January 22, 2015

The importance of mentoring

Mentors have played an important role in Lynn Kraus’ career, so she’s now using her own skills and experience to help others on their journey. Already one of EY’s most senior women in Oceania, Kraus was named Mentor of the Year at the 2014 NAB Women's Agenda Leadership Awards.

One of the most senior women within EY (formerly known as Ernst & Young) in Oceania, Lynn Kraus names her mother as her first mentor. “I grew up watching her manage a family and a successful career in retail,” she says. “She was a great role model.”

As Sydney Office Managing Partner, Kraus herself is now considered a role model for many women inside the company. She actively mentors as many up-and-coming females as possible, and considers it a privilege to sit with people, ask questions, answer their questions honestly and share what she’s learned. “I think the key to being a good mentor is never telling people what to do but using your own experience to help them work that out for themselves,” she says.

Integrating work and life

As the mother of two young boys, Kraus is a strong advocate for work-life integration. “I prefer to talk about ‘integration’ rather than ‘balance’,” she says. “To me, balance suggests the two things are pulling against each other rather than working together.”

She also believes it’s time to replace the concept of ‘supporting women in the workplace’ with ‘supporting families’.

“The typical family can’t manage on just one income these days but responsibility for childcare, family and home doesn’t lie with the mother alone,” she says. “It’s great that we’re seeing more and more dads taking on some of that responsibility, but I think the next major evolution should be finding ways to help two parents to work and manage their careers as well as their family.”

Kraus acknowledges she’s fortunate to have a supportive partner. “When I was offered the position of managing partner, my husband agreed to put his career on hold to support me,” she says. “He stepped in to take on more of the heavy lifting at home and we outsourced as much as we could.”

Equal opportunities

Her commitment to helping women build a successful career was recognised when Kraus was named Mentor of the Year at the 2014 NAB Women’s Agenda Leadership Awards. “Being put forward by someone you’ve mentored and knowing that you’ve truly made a difference to their career is a humbling but wonderful experience,” she says.

But she equally enjoys mentoring men. “Both men and women can benefit from having someone to provide career guidance and support, but many men are hesitant to ask for help,” says Kraus. “I think they worry it’ll be seen as a sign of weakness, so I’d love to see organisations help dispel that myth by making mentoring more systemic.”

The best advice she ever received was from one of her own mentors. “She told me you have to be CEO of you own career,” she says. “That means being absolutely clear about your ambitions and then taking action to achieve them rather than waiting around for someone else to notice how great you are. You’re the one with the biggest vested interest in your own future, so why would you leave your journey in someone else’s hands?”

She also urges successful women to support the next generation. “This is where mentoring can play such an important role,” she says. “When you’ve built a successful career you’re perfectly placed to help others do the same.”

The NAB Women’s Agenda Leadership Awards celebrates Australia’s best emerging and established female leaders, and recognises and celebrates the men and women who help women achieve. Get more information about purchasing tickets to the 2015 NAB Women’s Agenda Leadership Awards.

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