Interview by Ruth Palombo, originally published on ATD.com
The 2014 Mentoring Award, given by the HR Leadership Awards of Greater Washington, went to Miguel Joey Aviles, honoring him for demonstrating leadership, dedication, and support to the professional growth and development of others. Aviles manages a Department of Defense, worldwide, online, mentoring resource tool as well as a national program, the Senior Executive Association (SEA), and Young Government Leaders (YGL) Mentoring Program serving senior executives and emerging leaders from various federal agencies around the United States.
Q: Describe the Senior Executive Association (SEA) and the Young Government Leaders (YGL) mentoring programs.
A: The SEA and YGL mentoring programs - a blend of formal and informal mentoring - provide a low-cost way to develop emerging leaders in the federal government. These programs connect successful senior executives at the pinnacle of their careers with high-potential emerging leaders. They use networking events, learning and development initiatives, and a community of practice to nurture connections and eventually turn them into successful mentoring relationships. While the programs create an environment for effective mentoring, they allow mentors and mentees to manage their relationships without following a specific script.
One of the most valuable learning and development events sponsored by the mentoring program was the panel “How to Advance YOUR Career in the Federal Government.” I moderated this panel of executives and professionals who shared their experiences dealing with failure and challenges, and provided timely advice on how to advance a career.
Some other important events sponsored by the mentoring program are the Women Emerging Leaders in the Federal Government Summit and the conference “It’s Your Career: Own It.” We were able to secure the Honorable Katherine Archuleta, Director of the Office of Personnel Management, as the closing ceremony keynote speaker. This was a big deal to us because OPM oversees the Federal Government’s personnel practices.
I must mention that the SEA and YGL mentoring programs were a success due to the vital collaboration of my colleague Melanie Stinnett, former SEA next generation director and retired senior executive from a renowned federal agency.
Q: How did your own experiences a mentee lead to your current position as Chief Learning Officer of Young Government Leaders (YGL) and the program manager for a U.S. federal agency mentoring resource portal?
A: The Senior Executive Association (SEA) and Young Government Leaders (YGL) pilot mentoring program was established in 2012 when I had the opportunity to participate as a mentee. After completing the pilot, I pitched the idea of creating the chief learning officer position in the 11-year-old non-profit YGL. After the executive board accepted the idea, I was given the task of creating the YGL learning and development department.
Our first initiative was a pilot of the SEA and YGL mentoring programs. At the time, we had 25 mentees and 20 mentors from the senior executive service. When I took over the program, I applied my recruitment and outreach background to boost the number of applications from 25 to 150 from more than 33 federal agencies. When my current employer learned that I was involved with mentoring initiatives in the federal community, they appointed me to manage the first mentoring resource portal in our agency, as well as representing the Department at the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) Mentoring Working Group.
I believe when you follow your passion and you do what really energizes you, opportunities find you. For that reason, I always say “Make sure when opportunity knocks on your door, you are not in pajamas.”
Q: Why do you think making SEA and YGL into a formal structure for mentoring has worked?
A: I believe successful mentoring is achieved through the natural connection between a mentor and mentee.
The SEA and YGL mentoring program is a blended approach. We match mentors and mentees and facilitate developmental activities throughout the program. We provide guidance and the mentors and mentees drive the relationship.
Q: Describe the process of matching the mentees with senior executive mentors.
A: We received 150 applications from mentees, and 45 senior executives volunteered to serve as mentors. The applications consisted of a federal resume accompanied by a 500-word, statement-of-interest essay. Once all the applications were received, a panel of experts selected 80 finalists. Then the senior executives selected mentees from that pool. Several executives decided to do group mentoring and accepted up to four mentees.
Q: Tell us about your development of an online mentoring portal.
A: The goal of this effort is to promote and nurture a mentoring culture within our enormous agency, and to provide access to a mentoring portal —an online, one-stop-shop for all mentoring needs. It is divided into four categories.
The first segment is a mentoring toolkit, which will provide tools for designing, planning, managing, and evaluating a successful mentoring program.
The second category will showcase training resources to properly prepare mentors and mentees.
The third category is a mentoring library that will be connected to an e-library. This portion of the tool will provide links to books, e-books, articles, videos, and blogs about mentoring.
The fourth category is a space for mentoring best practices in which we will offer success stories from our organization, the Federal Government, and the private sector. The mentoring resource tool will equip our HR managers to implement effective mentoring programs around the globe.
Q: What can CLOs do to encourage a culture of mentoring in their organizations?
A: I have three tips to encourage mentoring in any organization:
The best way to start a mentoring movement is to lead by example. CLOs should start mentoring programs in their organizations by taking mentoring to a professional and personal level.
Put it in writing. Add a mentoring statement to your organization’s values and strategic plan, and then serve as a facilitator for mentoring.
Connect mentoring to a business advantage and show the ROI of formal mentoring programs. In order to show ROI, CLOs have to evaluate participants before, during, and after the mentoring program. Measures such as engagement, retention, position advancement, and promotion potential are a must. It is important to capture and document what type of changes occur as a result of the mentoring program.
Q: Why do you think mentoring is vital?
A: When I was 13 years old, my mom and I faced the most tumultuous experience of our lives. We were homeless; we lost our home, car, money, everything. Life as I knew it changed in its entirety. On my 14th birthday, my eighth-grade teacher had a surprise for me. Ms. Eduarda gave me a box of Jordan almonds. Yes, a box of almonds! But what she said next carried a lot of power: “Miguel, your personality, talents, and gifts are many just as there are many different-colored almonds in this box. Your life will be memorable and the world needs your leadership and contributions.”
The actions of one woman propelled me to take ownership of my life, embrace my talents, and go forward with confidence. Mentors do that through their guidance and support. In the workplace, mentoring has the potential to improve employee retention, engagement, and recruitment. It supports diversity efforts, succession planning, and knowledge management, among other important initiatives.
Q: What do you see as the future for mentoring programs such as SEA and YGL?
A: Millennials not only enjoy but also expect mentoring. As a new generation of leaders enters the workforce, organizations will find that mentoring can be a cost-effective way to increase morale, engagement, and retention. Traditionally, mentoring was between a seasoned leader and a less experienced individual. Today in our complex global environment, mentoring takes different forms. There is reverse mentoring, seasonal mentoring, e-mentoring, and group mentoring, among several types. Mentoring is an investment in the future. And while mentoring is power, I believe that if individuals translate mentoring into sponsorship, the outcomes are even more prevalent. I definitely see mentoring as a vital pipeline to career success.