Rebecca Hapes, Texas A&M University
Locksley Knibbs, Florida Gulf Coast University
Kram (1983) describes the phases of the mentoring relationship as initiation, cultivation, separation, and redefinition. Initiation is described when the mentor is admired and respected for their competency and/or capacity to provide support and guidance. In the cultivation phase, the expectations established in the initiation phase are continually tested within the relationship against reality. After a period of time, the status quo of the pairing relationship changes and it moves into the separation stage, moving eventually into the redefinition stage, where the relationship is one of ongoing friendship and less of mentoring.
In this article, we will examine the lived experiences of an Emerging Leader and his Mentor as they progressed through the NACADA Emerging Leaders Program (ELP). After graduating from the program after the two-year experience, both continue to serve NACADA in various ways.
Emerging Leader Perspective (Locksley)
I became an Academic Advisor in the College of Arts & Sciences at Florida Gulf Coast University in 2013. As an Advisor, I serve as a facilitator of communication, a coordinator of learning experiences through course and career planning and academic progress review, as well as an agent of referral to other campus agencies as necessary.
It has been over two years now since I became part of the ELP Class of 2016–2018. This has been a wonderful, tremendous, and awesome journey for me, but as they say, “all good journeys must come to an end.” I can affiliate with this analogy, because this was indeed a wonderful, fabulous, exciting, worthwhile, and eventful experience of my advising career. This journey has exposed and enlightened me to many things that I did not think I could do but eventually did. I am sad and happy at the same time that it has ended. I am happy because of the numerous things that I was able to accomplish. Most notable was the primary goal of presenting at the various levels of NACADA conferences. I presented at the state level, the regional level, the national level, and the international level. Who could have imagined a young man from Jamaica making such leaps and bounds in his professional career and doing all these things that have made him so noticeable at NACADA events! In addition, I have developed a network of colleagues from around the country and abroad who I can today call friends. The lives I have touched and the paths that I have crossed are immeasurable. I have travelled extensively to numerous places that I could only dream of but now are a reality.
I view the ELP as something that is dedicated to the success of mentees, to help us spread our wings and grow as it relates to leadership in NACADA. The objectives of the program provided me with lived experience in the form of a mentor/mentee relationship in lifting each other as we ascend to new levels of leadership within NACADA. This program has provided an avenue for me to build upon my leadership strengths and to learn new ways to achieve greater impact. The ELP is a dynamic program, which has allowed me to learn all of the critical elements that successful leaders must master to deliver results, including how to set goals, build and inspire teams, and drive change. For these reasons, I am grateful that I was selected to be a participant and to be affiliated with something that prepares me to receive coaching on how to leverage these next-level practices to achieve my career and organizational goals.
I am sad that my experience is over because I wanted this to last just a little longer than the normal time. I feel that despite the things I have accomplished, that I was just getting started, and now it is the end. I do understand that the time has come for us to move on based on the wealth of knowledge we have acquired setting goals, realizing those goals, and accomplishing those same goals as emerging leaders. I have acquired an immense amount of skills from this program; however, the melancholy feeling about not being an active ELPer still makes me crave this experience some more.
When I began this journey in the NACADA ELP, I had no idea how much of a difference being an active participant in this program would make in my professional and personal life. The goals that I made when I started were solidified, because I saw where they would get me to be more directly involved with NACADA. When I wrote my assignment regarding the type I mentor I would like, I wrote from the heart. I was desirous of someone who would help to guide my growth and development, but at the same time would be there for me as an advocate and someone who had my best interest at heart. Reflecting on that particular assignment, I was quite aware that a mentor could be extremely useful in one’s career development. The challenging questions back then were how does one know what to look for in a mentor? What exactly do you do with one? I sought someone who values ongoing learning and growth in the profession and NACADA. However, in order to make a mentoring relationship useful, it became evident to me that I must first know why I wanted one, so I had to revisit my initial goals. I wanted that mentor to assist me with a better understanding of the organization’s culture. I wanted to gain some guidance on career exploration as far as developing specific leadership skills. As with every other area of life, I figured that you must know where you are going before you can decide how to get there.
At the time, I wrote that I believed a good mentoring relationship provides individuals with someone who will share their professional knowledge and expertise in the field. A good mentor is someone who makes themself available to answer any questions relevant to the profession and life in general with the understanding that a good mentor-mentee relationship is a two-way street; consequently, if you want a good relationship with your mentor, it is a wise decision to become a good mentee. Therefore, the top five characteristics I indicated that would make a mentor a good fit for me were:
- someone who is willing to share skills, knowledge, and expertise;
- someone who demonstrates a positive attitude and acts as a positive role model;
- someone who takes a personal interest in the mentoring relationship;
- someone who provides guidance and constructive feedback; and
- someone who sets and meets ongoing personal and professional goals.
Reflecting on these criteria, I have indeed found those qualities in the mentor who was assigned to me, Rebecca Hapes. She embodies what a true mentor is, and I will truly miss my wonderful mentor. Our monthly dialogues, card exchanges, text messages, and kind words of encouragement were uplifting and made me feel like I truly belonged to something exciting. We have been a perfect match since we were paired at the Annual Conference in Atlanta in 2016. I could not have asked for a better mentor to guide, support, encourage, and lift me as she climbed. These are some of things that the ELP cannot document: the lived experience, the personal connections that will last for a lifetime.
