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My Mentoring Experience - Neil Braithwaite

Neil Braithwaite (Organisational Psychology and Psychiatry, 2002) is an executive leadership coach and mentor working with senior professionals and business leaders. Before becoming a coach he practiced as a solicitor for 20 years, and was a partner in an international law firm. We spoke to Neil about his transition from solicitor to mentor, and how he has used King's Connect to support students and alumni on their career journey.

An image of Neil Braithwaite. He is wearing a white shirt and a dark suit, and standing against a yellow background.

Why do you mentor with King's?

I came to King’s a bit later in life, at the age of 40, during a break from my career as a solicitor. I had already benefited from informal mentoring during my legal career, and I had been involved in the development of a formal mentoring scheme at my law firm. At King’s I studied organisational psychology and psychiatry, and I researched mentoring back to the origin of the term in Greek mythology – Mentor was the close friend of Odysseus who placed his son, Telemachus, in Mentor’s care when he left for the Trojan War. Whilst at King’s, I discovered the work of the American psychologist Carl Rogers, and it was Rogers who inspired me to transition from being a lawyer to a professional coach and mentor. Rogers put it perfectly when he wrote in his seminal book, On Becoming a Person: ‘The degree to which I can create relationships, which facilitate the growth of others as separate persons, is a measure of the growth I have achieved in myself.’

How have you benefited from your mentoring experience?

Every mentoring session is a learning experience for both mentor and mentee. I always learn at least as much as the individual that I’m mentoring. And perhaps more importantly, every session involves a transfer of energy – the youthful and expectant energy of the mentee meets that of the more accomplished and experienced mentor. Both benefit from this exchange, and I find that seeing the world afresh from each mentee’s perspective is energising and transformative.

Why do you think mentoring is important?

I’ve been coaching and mentoring professionally for the last 16 years, so I may be a little biased, but in my view the importance of these developmental relationships has never been greater. The issue of mental health, in and out of the workplace, is coming into sharper focus and we owe it to the generation coming through to provide them with as much empathy and support as we can in navigating the increasingly complex modern world. Carl Rogers again (with the pronouns amended): When a person realises they have been deeply heard, their eyes moisten. I think in some real sense they are weeping for joy. It is as though they were saying “Thank God, somebody heard me. Someone knows what it’s like to be me.”


Every mentoring session is a learning experience for both mentor and mentee. I always learn at least as much as the individual that I’m mentoring.– Neil Braithwaite

What do you think are good qualities to have as a mentor?

Self-awareness and flexibility and the ability to empathise and to listen actively to what is said and not said. Genuine curiosity and interest in the individual you are mentoring and a non-judgmental approach to how they show up and what they tell you.

Do you have any advice for aspiring mentors, or those who might have just started mentoring someone for the first time?

Try to take a facilitative approach rather than a directive one. The common understanding of mentoring is that it involves the giving of tips and advice by the more experienced mentor, and this can certainly play an important part. However, experience has taught me to coach mentees to find their own answers whenever I can. It’s also important to remember to focus on the person and their thinking when the temptation is to jump straight in and try to resolve their apparent career issue. Listen for their potential and then let them know that you see it. And use your experience to tailor the right questions to stimulate their thinking.

What would you say to recommend mentoring to other alumni?

You are likely to benefit just as much as the mentee. This is what the research tells us, and it has certainly been my experience. There is nothing more satisfying than revisiting an earlier stage in work and life with your mentee and seeing them begin to flourish with the help of your support. The skills that you are using can be an important part of your own personal and professional development and the friendships that develop can be hugely rewarding.

What (or who) has had the biggest influence on you to help you achieve your success?

There have been so many but my parents, in particular, with their unconditional love, support and unwavering belief in me. Three senior lawyers who took me under their wing at different stages of my legal career and who empowered me with their trust and friendship. My two coach trainers who encouraged me to give up practicing law to become a professional coach, and the many colleagues, clients and friends who have provided helpful feedback and opportunities to build my practice.

How can King’s Connect help?

I have been mentoring with King’s for a number of years and I have seen them develop their offering and platform to a level where it now makes volunteering as a mentor so easy and rewarding. In addition to the core alumni mentoring, King’s now offers specialist leadership and diversity mentoring and some of the schools and departments offer their own tailored support too. If you are motivated to get involved, the process is quick and convenient, and you have full control over how many mentees you work with and how much time you allocate.

In 2022, 575 volunteers contributed over 2900 hours towards the King's Global Day of Service - will you help us go further in 2023?

Mentor through King's Connect this March for your volunteering hours to be included towards our Global Day of Service total. You can find out all you need to know about Global Day of Service at

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