The role of the mentor in managerial growth

19 June 2023

Bologna Business School’s Hybrid MBA is a study path designed for vertical profiles looking for transversal training, for technicians or managers who want to improve their position in the company, through the acquirement of soft skills aimed at the development of a systemic vision, management expertise, and strong leadership ability. It is a flexible program with an innovative formula based on online didactic sessions and on-campus workdays, created to maximize the value of time to balance work, study, and private life. In addition to the core courses, this MBA offers its participants pathways in Interpersonal Communication and Mentoring.

On June 8, Franco Visani, Director of the Hybrid MBA, and Eugenio Sidoli, CEO of Max Mara Group and lecturer of the Hybrid MBA at BBS, held a webinar dedicated to the role of the Mentor in personal and managerial growth paths. The Mentor is a person who offers himself as a guide to his mentee, and provides his wisdom and experience in the business world.

Eugenio Sidoli, who a long corporate career and is now at Max Mara, plays the role of Mentor in the Hybrid MBA. Introduced by Franco Visani, the lecturer opened the talk by recounting his own career path and focusing on the moments when he met his Mentors: first, a family friend who directed him toward a management career. Then, the university professor with whom he graduated. Finally, the first supervisor he met at Philip Morris, who charted his career: from marketing, to sales manager and then to general manager.

You work good and I will take care of you” – this is the winning formula that a good Mentor must transmit to his or her mentee, the key to connecting and being able to really convey something useful and deeply meaningful. Hard skills come from school, from the professionalism that everyone puts into the business world. Soft skills, the most important ones for growing in the corporate world, can come from the mentor. Understanding attitudes, analyzing and reporting behaviors by catching the positive and the negative, pointing out parts to be smoothed out and others to be developed: the role of the Mentor is that of the guide, of the one who trusts in an equal and not superficial one-to-one exchange to grow by facing a path together. He is the shoulder to lean on in times of difficulty, the coach capable of understanding what is the right exercise to develop an attitude that will transform the player into a champion.

But, what are the specific lessons a Mentor can give his mentees? First of all, the management of frustration: “Those who are able to manage their own failures are able to accept those of others and treasure them. Those who do not can never be leaders.” Learn Body Language, and point out how impactful good behavior can be over bad behavior. Those in leadership positions have a responsible role as Mentors: they must give good ideas, reinforce qualities that make managers more effective, and viewpoints that then turn into new energy and a renewed view that can grasp the complexities and deal with the unexpected, even adverse, scenarios that come up in everyone’s career.

One cannot be a leader without being a mentor,” says Eugenio Sidoli, but the leader has a role and responsibility that may come from one’s attitude, or from the necessity of holding a job position. The mentor does it for free, by nature, by desire, because he wants to touch the person he enters into a relationship with and wants to be touched by them, to grow with them on a journey that has no conclusion or end point: “Mentoring programs can be built, but attitude does a lot. You can build the idea that every supervisor should mentor a junior, but the one who has the heart and believes in it does a super job, while the one who does it out of obligation doesn’t get results.”

Mentors are to be found in order to improve and grow, but they are also found by chance, attitude, and luck. Then, however, one must build and maintain the relationship: “The Mentor, like the boss, must be managed.” Each of us must, paradoxically, govern our boss, his expectations, abilities, and flaws: “Even in the relationship with the mentor, leadership must be taken by the mentee. It is a job that only works if you believe in it.” It is a two-way movement, in which there is no vertical transmission of knowledge, but an exchange, a dialogue that conveys attitudes and leaves a mark on both participants.

“To say I am a mentor is very pretentious.  You have to be a very good listener. You have to understand the context, not everyone has the same cultural background, you need to have good communication, and be engaging. You need experience more than theory: learn from people who have done well with you.” Mentoring someone requires good storytelling, conveying ideas that offer heuristics in moments of doubt.

Two BBS Alumni, Jessica Galantucci and Arman Derviskadic, both alumni of Eugenio Sidoli and Franco Visani in the Hybrid MBA, spoke, recounting their personal experiences. Mentoring with Eugenio Sidoli was crucial for both of them: for Jessica, it meant finding a previously unknown balance, overcoming insecurities, and keeping control of the situation. Arman, now a Mentor himself in his own company, recalls how the path he took in Bologna Business School‘s Hybrid MBA was crucial in making a decisive jump in his professional and salary career, and how his Mentor’s teachings took root deep inside him, giving him a more elaborate overview and an ability to understand others and dialogue with different sections of the Company.

Ending the meeting, Eugenio Sidoli and Franco Visani answered the last questions of the participants, dispensing advice on how to look for a Mentor and, more generally, on managerial careers: “Don’t be shy, if you think a person can give you what you are looking for, jump in.” Then, “if you have a bad boss, change: the younger you are, the sooner you have to step down if you realize you are left alone.” To discuss, as personal enrichment, can also come from people with different lives and experiences. The Mentor is not a guru sitting upstairs; you have to keep your eyes and ears open and catch opportunities. “If you are alone, find someone to walk with, the journey is definitely better,” Sidoli finally closed the meeting.


Back To Top