Mentorship Matters: A Conversation with Carrie Wilks, Chief People Officer at Lane Four

On “Reach as high as you can day,” we celebrate the idea of pushing ourselves to expand our horizons, reach beyond limited beliefs, and get closer to achieving our goals. While having a strong sense of self-motivation and ambition is certainly important, it’s also helpful to build a support system to guide us along the journey of reaching our full potential. This is where mentorship comes in. Having a mentor can provide invaluable guidance, support, empowerment, as well as just having a cheerleader in our corner as we navigate through life working towards our personal and professional goals.

To delve deeper into the importance of mentorship in the workplace, we had the opportunity to speak with Lane Four’s very own Chief People Officer, Carrie Wilks. With nearly two decades of experience in talent management and human resources, Carrie is a seasoned expert in building and nurturing successful teams. In this interview, Carrie offered her insights on the benefits of mentorship, corporate mentoring initiatives, and how to maximize the mentor-mentee relationship.

Whether you’re a seasoned professional or just starting out in your career, mentorship can be a valuable tool in helping you reach your full potential. Read on to learn more about the importance of mentorship in the workplace and how it can help you reach for the stars.

Carrie Wilks, Chief People Officer, Lane Four

Q. Have you personally, had a mentor who made a significant impact on your career and what made them so effective?

A. “Truthfully, I can’t say that I’ve had one single mentor that stands out.  Mentorship can come from many different people with different backgrounds throughout one’s life. In my career, and in my various roles, I’ve tried my best to advocate for others and connect people together for the benefit of mentorship. I’d say I’ve taken inspiration from many individuals, even outside of a workplace. For example, my dad always said to me “Focus on what’s within your control and let go of the rest”; a good friend once said, “You know, worry just takes away today’s peace”, and the famous Maja Angelou’s quote “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel”.  I try to remember and weave these inspirational messages into my daily practices. Helping mentees focus less on comparing themselves to others and instead taking inspiration from others along the way has been a passion of mine. When we compare, we can become very critical of ourselves, but when we take inspiration from others it has a much more positive effect. Things like this, that speak a lot to mindset, mindful presence, one’s impact, and empathy, rather than solely career specific for me, have made a difference in my life and in turn, guided and influenced the way I lead others. Philosophical perhaps, but very much applicable to business and work environments, I believe.”

Q. How does mentorship benefit both mentor and mentee in a workplace?

A. “I believe that mentorship is a mutually beneficial relationship that can have a significant impact on both the mentor and the mentee. As a mentor myself, there is a sense of fulfilment that comes with helping someone else realize their full potential or providing guidance to help someone reach their “Ah ha!” moment. This sense of fulfilment is also experienced by the mentee, who benefits from the mentor’s guidance and support in navigating their career or personal development.

Mentorship also provides an opportunity for the mentee to learn important skills such as advocating for oneself, asking questions, and stretching beyond their comfort zone. This can lead to personal growth and development, as well as increased confidence and self-awareness, which can also be applicable to the mentor; one who potentially may feel they’re ready to provide guidance.

Effective mentorship involves active listening and providing guidance based on the mentee’s specific needs and goals. This not only helps the mentee, but also allows the mentor to develop their own skills in communication, coaching, and leadership. In this way, mentorship is an organic and dynamic process that benefits both parties in numerous ways.”

Q. What are some key qualities or characteristics that makes a good mentor?

A. “Effective listening, first and foremost. I think it has to involve an individual that is willing to be fully committed to giving their time to be wholly present. I mean life happens, but you make that commitment to show up to meetings and follow through on things you say. Objective listening is equally important, as a good mentor should be able to understand and empathize with their mentee’s situation without letting their own biases or experiences unduly influence their advice. Compassion and strong communication skills also play a key role, as a mentor should be able to recognize and understand the challenges and struggles faced by their mentee, and provide guidance and support in a caring and non-judgmental way.”

Q. Is there a strategy to matching mentors with mentees within an organization?

A. “When it comes to being a good mentor, values and personality are important factors. Typically, mentees seek out mentors who are experienced in their field and can help them clarify their goals and streamline their efforts. However, in addition to professional expertise, matching stylistic personality and values is also crucial.

It’s important to note that commitment is also a key factor in a successful mentoring relationship. A mentor who is a good fit stylistically may not be effective if they are unable to follow through on their commitments. Therefore, it is important for both parties to confidently determine whether they are willing to make a commitment to the mentorship. This mutual level of commitment is crucial to the integrity of the mentorship program, as it ensures that both parties are willing to invest their time and energy into the relationship.”

Q. Can you share some examples of successful mentorship programs that have been implemented at Lane Four?

A. “At Lane Four, we are fortunate to have various mentorship programs in place. One such program is our Task of the Week initiative, where a small group of individuals come together to work through problem-solving exercises. This approach fosters team cohesion across the company as participants are collaborating often with team members outside of their own team. This program also encourages one-on-one coaching in a smaller, more inclusive setting, which is instrumental in providing pragmatic experience to participants and supporting their professional growth and confidence.

In addition to Task of the Week, we have a Task of the Month program that focuses on higher-level and more complex problem-solving challenges, encouraging individuals to think strategically. We also offer office hours, where anyone can “drop in” with technical questions and receive guidance towards a specific solution.

Our mentorship programs are complemented by both technical and soft skill training sessions, and we bring it all together with Professional Development days. During these days, we may present case studies or participate in Hackathons or other org-wide challenges, where we can apply the knowledge gained from our mentorship programs and training sessions to real-world scenarios.”

Q. How do you measure the effectiveness of mentorship programs in an organization?

A. “Measuring the effectiveness of mentorship programs within an organization can be challenging, as it is often subjective and based on individual experiences. However, there are a few key metrics and indicators that can be used to assess the effectiveness of mentorship programs. Firstly, participation –if a large number of employees are actively participating in the program, it suggests that the program is meeting a need within the organization. Secondly, collecting feedback from both mentors and mentees on topics such as program structure, communication, and overall effectiveness and satisfaction is a helpful indicator as well.”

Q. How do you think mentorship helps to foster diversity and inclusion in the workplace?

A. “Mentorship promotes diversity and inclusion in the workplace by creating a safe and inclusive environment where individuals can have open conversations that they may not necessarily have in larger group settings. While a company culture that supports diversity and equity is essential, one-on-one mentorship provides a unique opportunity to see oneself in someone else and identify with them. Mentors come in all shapes, forms, and genders, and it’s essential to find the right mentor whose experience and style resonates with an individual’s experience.”


Q. How do you encourage senior leaders in your organization to participate in mentorship programs?

A. “Fortunately, mentorship is one of Lane Four’s guiding principles, and our leadership team is very open to it. However, finding time for one-on-one mentorship can be challenging for busy leaders. As a result, I encourage our team to prioritize making time for these valuable interactions and ensuring that they are meaningful and supportive for the mentee. Ultimately, being present, actively listening, and advocating for the mentee’s growth and development are key to the success of mentorship programs.”