Rebecca and I worked assiduously together to develop my stated ELP goals. We have developed a great relationship over the past two years. We have worked together as a team and have developed short-term goals as well as long-term goals. My short-term goals included joining the Advising Community on Theory, Philosophy & History of Advising group via the NACADA website and joining the Advising Community on Advisor Training & Development. I expressed my desire in joining and serving as an active member of the Diversity Committee. I assisted in reading proposals for the NACADA Annual Conference. Today, I am pleased to report that I have accomplished all of my short-term goals and to some extent have exceeded them. I have joined both Advising Communities, and I was recently elected as to chair the Inclusion and Engagement Committee (formerly Diversity Committee) for the 2019–2021 term, after serving on the committee for the 2017–2019 term. I have read NACADA proposals for the Annual Conference in St. Louis, MO and the NACADA International Conference in Sheffield, United Kingdom, hosted by The University of Sheffield in 2017.
There are a few things I wish I had done differently, such as taking on fewer things. I spread myself thin with too many competing interests as it relates to NACADA. However, I felt like since I made the commitment, I had to adhere to what I originally set out to do and do it void of complaints. I have learned to multi-task by handling my work obligations, personal obligations, and NACADA obligations. As a result, I have acquired new skills: I learned not to be rigid, but to take on and accept additional responsibilities with a smile. I have performed several tasks single-handedly not out of any compulsion, but because I want to see our association at the highest level of success. I view performing multiple responsibilities as not a job, but a passion to serve. I actively participate in various NACADA training programs and other sessions or seminars with an open mind to upgrade my existing knowledge and hone my skills, which eventually will benefit not only me, but also NACADA.
However, the recommendation I would make to future program participants is to view this participation in the NACADA ELP as an investment for the future to give back and to serve our association. Therefore, get connected and realize that you are accepted into a community of people who care. You are never told you cannot lead because of who you are. You are instead encouraged to be the best at what you love and develop your personal strengths so that you find your own sense of leadership. Take into consideration that you will begin the program as one person and you will end the program as an entirely new person who is more confident and knows so much more about yourself, your growth, and your association. Finally, know what you seek in a mentor, because in order to make a mentoring relationship useful, you must first know why you want one.
Mentor Perspective (Rebecca)
As we near the one-year anniversary of the conclusion of our two-year mentorship pairing, it is interesting to reflect on my initial apprehension about being a mentor through the Emerging Leaders Program. I believe my biggest hesitancy was whether I would be able to support a colleague remotely in the manner in which they needed.
I felt the most challenging part of this relationship was trying to ensure that Locksley felt valued, and that he did not feel like he was an afterthought if/when life happened, schedules adjusted, and our mentorship meetings needed to move around. We did a great job of cultivating our relationship, communicating and pre-scheduling our regular mentorship meeting time at the beginning of each semester. However, when emergencies and/or issues arose that prompted the need to reschedule or cancel, I was concerned that Locksley may feel as though I was not giving him the time and/or attention that this mentoring relationship deserved. I believe that we both worked diligently at communicating in a variety of ways on an ongoing basis to connect, communicate, and support each other’s lives during this time (texting, Facebook, cards via mail, email, etc.).
We set a suite of goals each year in the program, and each year Locksley made short work of those goals. During the time in this program, I thoroughly enjoyed seeing Locksley’s continued success as he accomplished one thing after another, making short work of his to-do lists in mere months. It amused me that he seemed surprised when he realized how much he had actually accomplished, yet I think he short-changed himself and how much he is able to do. His list of NACADA accomplishments throughout the period of this program is remarkable, and I have enjoyed celebrating him and his successes. I am thrilled to celebrate him as the Chair of the Inclusion and Engagement Committee, and I recall discussing this as a leadership goal of his at one of our first meetings.
Being a part of the Emerging Leaders Program as a mentor has been a rewarding experience for me. Working with Locksley over the course of the program encouraged me to become a bit more introspective and reexamine my personal goals as well. Within this time, I looked at some of the things I had been meaning to do and decided if I wasn’t making progress towards those goals, they wouldn’t be any closer to completion in a year from now, or five years from now . . . so I began taking active steps towards them. I decided to submit my application to the NACADA Academic Advising Consultant and Speaker Service and was accepted, began a doctoral program at my home institution, and just completed my second year in that program. Helping Locksley explore NACADA and professionally grow and develop encouraged me to reflect and do so as well.
While it is normal to be apprehensive about embarking on a mentorship journey, it was the journey itself, rather than the outcomes created, that was the rich and rewarding experience I thoroughly enjoyed. I needn’t have worried about being able to support Locksley, as our burgeoning friendship cultivated the support he needed to thrive during this time. Our relationship has gone through the mentoring stages as described by Kram and is now defined by trust and friendship.
We encourage participation in the Emerging Leaders Program and other mentorship programs to grow within the advising profession and develop yourselves personally and professionally.
Academic Advisor IV & Assistant Lecturer
Department of Entomology/College of Agriculture & Life Science
Texas A&M University
Lead Academic Advisor – Team Natural Sciences
College of Arts & Sciences
Florida Gulf Coast University
Kram, K. E. (1983). Phases of the mentor relationship. Academy of Management Journal, 26(4), 608–625. doi:10.2307/255910
Cite this article using APA style as: Hapes, R. & Knibbs, L. (2019, December). Our lived experiences as participants in the NACADA Emerging Leaders Program. Academic Advising Today, 42(4). [insert url here]