Critical Governance Issues

Mentoring Story
Sue and her mentee began working together right at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Sue, a longstanding Kilfinan Australia mentor, says that it’s often the case that mentees come to the mentoring relationship with goals and challenges they’d like to work on that are not always representative of their actual needs. Part of the skill of being a mentor is the capability to ‘read between the lines’ to draw out how you can best support them.

Such was the case with her mentee, who is a young, first-time CEO. He requested support with succession planning and developing a fee for service element for his organisation. It was immediately clear to Sue, however, that his primary focus needed to be on addressing critical issues with board relationships, governance and protocol, as well as developing a solid organisational infrastructure to enable the growth and eventual transition to new leadership.

Due to the immense forthcoming pressure he anticipated for the mental health sector through the COVID-19 crisis, and in consultation with Sue, her mentee realised he urgently needed to put this foundation in place. Sue met her mentee every week for the first few months during which she advised him on how to develop a board charter and other foundational governance documents, which were all instrumental in establishing appropriate boundaries with the board. As a result, Sue’s mentee was able to restructure the board and bring in two independent, professional directors who have had a positive impact on governance and on the CEO’s relationship with the Chair.

Sue also called on the pro-bono support of a friend and former colleague to provide business advice and templates to help create the organisational infrastructure needed for her mentee to better lead and manage his team. They worked on setting objectives and KPIs for his staff and policies for the organisation.

Sue has challenged her mentee to think about his competencies and his skill gaps so that he can continue to grow and develop as a leader. Going forward, she says, they are in a much better position to think about her mentee’s original mentoring goals. Sue is deeply impressed with her mentee’s growth in the past six months. She says that seeing someone ‘so transformed’ is incredibly rewarding and thinks what he’s achieved in a relatively short amount of time is quite phenomenal.

Other Comments
Sue has direct experience with mental health in her community and showed a deep sensitivity to the issues her mentee was facing. Part of the work they did together was to help him slow down and focus enough to address the issues at hand. She has a very deep appreciation of the value of his work and how his behaviour may diminish the impact his organisation could have with its clients.

Why do we like this story?
• This story demonstrates improved understanding and confidence of the mentee to work with the board.

• Through working with his mentor, the mentee has been able to create a structure for good governance that will underpin the board’s ongoing operations and support the growth of the organisation.

• The mentoring relationship has helped de-risk the organisation.

• Sue provided perspective and helped bring order to a frenetic situation. She unpicked the issues and helped her mentee prioritise so that he could really assume the leadership mantle.

• Sue called on her networks to provide targeted input and support, so her mentee didn’t have to reinvent the wheel.

• Sue showed a sensitivity to the specific challenges of the mental health sector and had a very deep appreciation that her mentee needed frequent input and guidance at this pivotal stage in his leadership development.

• Sue’s work with her mentee has helped him build a foundation that he can draw on as his career develops.

What does this story tell us?
• Sue and her mentee were able to shape their mentorship to fit their needs. Meeting weekly is outside Kilfinan’s general recommendations. This demonstrates that Kilfinan’s hands-off, not overly bureaucratic approach to mentoring relationships can better support mentees in a variety of situations.

• The mentee is reported as being “so transformed,” which Sue finds incredibly rewarding. This indicates the work of mentoring can create a cycle of positive feedback and speaks to her optimism around his ongoing potential growth.

• This story shows Kilfinan’s ability to match mentors who have a deep interest in a specific sector. This contributed to the mentor bringing real commitment to her relationship with the mentee. Kilfinan has properly inducted the mentee to be accountable for the relationship and, as appropriate, take on board the counsel of his mentor regardless of his initial goals.
Names and other identifying details have been changed to protect mentor and mentee confidentiality.