November 2007 Issue


Conference Helps Re-ignite Mentors


APEGGA Coun. Jim Beckett, P.Eng., emphasizes ‘the gift of self’ during APEGGA’s second annual National Mentoring Conference

BY Nancy Toth, MA CHRP
Manager, Professional Development & Manager, Human Resources

APEGGA’s second annual National Mentoring Conference, held in Calgary at the Radisson Hotel, attracted 137 delegates from various professions, including law, health care, accounting and pharmacy.

The Alberta Veterinary Medical Association also expressed interest. While unable to attend on short notice, members will contact us for information on starting their own program. As was the case last year, we attracted conference delegates from beyond the province as well as within.

Like last year, our purpose was

  • to share best practices

  • to inspire and recharge existing mentors

  • to inform and attract new mentors to the program

  • to celebrate the activity of mentoring by recognizing the active mentors within the APEGGA program.

The focus for this year was less on program developers and coordinators than it was on mentors themselves. We wanted to give delegates a little inspiration, so they could stay energized in the important work they do. The format was somewhat different, too, catering more to the busy work lives of delegates.

The front page story in this month’s PEGG covers much of what went on at the conference. I’m going to fill in some of the gaps in this space, however.

APEGGA Councillor Speaks
Thursday evening, the conference opened with a banquet featuring a presentation by Jim Beckett, P.Eng., ATCO’s vice-president, regulatory, and an APEGGA Council member.

Jim spoke about the importance of mentoring, referring to actor Denzel Washington’s powerful book on the subject. He quoted Denzel, “The real story, the universal story, is that we stand upon another set of shoulders.” Jim acknowledged all those in the room who had chosen to be that “other set of shoulders” for less-experienced members.

Jim also quoted Hank Aaron, who acknowledged that his parents, other relatives, friends and neighbours “set it up so I could succeed.” This indeed can be said to be the gift of the mentor who “sets it up” so the protégé can succeed.

Jim grounded his presentation on the importance of mentoring in the global economy and today’s labour-force realities. As we know, in recent decades people have had to increasingly leave the support groups in their communities for education and good professional jobs. Heightening this need for new support groups, members-in-training find that their professional mentors know much more about their profession and workplace than their informal support groups.

Highly accelerated growth in information and overall complexity within technological fields can make a first professional job even more daunting. Mentors can be the key to building confidence in young professionals entering large organizations and trying for the first time to meet the demands of the business world.

Increasingly, relatively new grads with little or no experience are entering the workforce just at a time when there is less and less time for orientation and training. Corporate expectations can be high — this is where a mentor can make a big difference.

In today’s workplace, young professionals with well-developed technical skills can succeed only if they have well-developed soft skills as well. Internationally educated graduates find a similar need for mentoring in the soft skills, so they can transition to the Canadian ways of doing business — many soft skills have a cultural basis.

Mentors who assist in bringing both groups of employees up to speed quickly can have a big impact on the bottom line. Jim Beckett referred to the value of professionals giving back to the professions, noting as well that most mentors feel they gain more than their protégés do. He emphasized the value of the mentoring relationship as a “gift of self,” and encouraged mentors to share their wisdom.

A Great Big Toolbox
While Friday morning was dedicated to inspirational presentations from experienced mentors and time was allotted for group discussion on the value of mentors, the afternoon was governed by Rachelle Lee, a consultant with Einblau & Associates. Rachelle gave delegates a meat-and-potatoes presentation, with specific tips and techniques for improving their mentoring and recharging their mentoring energy supplies.

Rachelle characterized mentoring as usually having five activities: teaching, counselling, guiding, intervening and sponsoring. Her presentation began with the basics — the importance of self-awareness, motivation to help, and valuing trust in the mentoring relationship.

Reviewing the roles of both mentors and protégés, she then gave delegates a valuable overview of the generations currently in the workplace and the values and behaviours typical for each group. She reviewed characteristics of adult learners and of technical professionals, for protégés can be sensitive to being treated as untrained youngsters. Hands-on exercises for some of the theory punctuated the presentation.

The audience heard about the mentoring needs of foreign-trained professionals and the best ways to meet these needs. Rachelle provided useful guidance for communication within the mentoring relationship, including the finer points of the arts of active listening and of questioning.

Her approach to motivation was thorough and provided material for future thought. Her presentation concluded with the powerful delineation of types of mentors.

She noted that the mediocre mentor tells, the good mentor explains and the superior mentor demonstrates.

What about the great mentor? Well, the great mentor inspires!