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Executive mentoring – the value of an independent ear

Executive Mentoring Session

Through­out my twen­ty-five years of Exec­u­tive Lead­er­ship in the not for prof­it sec­tor I employed an exter­nal men­tor.

A mentor JD

A men­tor’s role is some­where in-between a busi­ness coach, a prac­tice super­vi­sor and a pas­toral work­er: The busi­ness coach for strat­e­gy and organ­i­sa­tion­al devel­op­ment, fund­ing and finance. The clin­i­cal super­vi­sor to ensure I stay on top of the exec­u­tive game and emer­gent trends, advis­ing on eth­i­cal deci­sions and staff rela­tion­ships. And the pas­toral, for those times of alone­ness, bewil­der­ment – the I’m ready to quit days.

I roll all three of them up togeth­er into one catch phrase ‘Exec­u­tive Men­tor.’

What mentoring isn’t

I’ve nev­er con­sid­ered that recog­nis­ing the need for inde­pen­dent men­tor­ing was in any sense an admis­sion of per­son­al lack or insuf­fi­cien­cy. Rather I think of it as a place of shared strength. It is a place that I can voice what is on my mind with­out any judge­ment, seek out a rem­e­dy togeth­er when fac­ing a chal­lenge or conun­drum and impor­tant­ly a pre­ven­ta­tive of the that exec­u­tive demol­ish­er iso­la­tion.

I find it inter­est­ing that high­ly demand­ing posi­tions often with­in the health, legal, social work and ther­a­peu­tic pro­fes­sions have super­vi­sion as a require­ment. Many of us in the com­mu­ni­ty sec­tor are like­wise involved in those sec­tors and the demands that we all no come with them. Add to that your role as chief exec­u­tive, direc­tor of agency man­ag­er there is a lot to per­son­al­ly hold.

Independence is everything

I’d like to make one crys­tal clear. Your men­tor should nev­er be your chair, board mem­ber, trust­ed col­league, or your part­ner. Inde­pen­dence from your organ­i­sa­tion is essen­tial to feel real­ly safe and to dig deeply into the man­age­ment, eth­i­cal and per­son­al spheres.

Exec­u­tive Men­tor­ing is not expect­ed to replace team deci­sion mak­ing, the advice of key staff or board feed­back. Exec­u­tive men­tor­ing pro­vides the space to ‘defrag’, re-think and build con­fi­dence and fine tune your art of lead­er­ship.

Ploughshare pro­vides exec­u­tive men­tor­ing as part of its core ser­vices and pro­grammes

Steve Tollestrup

Director at Ploughshare
Ploughshare's Director has worked in community development, local government and corporate management for over thirty years both in New Zealand and throughout the developing world. He brings a wealth of expertise in fundraising, governance, strategic planning, change management, leadership development and coaching, advocacy and public communication.
Steve Tollestrup

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