yet I know first-hand that many men can’t either, they just apply anyway and allow themselves to take that chance.

Secondly, the expectations of how a leader should behave are typically masculine traits, so they might not think they can embody that. But in reality, those approaches aren’t necessarily the best way to lead, they’re just biased towards a male view of the world. So, mentoring can help shatter those assumptions too.

What are your mentoring relationships like?

They’re great. We’ll meet up for a coffee or have a call for about 45 minutes usually, anywhere from once a month to only twice a year – it depends on the person. Interestingly, my mentees have been women at all stages in their career, from new starters to senior executives, so I can’t overstate that anyone at any stage can benefit from mentoring.

The way I look at it, I’m there to coach, advise, and support people in their career, no matter what stage it’s in. A couple of my mentees have even been women who are my peers or senior to me – at least in ability!

With more junior women, the conversation tends to be more about where they want to be and how I can help get them there. With more senior women, they can share their concerns privately, and I act as a sounding board. Because they don’t work for me or report to me, we’re meeting on even ground, but my experience means I can offer my guidance.

Have you gained anything from being a part of the programme?

Absolutely. It’s a great way for me to clarify my own thoughts and really assessing how I do things and what I do well and not so well. When you have to explain to someone why you conduct meetings a certain way, for example, you’re forced to dissect it and you get a better understanding of yourself.

Even after being in senior leadership for over eight years, I still find it remarkably useful. Naturally, you can slip into bad habits over time, or forget things, or just act on autopilot because you’ve been doing it for so long. Being a mentor really helps me stay on my toes.

It’s given me a greater appreciation of different cultural and social perspectives too, which is really important and somewhat unexpected. But when you’re speaking openly with people from a whole range of backgrounds, it can be very eye-opening.

What makes for a good mentor?

I think the main quality that a mentor needs to have is to be an excellent listener. At the end of the day, I’m there to help my mentee get what they want, not what I think they need. It’s not about me, it’s about them. So, you have to take your own ego out of the equation and listen.

It’s not like mentoring is a completely selfless act, because at some level you have to find enjoyment in helping people achieve their goals, but it should be as selfless as it can be.

It was very inspiring to hear Tony’s passion for levelling the playing field within the change and transformation space. Hopefully, with Tony’s help alongside our other trusted mentors, we can play our part in breaking the glass ceiling for women in our industry. 

If you would like to follow Trevor’s example in taking on a mentee, or you’re a women in transformation and change that would like to be paired with a mentor, head over to our Mentoring Programme page, sign up, and we’ll be in touch.

Mike Weston

28th February

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