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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
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