• AssocLeadership

Would you like a mentor?

One of the newer benefits that we offer our members is our Mentor Scheme. As we all know, being a CEO can be a lonely and sometimes frustrating role. We hope that our Mentor Scheme will offer you a chance to learn and gain support from your peers on a one to one basis.

One of the first partnerships that we arranged was between Stefan Kukula, Chief Executive of the Engineering Equipment and Materials Users Association (mentee) and Sandy Mather, Chief Executive of the Intensive Care Society (mentor).

They both kindly agreed to answer some questions about the partnership:

Stefan, why did you first decide to get a mentor?

It wasn’t so much a “decision” as a gradually increasing feeling that this would be a good option for me. There were a few specific issues that were coming up which didn’t necessarily map directly across to any other one specific industry, and conversation about them in a neutral way was pretty much impossible within the organisation. More than that, the way I viewed them was probably too tied up in my involvement. So, there was an immediate “problem” – but over that was a wish to get an approach I could use in the future.

What did you hope to get out of the process?

Well firstly there was a pure “answer” – or at least guidance on answers. Also, I was looking for a route to dealing with situations as a general approach.

Why did you choose Sandy?

I was offered a choice of 3 people. One was another engineer, and we’d probably have spent our entire time talking about engineering. One person I’d already met. And one worked in a completely different field and was unknown to me – so she was the obvious choice.

We advise that each partnership is an individual arrangement. How has it worked for you?

We met a couple of times in a coffee shop for a good long chat – which was pretty specifically focussed on the issues at hand.

What didn’t happen was Sandy saying “do this”. It was more guidance on what to consider, what actually would be the worst cases, and an outsider’s view on how bad, or good, various outcomes would actually be. With that in mind, the resolution on the issues has been incredibly positive and, I hope, in future I should be more able to “step back” and take a more neutral view on what different results would really look like.

Why have you decided to have a hiatus?

The key driving issues have been resolved; there now needs to be a period of “practicing what I’ve learnt”. If there’s something else where I “don’t know” quite what it is I’m not seeing, I hope I’d be able to talk to Sandy again to help get a different perspective. Or at the very least, a decent coffee and a useful chat.

Sandy, why did you first agree to be a mentor?

I volunteered to be a mentor for my University (Cass Business School) last year and went on a half day training course with them. Then IAL set up the Mentor Scheme shortly after I’d attended the course and so I volunteered.

What did you hope to get out of the process?

I feel it’s important to give something back to your professional community and this is a way of doing that. I am entranced by the human mind and how every individual has the answer to their own unique problem locked up in their mind. My role as a mentor is to help them to find the key and unlock it, by asking them the right incisive questions and listening so they find the best solution for themselves. This helps me to learn as they come to their solution. It makes me think differently!

Has the partnership met your expectations?


Why have you decided to have a hiatus?

The answers to the issues and problems that Stefan was facing were unlocked in the first two sessions and so no need to continue. It was a pleasure to meet Stefan and to work with him.

Thank you to Stefan and Sandy for sharing their experiences with me. If anyone else would like to be a mentor, or would like to engage with a mentor, please let me know. You can reach me on

Contact Us

Catherine Whitmore

Executive Director

Institute of Association Leadership
91 Wimpole Street
London W1G 0EF


Phone: 07860 410 029

© IAL 2019. All rights reserved.