Louise Baker is our super-GM who runs a lot of the show here at The Mentor Evolution! She’s achieved an Oxford education, battled chronic fatigue and navigated her way at Proctor and Gamble. These being some of the career-defining moments in Louise’s story, we discuss the importance of mentoring through those times and what it means to Louise now. So jump on and have a listen!
Charlie Ellis 0:00
Hello, and welcome to The Mentor Evolution podcast. I’m Charlie Ellis, your host, and I’m here to uncover the stories behind Australia’s great industry minds. So you the listener can know their story.
Intro Music and voice-over
Charlie Ellis 0:38
Hello, and welcome to the second episode of The Mentor Evolution podcast. I’m here with Louise Baker, GM of The Mentor Evolution itself. How’re you going?
Louise Baker 0:50
Very well thanks, Charlie. And thanks for having me here today.
Charlie Ellis 0:53
Let’s talk about your story, about the same as Simone, and what this podcast is going to be all about. It’s just we want to know how you got from the person you are back in the UK to making your way over to Australia just like me and becoming the person you are today. So, we’re going to start off with a few questions similar to the TV show hosted by James Lipton ‘Inside the Actor’s Studio’. This is ‘Inside the Mentor’s Studio’. So, a few stupid questions to start. What’s your favourite word?
Louise Baker 1:27
Oh, that’s an easy one for me. My favourite word is fascinating. Really powerful word. And I use it…it’s a great state breaker…if something happens that’s annoying, or you think somebody’s asking something daft or your kids make a big mess. You just look at them and think – you don’t even have to say it out loud – just in your head, ‘fascinating’. And it just changes. It puts a smile on your face, and it turns everything into interesting and enquiry. And yeah, love it. Powerful.
Charlie Ellis 1:57
That’s a good answer. But what’s your least favourite word?
Louise Baker 2:01
Oh, I think that would have to be ‘should’. never been a fan of the word should I? We need it sometimes. But for me, I prefer to do things because I really want to do them and I believe in them. And as soon as we start straying into a territory where we feel we ought to be and we should be, you know, I think the alarm bell starts ringing. Yeah.
Charlie Ellis 2:26
Yeah, I always know. Every time I have an excuse for something, my goes shoulda, woulda, coulda.
Louise Baker 2:46
They’re all the reasonable reasons, right?
Charlie Ellis 2:48
That’s right, that’s right. And now another another very insightful question. What’s your favourite noise or sound?
Louise Baker 2:44
My favourite noise? Ah, you know, I think one of one of my least favourite noises as a kid – which is now probably one of my most favourite – is like the rain and thunder rumbling in the distance.
Charlie Ellis 2:56
Oh, yeah, I can understand that.
Louise Baker 2:58
Yeah, I just… there’s something. I’m reading a book at the moment by Julia Baird called ‘Phosphorescence’. And she talks about all the power of awe and just feeling you know, realising our place in the universe, and that we’re really quite small. The sound of thunder and rain just puts me firmly in my place. Yes it makes me feel safe actually, bizarrely, nowadays.
Charlie Ellis 3:22
Yeah. I know how you feel. I know that somehow if you go to like a coastal area or something, you can see the waves rolling in. You see that. You know how vast the ocean is. It does really make you feel so small but so safe at the same time.
Louise Baker 3:38
It’s weird, but it does. Yeah.
Charlie Ellis 3:40
And what’s your what’s your least favourite noise or sound?
Louise Baker 3:44
Probably just hearing your kids cry out in absolute pain. I remember one of my kids, when he was little, fell down the stairs and he literally..my…it was actually my husband at the time who screamed and that noise is with me today. Proper human fear! Yeah. I ran round and managed to actually catch him. It was a happy ending. Human fear and crying out, least favourite sound.
Charlie Ellis 4:09
Same answer as Simone on the last podcast. The next question, the last question on this little series of inside the mentor studio, is if you weren’t pursuing the profession you are today, what is it that you’d want to do?
Louise Baker 4:27
Oh, if I could have waved a magic wand?
Charlie Ellis 4:30
Louise Baker 4.33
Well, a couple of things. I’d have loved to have been a comedian, but I’m just not funny enough. And other than that, I loved writing. I do actually still write but just for fun, and like kids’ books, poetry sort of stuff. Just fun stuff.
Charlie Ellis 4:48
Oh, wow. That’s fantastic. And did you ever do, try to pursue that as a young person at university or anything?
