The impact of intergenerational mentoring on leadership perspectives The story of Jamal & Blandine from MAVA Leaders for Nature Academy
When Blandine Melis and Jamal Hamzeh, two environmental leaders working in Cape Verde and Lebanon respectively, joined the MAVA Leaders for Nature Academy in 2020, they couldn’t have imagined the impact it would have on their personal and professional lives.
Looking to grow their leadership skills to better support their respective teams, Blandine had recently been entrusted to lead a team of 20 people in a new country where she did not speak the language. One of her biggest fears, besides having to lead a new team, was finding herself in a situation where she would make mistakes in her new leadership role. Jamal on the other hand, felt that she needed to work on her growth as a leader in contexts where she needed to lead beyond authority in order to influence outcomes beyond her direct sphere of control, and find a balance between her personal and professional life.
In spite of differences in their character, experience and age, Jamal leaned into Blandine’s experience as her mentor. However, learning through mentoring was not one-sided. Blandine too, had much to gain from their mentoring relationship. Here are some of the key takeaways from the mentoring pair:
Intergenerational mentoring improves collaboration between generations and promotes inclusion of voices
As you gain more experience in your field of work or area of specialisation, you become an authority in that space. And sometimes, your past experience coupled with your status as a leader can grow consciously or subconsciously into an ego that blocks you from listening to, and really hearing, others’ opinions. Through the intergenerational mentoring programme, Blandine was reminded that less experienced leaders can bring value to organisations, drawing from their different perspectives.
Mentoring builds self-awareness and self confidence
Through the mentor and mentee trainings, both parties were prepared for the mentoring relationship. Mentors learned how to be more aware of their biases – and shed them – how to actively listen, how to communicate better and give feedback, amongst other core mentoring skills. Mentees, meanwhile, were prepared for what they can and cannot expect from their mentors, focussing on embarking on the mentoring relationship with openness and respect so as to better leverage the experience. A lot of these qualities, contrary to popular belief, may not be innate; however, through continuous practice, they can be built and nurtured. Jamal, following the training and yearlong mentoring relationship with Blandine, reflects on the value of mentoring…
Mentoring broadens your network
‘Networks’ brings to mind ‘contacts’ – the people that your mentor or mentee know and can introduce you to. Networks are more than that. Broadening networks can also come in the form of your mentoring relationship helping you to expand your networking skills or identify the right networking opportunities. Jamal, through the encouragement from Blandine, gained the confidence to trust herself in situations outside of her comfort zone. Today, she finds herself fitting more easily into culturally diverse gatherings.
The Academy focuses on developing leaders to move, with confidence across boundaries of sector, organisation, professional disciplines, and generations to create a much greater impact. By connecting these individuals and unlocking their networks and networking capabilities, the Academy empowered them with the confidence to work with a wider range of stakeholders within their own organisations and beyond.
Effective mentoring supports personal and organisational change
Reflective practice, one of the core mentoring skills, is a key component of emotional intelligence. It enhances your self-awareness and critical thinking capabilities consequently helping you understand others better. All these are essential ingredients for great leadership. Through self-reflection, you are able to take a critical look at your emotional responses as well as previous actions, occurrences and events in order to understand why you respond the way you do. You learn your strengths and areas of development so that you can actively work on becoming the best version of yourself.
At the core of the intergenerational mentoring programme was sharing learning. The programme aimed at encouraging senior professionals to create a safe space for the next generation of leaders to build their confidence as industry leaders by sharing their ideas to strengthen the environment sector. Between the ideas and experiences of both the younger and experienced leaders sat the potential to do great things together and change the world for the better.
The MAVA Leaders for Nature Academy is a partnership between Mowgli Mentoring, Common Purpose and the MAVA Foundation. It brings together young and senior professionals for a mentoring and leadership development programme, to strengthen the sustainability of MAVA’s conservation partners for today and in the years to come.
Blandine and Jamal shared their experience at the EMCC 4th Global Mentoring Conference on 29th October 2021, check it out here.