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How mentoring shapes the industry's future leaders
Alex Graham, Chief Executive of Wall to Wall
Mentoring is an important tool in the management training of people in the creative industries, says chief executive of Wall to Wall production company Alex Graham.
Graham, who is a mentor on Skillset’s Cultivating Creatives in TV (CCTV) scheme, puts his own success down to the presence of several people over the course of his career who have mentored him.
“I’ve never really learned management skills, I’ve come up the hard way,” says Graham. “But what I’ve been very fortunate in having is mentors. I’d say certainly in my life I’ve had somewhere between half a dozen and a dozen people who I’ve looked to for guidance, support and education who have been quite critical to my self development.”
Graham set up the production company that was to become Wall to Wall 23 years ago with two colleagues. Eventually they both left, leaving him sole proprietor of the company which is now one of the world’s leading independent producers, with programmes like New Tricks and Who Do You Think You Are? to its credit.
“One of the reasons why I wanted to get involved in mentoring was a simple desire to put something back because I’ve been fantastically lucky to have been able to run a production company and I feel the least I can do is give something back to the industry,” says Graham.
“But also I spend a lot of time myself trying to understand what it is that I’m doing so I feel it’s quite a good discipline – it makes me think about what I do.”
The mentee who Graham is working with on the scheme is seeking practical advice in specific situations: “But I think it’s about more than that, so in the spaces in between I’m trying to encourage him to think about what he would do, trying to resist just answering his questions in a straightforward practical sense.”
Graham adds: “I’m quite pragmatic and I do think learning through day to day practice is a good way and my hunch is that what he wants is reassurance and advice.”
Graham tries to validate the mentee’s own ideas as well as offering his own advice: “So he goes away feeling empowered. It’s that sense of giving people confidence. There are lots of people who are quite good but don’t have the confidence, and you need confidence in this industry.”
Click here to see the range of management and leadership training courses that are eligible for a Skillset bursary.