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2021’s Top Ten: #8

The Mentor & Tokyo

Mentors & Partners Group is an important player in the international business development market. Its comprehensive mentoring solutions have successfully developed multinationals, startups, and firms with specialised knowledge. Because of its results, MPG has been recognised by juries of international awards bodies throughout the year. What is less known, however, is that the mentoring solutions of this company are being used more and more often in the fields of sports and education; for example, in Tokyo, MPG supported both individual athletes and teams that achieved historic successes. We spoke with the company’s founder, Miklós Palencsár.

Those familiar with the international business world have heard a lot about the success of Mentors & Partners Group and the RISE Human Development System. How has this experience been for you?

Based on our 2020 results, we received our first award at the end of last year, and since then, we have brought more and more hardware home. On the one hand, the RISE Human Development System, which officially debuted in 2018, received recognition as the most effective HR tool (Editor’s Note: RISE, which defines decision-making mechanisms based on personality/behaviour analysis, won the “Most Effective HR Consultancy 2021” category at the Global Business Awards); on the other hand, our mentoring firm, which provides solutions based on a unique business development methodology, earned awards because of the especially high effectiveness of its solutions during the pandemic. (Editor’s Note: MPG received the “Most innovative Business Advisory Firm – 2021” award.) I grew up poor in a Hungarian city with a population of 10,000, so this flood of success is an unexpected honour. It is uplifting, and sometimes it is hard to believe; not necessarily the awards themselves but the results that earned them.

Which award is the most important to you?

It was a good feeling to be among the best based on the opinions of our clients in the “Most Inspiring Workplace Consultancy” category of the Inspiring Workplaces Awards, for which both colleagues and business partners recognised our company for being inspirational. This is one of the most important goals we have as professionals.

You did not mention the Business Coaching Leader of the Year award you received as part of the 2021 CEO Today Europe Awards, a prestigious award that recognised you in particular.

For me, this award is personally significant; I value it as a private individual, since it says something about me as a mentor. And I prefer not to discuss my personal successes publicly. However, I have to say, to be recognised among great CEOs of companies like Audi, Lamborghini, Thinksurrance, and I could go on, and then finally end up on the cover of this magazine is definitely a great honour for me.

To be on the cover of such a well-known and respected business magazine is a unique form of recognition for a Hungarian businessman. Would you say a few things about this award?

I was nominated for the award based on my mentoring work over the past year. Then, based on a results-based selection process, the judges collected opinions of the people working directly around me, who know my work and its direct and precise effects. My colleagues and partners made statements, wrote letters, and submitted their opinions about me, which was followed by the final evaluation of the professional jury. After the fact, I also had the chance to read these submissions. I am not an overly emotional type, but it was a fantastic feeling to read every single line, where successful businesspeople, colleagues, athletes, head coaches, and federation presidents revealed how I changed their lives or supported them in making their dreams come true. This process was an unforgettable feeling, even without the award itself.

Does everyone consider you such a consummate professional?

I am certain that this is not the case. I am a straightforward, honest person, and I consider the true development of people to be a priority. From those who are important to me, I want to, and I can bring out their maximum if they are also fair and honest. This approach is not sympathetic to everyone. It causes tension in the business world from time to time. However, I have my principles, and I stick to them.

We heard that Tokyo was an important step in your progress. How did you get involved in the Olympic Games, and how did all of this become important?

We have been present in sports circles for 16 years, not just in sports academies and universities, but we also develop teams and individual athletes and mentally prepare them for global competitions using the RISE system. The athletes we supported achieved serious results, including national championships, continental championships, world championships, highest-ever finishes, and historic successes. We take a comprehensive approach to preparation, which includes mental, strategic, and operative elements. Now we also have Olympic experience.

I tried to collect information about these projects; however, besides a few vague comments, I could not find anything specific. Why is this?

I mentor our partners with the help of my company and my team. This means that we provide support in the background to ensure that a given athlete or team will perform as well as possible at a given competition. However, the success is theirs only! I despise it when any type of “professional” tries to present results as their own. Of course, when something doesn’t go according to plan, these people tend to disappear. I am really proud when an athlete or team I mentor achieves a personal best or even manages to win a major competition. Naturally, I am also really happy, but I usually share my joy with them and with those close to me; that’s how these things should be. In my case, mentoring is built on trust, which includes the idea that everything remains behind closed doors. The athletes, coaches, and captains can trust me, and they know it.

But how did Tokyo go in the end?

