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Cultivating Connections to Prepare Future Leaders

Cultivating Connections to Prepare Future Leaders

Mentoring has been part of the association world for a long time. Over the past several years, there has been an increased focus on formalizing the mentorship process into a ‘program’ as part of an association’s ‘young professionals strategy.’ It is time for associations to rethink the mentorship model. Professionals’ needs, environments, and methods of communication are changing, and there are evolving mentor relationship structures that are less formalized and take fewer resources to implement while serving a larger audience.


The Meaning of Mentorship

Mentorship is typically seen as a relationship in which a more experienced or more knowledgeable person helps to guide a less experienced or less knowledgeable person. Traditionally, people conceive of this relationship as an older person mentoring a younger individual. However, with the rise of technology and social media, we have also seen the concept of ‘reverse mentoring’ come into play. Reverse mentoring is typically used to describe a mentoring relationship where a younger person is mentoring a more experienced person, typically in areas such as technology.

In the association world, we have seen many mentorship programs focused on paring a younger, less experienced person with an older, more experienced one. These programs are typically positioned to engage the next generation of sector leaders and increase an association’s contingent of young professionals. The focus on age in these relationships can mean mentoring's true benefit to the association is not realized at its full potential. If we instead focus on experience over age, we can ensure these relationships are working for all members and not just one subset (e.g., young professionals.)


Innovating Mentoring

Mentorships programs within the sector have an important role to play in association succession planning and for professionals working within the sector. However, they are often difficult to sustain due to the limited resources (both financial and human) that associations have available to dedicate to such programs. Time is a factor for many who see the value in these programs but aren’t able to commit to a structured program taking place over several months or more. There are many innovative ways to offer mentorship opportunities within an association without necessarily needing a huge investment of resources.

At the CSAE Annual Conference and Showcase in October, we [Aina, Rebecca, Maddy, and Natalie] will be offering a session on mentorship, Cultivating Connections to Prepare Future Leaders. Our session will focus on knowledge transfer between current and future leaders and will explore how reciprocal mentorship can be a useful tool in this process. Whereas traditional mentorship models focus on a one-way transfer of knowledge (mentor to mentee), reciprocal mentorship breaks this model to focus more on the shared ideas and knowledge versus the structure of the relationship (mentor/mentee to mentee/mentor.)

As part of exploring mentorship and preparing future leaders to take the helm, our session will include data collected from current leaders in the association sector, and video interviews with young professionals to determine what is important to each segment in a mentor/mentee relationship. We are looking to you to find out what you value; what you’re looking for more of; and how, as a community of association professionals, we can better foster and develop mentorship opportunities.

An innovative mentorship model, two-minute mentoring moments (speed mentoring with a twist!), will be discussed and put into practice at the conference. This mentoring model does not take a huge investment, and it is a practical and engaging tool to assist future and current leaders in cultivating connections.



Aina Budrevics, CAE; Rebecca Harris, CAE; Maddy Marchildon; and Natalie Wallace, CAE will be presenting at the CSAE 2018 Annual Conference & Showcase in Ottawa. We are looking forward to discussing innovative mentorship models with you. It is time to breakdown mentoring's formal structure and focus on future ways to implement mentorship that are sustainable, beneficial to many, and integrated into our association offerings.



Aina Budrevics, Maddy Marchildon, Natalie Wallace, Young Professionals, Mentoring, Professional Development, CSAE Conference & Showcase


Guest Contributor, Governance / Leadership, Communications



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