Louise Baker 4:54
Erm, well funnily enough, I started out reading English literature at uni, but I ended up sick. I got chronic fatigue, which I fully recovered from. But, at the time, it gave me some time to think ‘cause I had to take time out. I decided to go back and read Biological Sciences. So, biology. I figured I could read and write myself. And but I wasn’t going to learn about the world, and you know, what lives on it, unless I went and learned that at uni. So, I switched. But, the passion for reading and writing is retained. And it’s one of the things that – although it’s not a career for me – it’s something that I do do,
Charlie Ellis 5:29
But it’s a passion you can put into any, anything that you can do any, any job, you know, it’s something you can transfer sort of transferable skill sets. And moving that to the workplace, what is probably, what’s your most fond professional memory?
Louise Baker 5:45
Wow, my most fun, professional memory? Look, I think, for me – and probably one of the main reasons why I’ve landed where I have with the Mentor Evolution – my fondest memories have always been when I’ve been able to have a real impact on somebody. And the ones that really make the most impact for me, is where somebody’s been having some challenges at work, or there’s been questions about their ability. And – in my experience – if somebody’s got a good attitude, they’ve usually got what it takes. And it’s just about helping them find that and unlock it. And I’ve got two or three of my best memories of being – and keep the names out of it – but they’ve been people who have really been able to turn around with some coaching and mentoring. And there’s nothing more rewarding than that.
Charlie Ellis 6:39
And do you think that that is something you’ve always been motivated to do? Or is that something that you’ve done? That has kind of felt apparent later on in life?
Louise Baker 6:52
I think I’ve always, I’ve always enjoyed connecting with people. And I’ve always cared about people. But it wasn’t probably until I’d been in business, and later in life realised that I could have that sort of impact. And not just me, I think anybody – if they take a bit of time to understand what they’re doing, and they learn a bit about coaching and a bit about mentoring, and understand how to go about that – then I think, with the right mindset, almost anybody can really help somebody else unlock their genius. And I got that…over time I realised that that was the case. Yeah.
Charlie Ellis 7:31
Yeah. And that, and it sort of shows the importance that mentoring has to both the mentor and the mentee. It can be just as rewarding for both.
Louise Baker 7:40
Absolutely. Totally. You’ll nailed it there Charlie, definitely. When you have a mentoring conversation with somebody, even when it’s not intended to be, it does end up being two-way. And we all learn from that interaction for sure.
Charlie Ellis 7:54
Is there a moment, a life lesson, that you’ve learned from any person that you know? Is there one moment you can remember where you go: right, that is it?
Louise Baker 8:04
Look, I think that for me, there’s been lots of those sort of magical moments in my life. And I think they’ve come from many different people. It’s not, there’s not just one, but a couple of things for me that really made a massive impact. One was where I remember somebody who’s a mentor, actually at Procter and Gamble, who sat me down and said to me one day when I was concerned about making a decision, and what was right and what wasn’t right. And they were talking to me about the fact that nobody is running the parallel experiment, right? So, there’s kind of an arc of rightness. There’s many right answers to any sort of challenge or problem. And you just got to pick one and go for it. And nobody else is testing out the other ones. And nobody’s ever going to be able to turn around at the end and go, Oh, that wasn’t the very best one. So, it just kind of helped me realise that actually, you’ve just got to have a go. And it’s better to be doing something than not. And you’ll probably have picked within the range within that arc of rightness. And it will be okay.
Charlie Ellis 9:14
You’ve always got options. And in your in your career, you’ve always got some sort of element of control. And do you think that during the process of say, when you’re talking to the person, the mentor, at Procter and Gamble, what was sort of the comments that they they said to you, when you were coming to them for advice? What were the things they touched on? Was it to do with attitude, or was it to do with specific things.
Louise Baker 9:38
I think a real mixture. So, for us to be able to perform it’s a combination of will and skill. And so, will being attitude and then skill being capability. And I think mentoring can really help unlock both of those things. So, actually, in any sort of mentoring conversation, I’d be surprised if you if you weren’t having a conversation that encompassed will and skill. And certainly, at Procter & Gamble, there was huge recognition that both really mattered. Procter & Gamble recruits on sort of skill set. And they do that by asking people to give examples of times when they’ve shown leadership or shown the ability to problem solve, or been able to connect with people in a really effective way to overcome, you know, otherwise adverse relationships or challenges. And they do that because they understand – and there’s an understanding at Procter & Gamble – that the person’s attitude, and innate approach is so powerful. And then on top of that, you’re interested in experiences and skill set, of course, because will and skill is what leads to capability. And therefore, mentoring conversations really did span both. And I used to lead something that Procter & Gamble called the Learning Council. And that was all about building a coaching culture, because it was understood that that’s how you really unlock the genius. And that capability, get that tribal knowledge out, from the people, wherever it sits in the organisation. The more you can link and connect the people, the more you can unlock what sat in that, that human repository of excellence that is out there. Yeah.
