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Mentorship: Impacting the Next Generation of Leaders

March 18 2019 - by Alicia Wellington, Management Consultant and an Alumna of CLP's Leadership Development Programme

Two years ago, I applied to participate in the Caribbean Leadership Project’s Leadership Development Programme for mid-level managers.  One particular question on the application form stumped me.  I was asked to ‘describe the leadership qualities of a person whom you have met that has impacted you the most’.   As I reflected on the various leaders I had served under, I experienced great difficulty in identifying a suitable individual.  Immediately, I realized that neither had I been exposed to what I perceived to be great leadership thus far, nor did I have tangible examples in my circles to aid in developing my leadership potential.

Thus far, my leadership ability had been mainly influenced by lessons garnered from the writings of persons I have never met.  From John Maxwell, I learnt how to be intentional about my growth.  Hanz Finzel taught me the significance of humility in leadership.  Tony Cooke awakened my awareness of promoting the success of other leaders. From the biblical patriarch Joseph, I learnt about vision, forgiveness, endurance, work ethic, integrity, and the importance of strategic networks. However, as useful as these approaches were, I have often wondered at times whether I could have been a more effective leader if I had the benefit of guidance from a personal mentor.

How can mentoring help mid-level managers to rise to become the next generation of leaders in the Public Service?

Feeney Bozeman defines mentoring as a “process for the informal transmission of knowledge, social capital and the psychosocial support perceived by the recipient as relevant to work, career or professional development.” It occurs “between a person who is perceived to have greater relevant knowledge, wisdom or experience (the mentor) and a person who is perceived to have less (mentee).”   The process of transmission from mentor to mentee can aid in leadership development through the use of three (3) mechanisms, inter alia:

1. Learning at the Feet of Others

  • Experience: An old Chinese Proverb says that “if you want to know the road ahead, ask those coming back.” Good mentors possess a wealth of experience, and thus, they can provide guidance and sage advice on navigating the road ahead.  
  •  Wisdom: By virtue of their knowledge, understanding and experience, mentors can provide insight into problems that mentees may have difficulty solving on their own. 
  • Knowledge: Mentors transfer knowledge and experience to facilitate the development of the mentee’s skills and abilities.

2. Friendship and Support

Good mentors are genuinely interested in the growth, development and well-being of their mentees. They provide ongoing support and encouragement to help mentees realize their fullest potential.  Brian Rashid posits that they play the following roles:

  • The Challenger - ask the why questions to force one out of one’s comfort zone
  • The Cheerleader - boost confidence and self esteem
  • The Coach - the veteran dispensing wisdom and knowledge needed to navigate trying circumstances

3. Passing the Baton

Author John Maxwell in his book the 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership states that “A leader’s lasting value is measured by succession.”  Further, he lamented that very few leaders think of legacy or for that matter investing themselves in the next generation.  My observation of the Public Service environment supports Maxwell’s view, more so with the emergence of a new and younger generation of leaders consequent upon the retirement of the ‘baby boomers’. However, I believe that leaders are obligated to help train and develop the future generation of leaders, and to pass on relevant information, experience and expertise that will enable their success. In so doing they can create a legacy of effective leadership in the Public Service. 

How do you think mentorship can help mid-level managers to rise to become the next generation of leaders in the Public Service?

Who is your mentor and who are you mentoring today?

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Audrey Gittens - Reply

What is it with some persons in leadership positions that they are reluctant to mentor in order to improve efficiency and effectiveness in an organization and in preparation to pass the baton? In my own experience, I knew that I had to intention to remain in the public service until I attained the age of compulsory retirement. I began the process of mentoring one year in advance of my departure from the post of Chief Nursing Officer.  It was a very rewarding experience. Others should try it too. 

Alicia Wellington

Audrey,

Thank you for your contribution.  Congratulations on being proactive in developing leaders in your organisation.

