It is about developing yourself to be the best version of you.
Jacqueline Seviour is the Defence Academy’s Mentoring Lead and she is passionate about promoting its benefits, for defence and for individuals.
“A lot of people think mentoring is about career advice or managing poor performance, but it’s not. It is about developing yourself to be the best version of you. How often do you get the time to sit with someone who will ask you open, reflective questions that you actually have time to answer?” asks Jacqueline Seviour, the Defence Academy’s Mentoring Lead.
Mentoring can help everyone to develop further, whether they be very senior or very junior personnel and whether they are the mentor or the mentee. And the Defence Academy is at the forefront of developing mentoring at the MOD, thanks to the work of Jacqueline Seviour.
Jacq’s day job is as a Programme Director in the Defence Leadership Centre at the Defence Academy. But her real passion is mentoring. As the Defence Academy’s Mentoring Lead, she has designed mentoring courses and is a member of the 3* led MOD Mentoring Steering Group.
As a Programme Director, Jacq designs the content of, and delivers, leadership courses. She also facilitates Action Learning Set sessions for 1* grades and above, to help them tackle their own work-related issues. She particularly enjoys the creative side of her role, designing courses and materials, for instance with products such as Focus on Leading, Active Bystander Fundamentals, Mentoring, Stepping into Leadership, Line Managers in Defence. She is passionate that learning is inclusive, especially as she is dyslexic herself.
For the other part of her double-hatted role, she says: “My role is to educate, support and advise on mentoring, with an aim to develop a mentoring culture within defence.” A step towards this was designing Mentoring Fundamentals, an online learning package that is available to everyone.
She explained that when people use the term mentoring, they usually don’t know what it means. For one thing, it means mentoring outside of your chain of command so the mentor can be impartial and objective. “Our aim is to promote developmental mentoring; developing everyone, not just the ‘few’.”
She also created the definitive ‘guide to mentoring’ podcasts designed to support defence personnel acting as mentors to NHS staff at the outset of the COVID-19 crisis last year. The scheme was featured on Sky News.
It started when Jacq received a call from a colleague at Sandhurst, in March 2020, where she trains the general staff mentors. She was asked to help with the NHS scheme so created a 60-minute podcast to help educate. For this, Jacq was awarded a Chief Executive and Commandant’s Commendation from Major General Roe last month.
Developmental mentoring is gathering momentum, but it still has some way to go. “I speak on senior leadership programmes and initially, those involved in mentoring were mostly civil servants and individuals from minority groups. However, this is changing as our senior leaders are seeing the benefits for themselves, and those within their organisations.”
The benefits of mentoring are significant, she believes: “Everyone can benefit from mentoring. If you have a goal, or development area to pursue, then mentoring can be for you - if you find the right mentor,” she said.
“A lot of people think it’s about career advice or managing performance, but it’s not. It is about developing yourself to be the best version of you. How often do you get the time to sit with someone who will ask you open, reflective questions that you actually have time to answer?"
“And because the mentor should be impartial and objective, they are able to challenge your assumptions and previously drawn conclusions in a safe environment.”
Mentoring, however, works both ways: "it also helps the mentor by providing a great development opportunity because they must develop their own skillset, such as active listening, questioning skills, reflective practice and goal setting", she added.
Perhaps surprisingly, the COVID-19 crisis has been beneficial in some ways. It has allowed courses to be redesigned to a virtual platform. It has led to less emphasis on teaching and more about students learning through practice. It is far more learner-led rather than teacher-led, which is more beneficial to the learners.