Tag Archives: Mentorship

When the Student Becomes the Teacher

Isn’t it interesting that we seem to think that wisdom and age are inextricably tied together? Don’t you feel better when you’re sitting at a doctor’s office and the doctor actually looks old enough to have earned all of the certifications on the wall behind him or her?  I know I do.  Having said that, every once in a while we are reminded that wisdom and youth are not mutually exclusive.

Tecumseh Elementary School, Vancouver, BC

Take Safiya Hopfe, a grade 6 student from Tecumseh Elementary in Vancouver, BC.  Her thoughts on the leadership development opportunities that can be found in the school system saw her published in the Vancouver Sun.  Her article makes a great point – schools provide opportunity.  Safiya’s reasoning is sound – without the opportunities provided by schools, we can’t grow the leaders of the tomorrow.

Safiya goes further than just saying that schools develop leaders, she tells us how they do that:

  • Community Involvement Through participation in extracurricular activities, students learn to be involved in organizations larger than themselves.
  • Communications Skills. Education not only teaches problem solving, it teaches the critical interpersonal communications skills that are the very core of leadership
  • Teamwork Skills. Participation in team sports or other activities provides that basic building block that every one of us need in order to be productive – the ability to work with others towards a common goal.
  • Mentorship. Not only do our schools provide mentoring to students, these opportunities develop the cultural basis for mentorship.  Exactly where would we be without that?

Safiya, I would say that you are exactly right.  I would also say that I don’t think we’ve heard the last word from you…  Keep up the good work!

To the rest of us – listen to Safiya’s message – we need her and people like her to be capable of leading when their time comes.  Dare I say it might be time to attend the next school board meeting before the next round of budget cuts?

7 Great Leadership Blogs

Now that I’ve managed to post into the double-digits, I’ve discovered that there are some blogs that I keep returning to as I wander my way around the inter-web.  These bloggers are professional leaders, mentors, coaches, and business people.  They work together to discuss leadership and communication issues and respond nicely to new bloggers like myself.  Each approaches the complex ideals of modern leadership in their own way.

Here are some of my favorites (they’re in no particular order, in fact they’re all equally excellent):

  • Wally Bock’s Three Star Leadership Blog.  Wally takes on various issues, indexes his blogs for ease of searching, and responds promptly to questions and comments.  Everyone who takes the time to comment gains additional value from his immediate and welcoming response.  Wally also uses his influence to point to other blogs with a “top five post” every week.
  • Mike Myatt’s N2 Growth Blog.  In his role as a strategic leader, Mike provides tremendous value in his posts.  In fact, his recently posted leadership test provides a great deal of food for thought.
  • Make Work Meaningful.  This collaborative site features many blog authors and serves as a one-stop shopping locale for all things leadership.  Broad topics include coaching, leadership, and organizational culture.  Not only does this group of people provide great value, they welcome the input of others.
  • Gwyn Teatro’s You’re Not the Boss of Me.  I stumbled onto Gwyn’s fantastic blog quite by accident and immediately began following her posts.  As a well-established HR professional, Gwyn has some great thoughts on leadership that I think you’ll find rewarding.  Plus her blog has a great title!
  • Commander, Submarine Group Ten.  Why the heck does this one make my list of favourites?  Well, there’s the fact that it’s a Navy blog.  How cool is that?  The real reason?  Rear-Admiral Bruner is in the process of dealing with some large organizational changes that focus on emotive issues – women in submarines chief among them.  He has a tremendous leadership challenge and is using social media to reach out and engage with his sailors.  His strong leadership shines through on his blog and is worth watching as the USN makes changes.
  • Michael Hyatt’s Leadership Blog.  Michael is the CEO of a large publishing house and provides great value through his blog.  I am not alone in my thoughts on his posts – he routinely makes it through my postrank.com filter unscathed!
  • John Baldoni’s Lead by Example Blog.   I found John’s blog through an article that he wrote for the Harvard Business Review on leadership presence.  I’ve been trying for 2o years to explain the concept of command presence to people and John’s article provided some great guidance.  Definitely worth a look.

Go ahead and let me know if you follow a leadership blog that you think I would enjoy.  I have also changed my wordpress layout and welcome comments/suggestions on the new format.  Thanks!

Coaching = Mentorship

Successful leaders grow their own replacements by coaching them along the way.  Think of it as your own organic garden; you plant the seeds, water when required and take a great deal of care to make sure all your plants grow up straight and healthy.  Your organization, be it big or small, deserves the same care and attention.


As I mentioned in an earlier post, the Navy recognizes mentorship as a critical component to effective force development.  A healthy attitude, considering internal promotions are the norm for military forces due to their specialized nature and organizational cultures.

Future Navigators working together to learn.

The business world calls it coaching.  Candice Francovelgia does a great job of outlining some of the basic principles that should help us train tomorrow’s leaders.   The emphasis is on creating self-starters that have the independent thought and emotional intelligence to succeed.  This means that we don’t lecture; we ask thought provoking questions.  We don’t hand deliver solutions, but patiently guide people in the right direction.  We don’t solve their problems, we listen to their solutions and help them find the way.  After all, we want to provide opportunities to develop and flex muscles, not a crutch with which to limp along to mediocrity.

Interesting fact: 63 per cent of companies indicate that they engage in mentoring while remainder say they plan to.  Ask yourself the simple question – are you growing your leaders or are you with the 37 per cent non-starter crowd?  Either way, food for thought.

Mentorship: Key to Organizational Success

While a lot of companies can draw on outside expertise to fill positions, the navy can’t really do that.  We’ve had to, for obvious reasons, create a system that promotes from within.  Our system has to grow its future leadership.  This means that we’re always in the business of training our successors.  Or if not, we should be.

A year or two ago, I had the great fortune to work for a boss who really believed in mentorship as a key process in developing future leaders in the organization.  At the time I was a department head in a warship; my next job at sea (if I am privileged enough to be selected) will be as the second-in-command, known as the Executive Officer.  Recognizing this, my boss spent considerable time in preparing me to do his job.  How?  By exposing me to all aspects of his role, seeking my input on problems he was facing (in most cases he had already put resolution into motion, but wanted to make me analyze the issue) and offering me numerous opportunities to actually do his job.  The benefit?  I will avoid arriving at the actual job like Kramer entering Seinfeld’s apartment; instead, I’ll actually be prepared.  Imagine that.

Organizationally, we’ve rounded the corner on mentorship.   Example?  Naval officers aspiring to command in the Canadian navy need to gain a professional certification known as the Command Qualification.  This involves a series of exams and culminates in a professional board examination by serving commanding officers.  In the “bad old days” preparing for this process was an individual responsibility – it was approached with viewpoint of “I struggled with this, so should you.”  Recent years have seen a great change to this process, with commanding officers working to mentor future leaders.  Specific events are organized to bring experience together with learners.  Retired commanding officers have been brought in to teach those aspiring to reach command.  And the benefits are clear – success rates have increased and, in my opinion, the calibre of our leaders has improved.

Look around your organization – are you growing your own successor?  If the answer is no, why not?

Mentorship stories welcome!