 

Kind regards

Alicia Wellington

Sharon Alexander - Reply

Dear Writer,

 

Thank you for sharing such a timely article onthe topic of  Mentorship: Impacting the Next generation. As a professional Public Servant this as always been my concern. I have spent twenty-three years in the Public Service with just under five years remaining before retirement and I asked myself, who is or has been my mentor? There is none.  On the contrary, I have been mentoring young people as they leave school and prepare to enter the world of work, higher institution of learning as well as young university gradautes in the Public Service. That's the legacy I want to leave. 

Like the writer, I have done extensive reading on leadership and often thought ".if could have been a more effective leader if I had the benfits of guidance from a personal mentor.

There  is a culture in the Public Service where the process of sucession planning has become dormant. Additionally, it is said that Information is power. Hence the process of information sharing has become a tidous task; seniors hide and withhold relevant information that should be shared. It is a fact and this culture has caused the younger generation to operate in a silo. Therefore, the process of mentorship in the Public Service becomes difficult given the mere defintion of the word 'mentorship'.

This is a very good topic for a public debate.

 

 

  

Alicia Wellington

Sharon,

 

Thank you for contributing to this discourse.

 All is not lost.  Since my discovery, I have put into practice a principle I learnt about being intentional about my growth from John Maxwell.  Whenever I meet a leader that I admire, I actively seek out the individual and make a request for an hour or so of his/her time to learn at his/her feet.   Additionally, I have joined the Trinidad and Tobago Chapter of the CLDN where potential mentors abound.   Perhaps you may want to consider these strategies or any other that may be posed in this forum to widen your circle of strategic connections.

 

Best wishes on your journey.

Alicia Wellington

Sharon Alexander - Reply

 Ms. Wellington,

 

Thank you for your suggestion.  It is something I have considered, being apart of other network/organsations.  I will definetly be seeking out options for my personal leadership growth. Thank you once again.

 

 

Bridget De Peza - Reply

I have been a career Public Servant for 39 years and can openly say that mentorship is not encouraged or fostered within the service. However it is my pleasure to be able to name those who mentored me along the way.

Mavis St. George ensured that the persons under her charge knew that she was there to help, educate and explain the workings of the public service machinery. As young public servants we were encouraged to strive for more than just promotions that came with seniority. Alas she retired within 2 years of me joining that division.

Eunice Walton mentored not only with words but by example. She provided knowledge and was a sounding board for observations and plausible solutions.  She  asked hard questions and insisted you think before responding. She was a buffer between you and those who sought to show their status through intimidation. Her life and quest to rise was admirable.

Germaine Duggins' door was always open and even though I was attached to the department next door I was always given a hearing. Her teachings of how to gain and apply information in the public service is still an asset to me.

Betty Ashby embraced her entire section. She established a relationship with each one of us. When you arrived she was there ensuring you understood what was expected of you yet not hovering. Mistakes made were pointed in the atmosphere of "let's fix it together and learn as we go along". If she could not give you an answer right away, she said so but would later discover the info and pass it along.

The last three women are still making an investment in my life up to today. They are there encouraging, answering questions and generally being available. I thank God for placing them I  my working career.

Having a person mentor makes a difference because I have found myself mentoring some of those who have worked under my supervision and alongside me. I make myself available to listen, discuss and encourage them in the rise up the ladder.

There may not be many but I  can truly say that there are some mentors in the Public Services. I trust that others may be as fortunate as me to find them and be found by them

Your expressions on this topic identifies you as a mentor and I pray God that as you find those who are hungry for mentorship the relationship will be beneficial to all.

Denise Dumas-Koylass - Reply

The test of a good leader is the capacity of the team to continue to perform effectively after he or she leaves the organization.  I have found that mentoring others is a satisfying process as you see persons grow and develop both professionally and personally in terms of their competencies and confidence. I believe that we need to develop and implement competency based systems designed to require supervisors and managers to contribute to the development of their Direct Reports. Persons should be promoted to senior positions in organizations after demonstrating their commitment to building the competence of others in their teams. Mentoring needs to be valued as a key leadership competency.

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