By Kathryn Stokes,
NAGC Board member and Strategic Affairs Officer/Public Relations Manager at the Mississippi Department of Employment Security
Anyone who knows me understands I have been around a few blocks in my career. I am neither a longtime communications professional, nor am I a lifetime public servant. Although I have held many titles in several different industries, I have always been a communicator and exhibit passion in what I do. Sharing my experiences and mentoring others is one of my great passions.
My current environment has given me the chance to identify and mentor individuals in an informal setting, but in a way that allows them to reach their maximum potential. I love that! Nothing is as rewarding as working with someone who has a goal but who needs a little guidance to reach it.
One recent success was an employee who has wanted to lead his department for several years. He had the knowledge but lacked the supervisory experience and the business acumen that made him the first choice for the position. But the head of his division went to bat for him and agreed to coach him on a more professional style of dress. I believed in him as well, and approached the division head about mentoring the employee on his management style; he readily agreed.
For the past three months, I’ve met with this young man weekly. I allow him to relate his challenges and successes for the week and we discuss how they were handled or how they need to be handled. Consistent regularly scheduled meetings are imperative to successful mentoring. Allow the mentee to vent; it gives them the opportunity to define their concerns and helps the mentor identify the mentee’s challenges, which may not always be obvious.
One of the greatest obstacles this employee faced was managing a department of people with whom he was a peer. This presents specific challenges because there are always advocates and detractors within your group, and sometimes, the people who fall into each category can be a surprise. As a mentor, I wanted him to understand that his co-workers’ perceptions might change due to his new status. It would not be personal, just a part of human nature. Preparing a mentee for the unexpected helps him stay focused on what is important.
This employee’s knowledge of his field was the advantage he brought to the role. He also brought very specific ideas for changes he wanted to make within the group. My goal was to help him see the value in the opinions of his team. Helping a mentee understand the value of the whole team allows him succeed as an individual, and provides the mechanism for him to mentor his own team.
Success for this young man came to fruition last week when it was announced that the chief position was his! I like to feel I had some measure in his success, but the fact is he had the ability all the time it simply needed to be channeled. The greatest compliment I received is that he wants to continue our weekly sessions because he finds them helpful for his overall development. I continue to look forward to the opportunity to feed the passion I have for sharing my experiences and helping others reach their potential. I recommend that anyone who has been around a few blocks and picked up some lessons along the way help others exceed their goals. Become a mentor. The rewards are worth the time and effort!
NAGC's Mentor Value Program (MVP) is a good start for any prospective mentor or mentee.