The Experience of a Mentor: Maree Taylor

May 2021
Maree Taylor has worked for more than 30 years in senior executive roles for global corporate conglomerates and as such, has amassed skills and expertise to the envy of her peers. Today she has a portfolio career and leads her own coaching and mentoring business, Reframe. Two years ago, Maree joined WOB’s team as a mentor in the My Mentor program and was recently partnered with mentee, Leesa Bauer.
 


What is your career background and history?
Since graduation day from university, I’ve been in senior human resources roles. I was Human Resources Director at Sterling Winthrop, Human Resources Director for the Asia Pacific for Apple, Head of Human Resources for Computer Science Corporation (CSC) Australia prior to CSC Europe in London, Executive General Manager for HR/HSE at Origin, Head of Human Resources for Computer Science Corporation (CSC) Australia prior to CSC Europe in London, and the Chief People and Culture Officer at NBN Australia. When I left corporate, I thought I’d never go back (never say never I tell me clients!) In 2014, I took a faithful call from a headhunter who got me at a weak moment and the next moment, I was at NBN for the next five years, which was a unique and fantastic opportunity. I’ve left the corporate world now for good and have a portfolio career. I am Non-Executive Director at the Sydney Fringe Festival and run my own consulting business.
 
How has your career informed your ability to mentor?
My background is technical and functional expertise around leadership and people. You can’t work in corporate that long and be successful and not have thick skin, think strategically, be pragmatic, read a team and understand the politics. Ultimately, being in senior executive roles, you need to know how to influence and get the support of your team and the Board to make change happen. I can transfer my many years of experience and support organisations and individuals with their own human resources strategies by taking into consideration the organisational culture, employee engagement, organisation design, performance, talent and succession and remuneration strategies. I’m also particularly passionate about supporting women and their careers.
 
When did you become a mentor with WOB and how did you become involved with WOB My Mentoring program?
I have been a member of WOB for a number of years and had completed a few courses and attended events when I saw they were looking for mentors. It was just at the right time because I was reestablishing my business after my time with NBN about two years ago.
 
You recently mentored Leesa Bauer as part of the WOB My Mentoring Program. Can you share how you were able to support Leesa on her journey? What was the key focus of your sessions together?
When Leesa originally signed up to the program, she ambitiously wanted to get onto a paid board role in the short to medium term, which is wonderful and admirable, but during our time together, I think I was able to help her understand that there were some more steps along the way to take in her corporate work before making that a reality. We were able to hone her executive experience and expertise through a lens of directorship to get her to a paid board position in the long term. She also recognised just how powerful and transferable her specific skillset was when looking to apply for board positions. Leesa stepped into a her first board position with a not-for-profit that she was interested in so it was a natural extension and gave her valuable experience to leverage off.
 
What has been your most rewarding accomplishment as a mentor?
I like to think that I have been able to help the women that I have mentored move a thought bubble into a plan and then into an action. I am very action orientated. My mentees mostly have the answers themselves — I’m certainly not coming up with any pearls of wisdom because that’s not my job — but they just haven’t transferred it into an action plan. That gives me a real sense of accomplishment. That’s what I’m about; making things happen
 
What have been your greatest challenges as a mentor?
At the end of the day, the mentee will pick their own pace. Sometimes I feel like it was a pity they didn’t do their homework before our next session, but ultimately it’s up to them. It’s not my KPIs; it’s theirs. They have to work at their own pace and my role is to help them find that pace. I continue playing devil’s advocate, but that’s often a challenge for me because I like to keep things moving, keep things cracking!
 
How has being a mentor stretched your knowledge and capabilities?
I particularly like learning about knew industries. I thought I had covered off most of them in my career, but in the case of Leesa, this was a new industry for me. Getting the gist of the jargon is fantastic and adapting to the different dynamic excites me. You keep learning as a mentor. You witness people have an ‘aha’ moment and remind yourself to apply the same approach to yourself. That continual self-reflection is important. I’ve been really working hard at not coming up with the solution in coaching and mentoring. After 30 years in an executive career, you get used to coming up with the answer. Even though you have a big team, you are paid to have ideas and to lead. Now I read the nuances and shut up when needed, but I still need to keep working on it.
 
What networking advice would you provide to your mentees?
In my experience, most women don’t like networking, or they don’t think they do. They see it as false and artificial, particularly the introverts among us. My advice is for the business and corporate women who are driven by results, is to treat it like a task. Put it in your plan, diarise it as an action and commit to it monthly or bimonthly. It’s important for your career and external experience, but you also learn a lot in that kind of context. Even if you don’t like doing it, recognise its importance.
 
What advice do you have for those interested in becoming a mentor or mentee?
For the mentors, pay it forward, use your expertise and experience to support others, particularly women, and guess what? You’ll continue to learn yourself.
 
For the mentees, it’s likely to be a really good way of getting the support you need to bring your ideas to fruition. Everyone needs a sounding board and someone to give you the confidence you need to take action.

Find out more about WOB's Mentoring program here