Charlie Ellis 11:24
And when you were doing the coaching Council, before that, were you finding that employees or peers were coming to you for advice? Or did you have to kind of seek out, you know, what people wanted?
Louise Baker 11:36
I think there was a real, again, a real mixture, you know. There was a highly connected, innately sort of coaching and mentoring culture there. And we were trying to really build on that. But, people would absolutely come to me, I would go to other people. And once they knew I was leading the Learning Council, then absolutely, team leaders, employees, etc. would come and talk to me about how they could access a mentor, how they could understand what training etc. was out there, and what was available in terms of resources. And that’s one of the reasons why, at The Mentor Evolution, we have a combination of a technology platform that creates the portal and the central repository for people to go to, but we also have programs and curated content, etc. to really help bring that to life. Because making it easy and centralising it is one thing, and then creating the culture that really supports and maintains that is the other part, yeah, of making stuff happen, really.
Charlie Ellis 12:44
And I think, like you just hit it there. We’re making the culture, once you’re in a culture that does something a certain way, I found – I don’t know about the same as you – but you know, I grew up in the UK, going to school there, you move to Australia, you start doing things the Australian way, because you’re part of the culture. You know, when you’re, I don’t know, I found living up north in England, it’s wet, it’s miserable all the time. You don’t do the same things you do here. You know…you want to go for a beer after work? Yeah, sure. We’re different. I don’t know. It’s just that I think that that culture is such an important thing. And would you say that some companies might rely on a mentor program to bring that culture to them? Or is it easy to do it themselves? What, you know, is The Mentor Evolution going to bring that culture to them?
Louise Baker 13:38
I think that’s a great question. And I’m, I’m very confident that the answer to it is a big resounding yes. I think they do need something like The Mentor Evolution. Whenever we talk to businesses, one of the biggest things we find is most of them actually, who are caring about culture and really supporting their employees do have – or have had in the past – some sort of mentoring program. But, what we find is that it’s such heavy lifting. So, they set something up, and probably somebody in HR. Maybe they’ve got champions in different parts of the business as well. But, it’s a lot of emailing, a lot of sending out, scheduling meetings, trying to get people together, understanding who’s interested. There’s a big sort of initial burst of excitement. A few people connect and set up relationships and then they peter out. And it’s really, really hard to maintain. And creating a culture means that you’re having something that everybody recognises your business stands for, that your organisation really believes in it and loves. And it does sustain over a long period of time. And what we’re able to do with The Mentor Evolution is; 1) provide a technology platform, you know, global one that you can take anywhere that enables that can be done really simply and effectively, but we also – on top of that – provide all of the insight, the knowledge, the resources, the materials, so that you can keep populating that as you want, with interesting information. And set up interesting programmes to really maintain the momentum.
Charlie Ellis 15:13
Yeah. And that’s, that’s exactly what I think a lot of businesses need, you know, I’m pretty, I’m pretty new to the mentor world, in reality, and, you know, I’ve heard a lot of people saying that, you know, they started trying to do it on Excel spreadsheets, and they’re trying to help, you know, and I’m sat there thinking: how the hell are you gonna do that on an Excel spreadsheet? Like, no way? No way. And just seeing what the mentor companies can bring to a business in terms of culture. It’s such a fantastic resource to have. And the question I’m going to ask now, is that if you’re, you’ve signed up to The Mentor Evolution, you’re on the platform, and you’re talking to a driven employee who wants to break the mould, or maybe it’s a student who’s there and getting some work part time work, you know. It’s just the driven employee, and they really want to really want to change their life for the better in the company. And what’s one piece of advice that you’d give them to change their maybe their lifestyle or their attitude? What’s one piece of advice you can give them?
