Leadership Agility

Mentoring Story
Harry and his mentee started their mentoring relationship just as she was on the precipice of implementing massive transformational change in the organisation. She requested mentoring support for change management and strategies for working effectively with the Board.

In late 2019, a month after their first meeting, Harry’s mentee presented her new 3-year strategic plan to the Board, where it was broadly supported. They were to regroup in the new year to begin implementation. Of course, the new year came with the unprecedented double-crises of bushfires and COVID and she had to move into crisis management. At the same time, she was in the middle of changing half of her leadership team to better suit the new strategic plan. As the old team was exiting, she found herself working with a new team remotely, which was uncharted territory for her as a leader.

Harry recognised the need to remain agile in their mentoring relationship as his mentee was thinking about her own agility as a leader. In order to maximise the value he could provide, Harry pivoted their meeting cycle to fit her changing needs, going from meeting every six weeks to every three weeks and eventually every week in shorter meetings in order to better support her during that time.

Together they discussed whether or not she should put her new strategic plan on the back burner, or how she might be able to revise the strategy to weave in crisis management. They also discussed how best to approach leadership and create an executive team environment remotely.

As a response to the compounded crises, Harry’s mentee revised the organisation’s strategic plan to account for the changed environment, and it is now six months into implementation. Amongst many other initiatives, she elevated the mental health support side of their delivery, particularly in regard to rural and regional Australians in the face of the bushfires and COVID-19 pandemic. Harry views his mentee’s navigation of the crisis as being overwhelmingly successful. He’s very impressed by her ability to manage this environment so well.

On a personal note, Harry entered the mentoring relationship with minimal knowledge and experience of the mental health sector in particular. Partially through his own research and partially through his Kilfinan mentoring experience, he now has a deep understanding of the sector at large and a heightened awareness of the importance of mental health in his community. He says he would be open to pursuing more charitable work in the sector in the future based on this experience and recognises that he likely wouldn’t have had that view a year ago.

Other Comments
Harry has a generous and humble mentoring style, prioritising his mentee’s needs as a person and a leader. Although her objectives were quite business oriented, he also wanted to provide mentoring that was more all-rounded and strongly incorporated a personal element. All of their conversations are centred around his mentee as a person, first and foremost, and then that flows through to the business and issues at hand.

Why do we like this story?
• By using Harry as a sounding board and advisor, the mentee was able to successfully balance short term crisis management with long term thinking, to the overall betterment of the organisation.

• Both mentor and mentee responded to the situation with resourcefulness and agility, a key skill for for-purpose organisations.

• Harry went into the relationship without any specific expertise or interest in the mental health sector, but his support and different perspective were still of great value to his mentee.

• Harry spent time learning about the mental health sector through this relationship and his own research and is now interested in pursuing more charitable work in the sector. He demonstrates an increased awareness of and sensitivity to the challenges the sector has to address.

• Discussions with his mentee revealed that she is deeply impressed with how much Harry has tailored his advice and counsel to her specific needs, leadership style, and context.

• By ensuring that his mentee’s needs are central to their relationship, Harry demonstrates the spirit of generosity and humility that he brings as a mentor.

What does this story tell us?
• When selecting Kilfinan mentors, it is vital that EQ be prioritised as a key trait. This ensures that the mentor’s mode of interaction isn’t going to dominate the relationship. In this story, Harry recognised the pressure and stress of his mentee’s job and put together a relationship style that would add value instead of getting in the way.
Names and other identifying details have been changed to protect mentor and mentee confidentiality.