Interview with….. Jackie Jenks OBE

Interview with….. Jackie Jenks OBE

Written by Tracey Duke, Photography by Pip Andersen

A pioneer in the field of mentoring, Jackie has led and advised on numerous enterprise support and mentoring programmes for high profile names, charities, and organisations across the UK. Pearsons, The Lloyds Banking Group, Lloyds Foundations, The School for Social Entrepreneurs, the UK and Belgium Governments and the charity, School of Hard Knocks, are just a few she works with.

We made the drive to Jackie’s home, near Watergate Bay, in Cornwall, to meet with one of the UK’s most sought-after mentors. 

Jackie thank you so much for meeting with me here at Watergate Bay! It’s always been one of my favorite locations, especially here at the Beach Hut; it’s a place very close to my heart!  As always, we’ll jump straight into the conversation to talk about your role as mentor. Let’s start with a bit of background about you.  

Lovely to meet you too! I’ve had an interesting background in a variety of careers; banking, training, and teaching. Throughout them all, I’ve been very much grounded by the fact that I was brought up in a family business, which I stayed within for many years. That experience has been important to all parts of my journey because, from a practical point of view, it’s important to understand what smaller businesses really go through.

So, Jackie, you’re one of the most respected mentors, in the UK and I know you work with some very high profile clients. Tell me a little about that. What excites you about your role? What gets you up in the morning?

What excites me about mentoring is the fact that it makes such an amazing, very practical and powerful difference to lives. The idea behind mentoring is that it’s based on the mentee’s agenda; you’re really just holding that space for somebody to come to their own solutions. When you see somebody suddenly get something, that makes a real difference to them, and then they translate it into practical aspects, whether it’s for work, for home, or personal growth overall, that means the world; it’s pure magic! And of course a lot of my work, whilst I do have some private clients, is helping organisations set up mentoring programmes; meaning you’re helping more people to help more people and that’s really rewarding. 

Anybody who puts their time and energy into mentoring gets so much reward from it; you feel very privileged to be a part of their journey and that’s special. 

I know you mentioned that you work with the School of Hard Knocks; an incredible charity that’s making a huge impact on young lives.  

Yes; it’s something that’s very close to my heart. I mentor, on a voluntary basis, for them and I’ve been an ambassador for many years. I  helped them to set up their mentoring programme. Using sport as the vehicle, they help  people of all ages, including school age children, who’ve lost their way in life and help them get back on track. The charity started off very small, but their growth and impact has been phenomenal. 

I’m also incredibly passionate about empowering young people. I’m an ambassador for a similar, Exeter based charity; BEEP and I’ve also mentored for the Premiership Rugby HitZ programme. I believe that it’s so, so important to give back and to support those who may have lost hope; for whatever reason. I think that a lot of getting back on track stems around putting positive habits in place. 

I totally agree with you; positive habits around discipline and focus make a real difference. Critically it’s also about understanding how your thoughts work and uncovering any unhelpful thinking habits; negative thinking is an enormous drain on energy. Harnessing the positive, energy within us, is an absolute game changer.

And this applies to everyone; from all walks of life. Unless you take the time and put in the effort to keep your mindset strong, you can’t move anything forward and you certainly can’t help anybody else. You’ve got to put on your own oxygen mask first before you can help anybody else. The more you practice thinking positively, the more you’ll recognise when you’re falling into a difficult place and you can catch yourself before it’s too late. 

Falling into negative stress zones will, over time, deplete your thinking and creative abilities; that cycle of stress, relax, stress, really doesn’t do your brain any favours at all. Practicing yoga, meditating, walking or just being out in the fresh air will all help to keep that balance. Your breathing also affects your mood, so even if you can just learn a very simple breathing technique, it will stand you in great stead for everything. 

I’ve actually just recently had a challenge myself. My regulator failed when I was 40 feet under, scuba diving! Fortunately, I’d practiced my breathing techniques enough, that I was able to stay calm as the water was flooding in through my regulator meaning that I was able to get to my buddy safely and get my replacement air resolved.

The more you practice breathing techniques, the easier it comes to you when you really need it. Clearly I hope that no-one has a challenging scuba incident, but if you do find yourself in a pressured scenario, of any kind, it will help.

That original challenge of learning diving several years ago also became a reference point for me because I know now that if I can take my mask off on the seabed, I can do anything! It’s very much a mind-body discipline and concentration. Once you’ve pushed against that barrier of fear, it becomes easier to do again.

Absolutely and it’s knowing how to approach a challenge and working out why it’s a challenge so that you take back control and empower yourself. 

Exactly. It’s about calmly identifying why something has bothered you. If someone has made a comment that has annoyed or upset you, acknowledge it and understand why it’s made you feel that way. It could be that a prior experience has made you make more of an incident than is really appropriate. It’s about taking a detached rational approach to it, understanding and identifying what you’re feeling and why you’re feeling it. And then exploring how realistic that thought really is. 

In the same light, many of us find ourselves with blocks to moving forward. If you do find yourself with a block that you’re struggling to get past, what are the processes that you need to put in place to overcome it? 

The key, I feel, is to not delve too far behind but to look forward, recognise and celebrate what you’ve achieved and draw on your positive reference points. We can spend a long time looking back, but it’s about what we can do right now, today, to go forward.

And it’s also about creating a state of positive energy; enjoying your journey and growth. What we want is for people to keep growing because the second you stop wanting to grow you’re lost.  So it’s about growing and enjoying those milestones which will give you the reference points you need to move forward. 

So what advice would you give to people who are ready to take that next step and make 2018 their year? We all have our dreams and hopes and deep down many of us know we’re capable, but we do have fear barriers. 

I think you have to approach everything with an open mindset. Look for the positives always. And that means opening your mind to feedback too. By seeking feedback, whether that be through mentoring or other support channels, it means that you’re growing and you’re developing. If you’re closed to feedback, you’re not going to be able to have the success you want.

I also think that collaboration between your support network and your wider, professional network is the key to most success. As is an openness to meet new people from very different backgrounds and with different experiences & attitudes to yourself; see it not as a challenge but as an opportunity. 

It’s also about having a learning mindset. When things go wrong, and they will go wrong, what have you learned from it so that you can move forward positively? There’s always something positive in every situation, which will help you to get to where you want to be. 

Jackie thank you so much for your time today and congratulations on your recent OBE.  You’re making an incredible difference to so very many lives and I and the team at Grow Exeter, wish you every continued success.

You can connect with and follow Jackie on Twitter @Leapfrog_M

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