Louise Baker 16:25
I think the biggest thing for me to affect change is to be really, really clear about your goal. And so that you start with why. What is it you want and why do you want it? And once you know your reason and what are the drivers for what you want, then change usually comes pretty easily. And I think it’s really nicely back to that first question, the second question you asked me, actually, about the word I don’t like, which is should. So, when people are motivated, because they think they ought to be doing something: I really ought to be trying to progress my career; or, I really should be, you know, getting a bit better at leadership; or, I really should be managing my time better, they’re probably going to struggle. If they really articulate for themselves what specifically they’re trying to do: so, I want to be able to manage my time better, so that I can finish work at four o’clock or five o’clock, and then have time to think about the future, and how I grow something differently or achieve something differently, or I’ve got time for a bit of work life balance for myself…and then I’m going to have ‘x’; I’m going to feel better or achieve more. You know, once they understand that why, and it’s really about something they want, they can usually unlock change relatively simply. The capability is often there with only a small amount of training. Often, it’s the will, and really understanding why we want something that’s missing. So, understand your why – and really know it – and you can make change.
Charlie Ellis 18:10
So, you’re going through that process. Would you sit down with someone and talk them out? You know, why are you going to do this? And therefore, how…would you make a plan like a day by day plan to do that? Would that be the way that you go about it? Yeah. If I’m going about something like that, that’s 100% what I’d do. I’d be making every day plans this startup? Because – I can’t – if there’s too much information in my head, I’m gone?
Louise Baker 18:36
I think it depends, it depends on a couple of things. And it’s great question. It depends on the problem. And it depends on the person. So, for some people, honestly, a plan is exactly what they need. And that’s the best thing they can do to get them through the first 30 days when it will become habit. And for other people a plan is going to leave them completely cold. And you know, one of the benefits – and why we always need mentoring and coaching – is because it can be tailored and the whole point of it is to tailor it to a person. So, you know, if I if I was going to have a mentoring conversation or a coaching conversation, I would spend the time with somebody understanding what their goal really is and why they want it. And I literally will be asking, and if you have that, what would you have? And, if you have that, what would it do for you…so that they really understand. And then you work out the different ways of achieving that and which one is going to suit them. And for some people, yes, it’ll be a plan. For other people, it might just be a shift in mindset or reminding themselves through the day. For other people it may be checking in with someone who can help keep them on track. It can really vary, the solution. But mentoring and coaching enables you to tailor that so that it works for that person.
Charlier Ellis 19:50
Yeah, and that that’s so important. The fact that mentoring is such a personal experience for everyone. And speaking of personal experience: in your career, what’s your favourite failure? What’s the one thing you remember…Ah, I can’t believe I did that, but I’m glad it’s over and I’ve learnt.
Louise Baker 20:15
My favourite failure. Do you know what it’s, um, for me, it was really about when I was on the road. One of my first jobs. I was going and delivering stuff to pharmacists and taking orders. And I really had underestimated how important it was to plan right. And it was a lesson I’ve taken with me for the rest of my career. Don’t undercook the planning, because it really does waste time and impacts. And the way I found that out was trying to drive to a pharmacy that was on an island across a road bridge. And I ended up, I kid you not, in the middle of a road bridge in a car that I just got that morning, and the water was coming up, and I was waiting. I couldn’t go until the car in front of me had gone and the car in front of them had gone. When they finally had all gone, I went to do my three-point turn. And I was in a car that had been dropped off that morning. And I’d never put it in reverse. And it was a Ford, and I didn’t know how to put it in reverse. I had to phone my fiance at the time, and ask: what’s all the different ways you can put a car into reverse, because I’m about to float off down a river? And we finally worked one out. And yeah, anyway, I had to pull something halfway up the gear stick and make it work. And I got off the road bridge. And I realised, do you know what? I reflected hard and thought if I’d even planned my route, looked at the timetables, and – okay, that was never going to happen to me again, I was never going to be stuck on a road bridge with water coming up the wheels – but, throughout my career, that learning that you have to plan, and it really is time well invested, has been something I’ve carried with me ever since.
Charlie Ellis 22:05
Yes, that is a fantastic story. Yes, I can understand how that would teach you that lesson. I can, I can remember going for my driving test. You know, when you do your driving theory test? And I was running around the whole of Chester going to my mum, ‘Where the hell is this place? I don’t know where the test is!’ I ended up being about two hours late. It just taught me the importance of not panicking. Yeah, just be in, like, every problem has a solution. So, it’s all right.
Louise Baker 22:36
Certainly does. And that’s, again, another good tip. Yeah, don’t panic, just breathe. Take a breath. Work it out.
Charlie Ellis 22:40
Exactly! And that’s another thing. That’s another thing that mentors can do for people. You can go with whatever problem…there’s someone external, someone who has, you know, no strings attached and can bring you back down here down to earth and sort of say to you, listen, this is how it is. It’s okay, this is what we’re going to do.
