Sounding Board – with Pamela Anderson



For Pamela Anderson, owner of Sounding Board Associates and a senior HR consultant for Square Circle HR, being a business mentor is not just all about the business. Her approach is that the personal and professional are profoundly linked.

If you address someone’s personal development, they will do a better job within the business and, therefore, the business will move forward. “I know that some people don’t think that way, but that’s generally how I view it,” she explains.

“Some consider that they can separate the business person from the personal one and can then leave the personal bit outside. I know years ago it was commonly said that when you came to work you left your personal problems at the door.

“People do try to do that, but they can’t really because they’re a whole person and whatever’s going on in their life, whether business or personal, is going to impact on the other part of their life. If they have a personal problem, while they may not discuss it or be aware they are thinking about it at work, it can still affect their performance.”

It’s not surprising then that Pamela finds herself more often in a mentoring match with business people who want to look at their personal development as a way to move their work life forward.

Many mentoring relationships address a specific business issue such as sales or expansion strategy, but the majority of Pamela’s are about people in the business and their relationships. While she always considers the business angle, she believes in the importance of personal development and support.

“It’s about how people interact with other people in the workplace,” says Pamela, describing what she’s observed about her experiences as a mentor, where she often helps others to resolve a professional conflict.

“If, for example, there’s someone in the workplace and there is friction – it’s not comfortable. I help the person I am mentoring to work out different ways of resolving the conflict. I suggest different options and discuss how I’ve done it in the past if I’ve had similar situations. But I’ll also suggest different options that may not be ones I’ve tried in the past if I can see that this might work. It gives my mentee a different slant because I help them look at things slightly differently.”

Being able to consider things from other people’s point of view is essential, both to good mentoring and to successful business relationships.

Pamela explains: “It’s down to choice – it’s about understanding other people’s choices. I help the person I’m mentoring to recognise that the other person has made choices and the mentee might not be aware of the choices made by the other person involved or why. We try different approaches to resolving a conflict or solving an issue that they might have.

“Often someone comes seeking advice about an issue they’d really like to get sorted, but they can’t work out how. We sit and talk about the different options of how that might be possible.”

Pamela’s career has taken her through several roles that contribute to her success as a business mentor. She spent many years working in training and as an equalities manager for the Royal Bank of Scotland, before becoming CEO of Ayrshire Chamber of Commerce. Subsequently she became an HR consultant for Square Circle HR and set up her own business, Sounding Board Associates, where she provides business and personal tailored coaching and training and uses sound work to help with relaxation and rebalancing the vibrational frequencies of the body.

The move to mentoring evolved from her relationship with Ayrshire Chamber. Through her work as an HR consultant, she conducted some Chamber training academy training sessions on employment law.

“They asked if I’d like to be a business mentor as they were looking for some mentors who had HR and people development skills,” she says.

The mentoring process begins with an initial meeting for both parties to see if they are comfortable with the arrangement – typically a monthly meeting – and what they are hoping to gain from the mentoring relationship. Pamela is always keen to establish that the people she works with feel that the relationship would be beneficial and that they are happy to lead the relationship.

Pamela enjoys the experience and considers it just as valuable to her as it is to her mentees. She says: “It gives you exposure to different people and their approaches and different people too. You get an insight into how they work and to what’s normal for that sector. You always learn things when you’re talking to other people. It’s a two-way thing.”

In order to get the most out of a mentoring relationship, Pamela suggests it’s a good idea to identify the reason you are seeking mentoring – whether or not it’s a specific business matter or something to do with where you are currently in life.

For something related to a particular business issue, she would recommend seeking out a mentor with the kind of relevant experience or distinct skill such as finance or sales. However, she adds: “If you’re looking for some help because you don’t know if you’re in the right place anymore – that you feel uncomfortable or that you should be moving but you don’t know where to – then more holistic mentoring, such as mine, could help.

“Sometimes you might not be able to tell if the match is right straight away. It could be a suck-it-and-see kind of process, but that’s OK too. At the end of the first session I would ask the mentee if they feel that it would be worthwhile meeting again or not – there’s no compulsion at all. It may be that it’s not quite what they’d hoped it would be.

“But even that’s not really time wasted as it helps to clarify what they are really looking for and the kind of help they might need.”

And, for Pamela, mentoring time is never wasted. She explains: “You learn lots from the individuals you meet and you also give something back by developing other people’s skills, whether it’s in a specific area or general guidance on life or career skills.

“I find it fascinating because I love talking to people. I also like to feel as if I’m helping them to help themselves, that’s really important to me. I’m just a guide, making suggestions and giving my experience, and they’re choosing which parts might work for them.”