In line with the above, I am not going to say specifics, but there were tears, triumphant roars, gold medals, other medals, and historic results. I am really proud of these two weeks, and think of them as a fantastic experience. This was also the first time that I know of when a complex mental system was applied effectively at the Olympics. RISE tests were used by athletes from many countries, with and without mentoring, which means we cheered for approximately 300 athletes connected to RISE.

Compared to traditional methods, how is RISE’s mental preparation methodology different?

From a professional point of view, it differs from other systems in that in addition to the especially important self-knowledge portion, during which the athlete or team undergoes personality-based development, we also profile opponents. By doing so, we put significant power into the hands of our athletes and teams, since they will know exactly how vulnerable the opponent is mentally, even if we are talking about an “unbeatable” world champion. Furthermore, our mentoring is also unique: its express goal is for competitors, coaches, captains, and all other staff members to arrive at the most important competitions without fake egos, but with true confidence that cannot be shattered. Additionally, in the case of teams, it is very important that team unity will be maintained or even improved across the full duration of the championship. To achieve this, one of the most successful methods used in the past two years was shaping the team into a “product”, allowing the athletes to prepare product concepts for themselves, about themselves, in which they defined their own advantages and disadvantages. After this, we set up a management team, in which the “Owner” is the coach, the “Managing Director” is the team captain, an “HR Director” is responsible for the human side of the team, and a “Business Development Director” is responsible for the professional knowledge of the team. The team elects someone for each position. This means that responsibility is shared among multiple people, and more can experience extra trust. At set intervals, they prepare reports for the “mentor” and the “owner”, thus achieving continuous control over the mental condition of the team.

How is the process different from a human point of view?

This is something we should ask from those participating in the mental preparation process. What is important to me is that it can only be performed if people put their heart into it so that a true human relationship is formed between the mentor and the mentees.

If you are not supposed to celebrate publicly, how do you receive recognition for these achievements?

Oh, we get plenty from the athletes and coaches. You don’t have to drop someone’s name in an interview for them to receive recognition. A text message quickly written five minutes after winning a gold medal, a letter, a phone call, or often a hidden message during an interview are worth more than anything else. There is a lot of work put into such preparations, but they also give a lot back to the mentor as well. The feeling of knowing that you are part of an athlete’s dream coming true is impossible to describe.

Would you mention at least one technique used during the mental workshop? You had opportunities to use these online in Tokyo, right?

What is perhaps the most vivid in my memory is singing “Flashdance… What a Feeling” before the last match with one of our teams. This was after we watched the scene where the dancer falls down at first, but then eventually succeeds. This was all on Zoom, and belting the song together with the entire team dancing and laughing is burned into my memory.

What was the most memorable moment from Tokyo?

It is difficult to choose just one. But one that sticks out the most is our early morning roars after a team won bronze at around 5 A.M. London time. We had just arrived back at our hotel after an awards ceremony, and I watched the match with those people who are the most important to me, and the team achieved a historic success. Maybe as a release of several months of tension, I shouted as loud as I could, which my neighbours in the fancy hotel probably did not appreciate.

Awards, wins, Olympic success. What is the next target? How can a mentor progress their career even further from here?

Although this is, in a way, the peak of my career, I feel more like a chapter has closed and now another even more intense and perhaps even more successful one is coming. In the business world, we have quite a few partners whose international success we will work towards. In education, we have launched the Diamond Dough Kid programme, which is aimed at personality development in children and is conducted both in Hungary and abroad. And of course, our sports projects are ongoing. We have already started preparing several club teams for championships and international cups, and we have signed contracts with several Olympic federations in connection with Paris 2024.

Is there a place where this profession can be learned? You have mentioned that more and more people are calling themselves mentors and how that is dangerous.

One has to grow to become a mentor, but of course, there are still basic qualifications needed. Unfortunately, many still believe that just because they worked as a manager at some point or learned something called “coaching”, they are qualified to act as a mentor. Even at our company, this “little mentor” approach emerges from time to time, as there exists a personality type that likes to feel clever and pretends they know what they are talking about. However, business development is a dangerous field, and such attitudes can have expensive consequences. Furthermore, I would like to contribute to the business development profession; this is one of the reasons why we are planning to launch the world’s first business/sports mentor training programme this fall. Here, the emphasis will decidedly be on quality over quantity, meaning that we will start out with a very small number of participants, and we will provide very in-depth training.

But doesn’t a mentor need their own mentor? You prepare a lot of people mentally, but how do you manage all this yourself from a mental point of view?

This is an interesting question, and I always say during every interview that two people in my life support me in every possible way. One of them is my partner, with whom I am about to celebrate our 15th anniversary. Without them, these results would not have been possible.

I would like to congratulate you once again on your past success and wish you a lot of energy for your future work!

Thank you for your time!