Louise Baker 22:58
I think you’re absolutely right. I was going to say, the other thing linked to that about, you know, we’ll work on your problem, and we can work it out. That idea of building confidence for somebody. Nobody performs at their best when they’re lacking confidence.
Charlie Ellis 23:14
Louise Baker 23:16
People perform at their best when they believe that they can actually do it. And having a mentor, often a mentor can see strengths in you that you don’t realise. Or that you take for granted, or potentially even a blind spot. Often we underestimate what we’re good at, and we notice what we’re not as good at. And a mentor can help you recognise: no, actually, you are really great connecting with people. Or, actually, you can join the dots and you see the big picture. It doesn’t matter what it is, but mentors help us see those things in ourselves. And when we’re playing to our strengths, that’s when we can actually make a really big impact. And I think that’s a huge thing that mentors can bring.
Charlie Ellis 24:03
100% and they can make you make you do things that put you out of your comfort zone. Go and do that presentation. Suggest that thing. Say that with a bit more force, you know, whatever it is. It just pushes you to be the person you want to be in your head as a person. You know, that’s the important thing, I think. So, what is one quote, one piece of information – from anything, it doesn’t have to be from a person you know. It can be the last episode of friends when it’s really sad. It can be anything, any line that you’ve seen that you’ve carried with you.
Louise Baker 24:38
I’m afraid I’ll probably be a little bit cliched here, because this is something that I think lots of people would probably go to, which is Gandhi, ‘Be the change you want to see’. For me, that is really what I try and live by. I don’t want to expect anybody else to do something if I wouldn’t be prepared to have a go myself. And I do my best to be the best me I can be. And, you know, I always tell my kids as well, you’ve only got to look yourself in the mirror. So, at the end, if I know that I’ve gone about every day as best I can, with good intent, it may have backfired, it may not have ended up where it should, or where I intended it to end up, but, I can look myself in the mirror, and I know that I can sleep well, because I tried to do everything the best I could in the right way. And I think for me, you know, what Gandhi said about being the change you want to see, is really about standing for what you believe in and asking of other people something that you are aiming to do yourself.
Charlie Ellis 25:50
Yeah, and that sort of rings true to the memory you were talking about. The curve about, you can have all these options.
Louise Baker 25.56
Oh yeah, the ‘arc of rightness’
Charlie Ellis 25.58
Yeah. There’s no other measurement of parallels. You’ve got to choose what you believe in, right now, with the information you’ve got. Go with your heart and do it.
Louise Baker 26:07
Yeah, go for it. And, you’re gonna mess things up. Everyone’s going to make mistakes. Stuff doesn’t always work out great the first time. But, as long as you’re going to go and have a go and take responsibility for trying to put it right at least, if it does go wrong, and you’ve done your best. You can be proud, because that’s all we can expect. Right? That’s good.
Charlie Ellis 26.29
That’s a good day’s work.
Louise Baker 26.31
Yeah, I reckon.
Charlie Ellis 26:33
So, let’s go to, I’m going to ask my final question. It’s going to be a little bit philosophical. Okay. And based on, you know, from where you were as a child to where you are now, bringing that all into consideration, where does, where does your self-worth come from?
Louise Baker 26:54
Oooh. Do you know, I love that you’re asking that. And I think I have to say, my self-worth comes from my family, my mum and dad, and how they brought us up. I was very, very lucky. I was brought up with unconditional love. I also was made to work; I used to help out in the family business and used to help out around the house. I think that gives you a sense of the ability to actually make a difference and have an impact. And knowing that you are cared for is huge. And I learned through that, that it doesn’t matter what other people think. Their feedback, and their impression of me, is interesting. And I’ll take it on board, and I’ll pay attention. But ultimately, I decide. So, if I walk into a room and somebody thinks that I’m, you know, the best business woman they’ve ever known, or the worst business woman they’ve ever known, then I am still the same business woman that walked into that room and I get to decide.
Charlie Ellis 27:57
What a fantastic answer. That was great. Thank you very much for that Louise. That was a great interview. And thank you for being the star of The Mentor Evolution’s second podcast and I hope to see you again soon.
Louise Baker 28:10
Lovely, I’ve enjoyed my 30 minutes of fame and thanks, it’s been a pleasure, an absolute pleasure. All the best.
Charlie Ellis 28:16
Thanks Louise. All the best. Thank you.