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The following appeared in a recent NFCB newsletter. You can subscribe here.

There are obvious as well as hidden benefits to mentorship. Beyond helping stations, grooming new leaders in community media makes a station attractive to prospective employees. Why? These sorts of transition planning efforts break down barriers within an organization and encourage communication. Guidance from mentors helps foster relationships for mentees, and helps stations create competencies. The effects will last longer than one mentee.

Think college graduates are simply looking to jump into the private sector? Think again. More and more young people are interested in nonprofit careers, and more advice for them is out there than ever before. The problems nonprofits face without new leadership initiatives should be evident: without new people coming in, organizations ultimately falter. Worse, those who come in repeat old mistakes current administrations learned long ago.

While Next Generation Radio and other programs have created opportunities, many community outlets have yet to embrace the need for planning for the future. How do we create an urgency for mentorship that may not exist?

Leadership development such as mentorship programs are capacity questions at many stations. Understanding what needs to be done, identifying mentors and cultivating a growth track for mentees are just a few questions you should answer. But that is not all.

Here are a few tips to get you thinking about community radio mentorship and organizing your local efforts in leadership development:

  • Kam Phillips’ TED talk on mentorship may inspire you. She quickly recognized her different life experiences could help others, and that she should take a practical approach to mentorship. She refers to the experience of learning how to mentor as “everything that led me to doing what I do now and doing what I do on a daily basis was guidance and support, and every opportunity that I had to sit down face-to-face with someone and ask those questions, or every time then I made a mistake and thought what would insert mentor here do.” Her insights frame mentorship as an organic experience.
  • Your official permission to be a know-it-all is a manifesto of sorts to push you who have been around awhile (as well as those who have not) to give a lift to those who have not. “I don’t have the receipts, but as a human humaning in the world, I carry the sneaking suspicion that many people shy away from mentoring because it sounds so official. Few people who are tolerable to be around consider themselves an authority on a given subject, and the title “mentor” carries some gravitas,” Roxann Elliott writes. “In short, people are almost scared of calling themselves A Mentor™ – scared of being an imposter. I’m not allowed to use bad words, here, so I’ll channel former Vice President Joe Biden and say, that’s a bunch of malarkey.”
  • Mentorship is more than us, but also the community. Consider a nonprofit publication’s effort to mentor military families in writing, providing feedback and teaching. By helping mentees publish first-person narratives, the publication improved its coverage and military families got an opportunity to share their perspectives with audiences that may not otherwise be affected by military service. “One of the cool things about the seminars is that it’s an opportunity to brainstorm ideas for pieces and you have a built in sounding board to see what resonates with other people,” said Elizabeth O’Herrin, a veteran who has participated in two seminars and written a number of pieces for The War Horse on topics such as the challenge of connecting with others after returning home from serving overseas and her wishes to be able to discuss and compare war experiences with her late grandfather.
  • Black Public Media’s Black Paper just came out and identified inclusion as a major barrier for people of color in the media space. Gatekeepers and a lack of access to networks were among the issues named. A few remedies are also offered.
  • The Society for Human Resources Management suggests best practicesin creating your own mentorship program. Clear roles, guidelines and effectively pairing mentors are among the benchmarks for a good program. The post also features a standard form you can use to kickstart your own endeavor.
  • Speaking of policy, Chief Learning Officer offers approaches you can utilize to ensure a safe environment for mentees.
  • study of 100 endeavors breaks down what works and hasn’t in mentor-mentee relationships. Asking lots of questions, identifying distinct problems and challenges, and unpacking needs purposefully rather than all at once are just a few takeaways.
  • The Online News Association’s 2018 conference has notes from the Making the Case for Making the Time session, including audio from the panel. Central to this conversation is enticing potential mentors to participate, revealed to be one of the hardest parts of building a mentorship program.
  • Steal This: Tips and Tricks for Creating Your Own Coaching Initiativepresents ideas you’re encouraged to apply elsewhere. “Journalism isn’t the only industry where there’s a need for mentorship, and women aren’t the only people looking for mentors. Similar mentorship projects could (and should!) be created for underrepresented groups in other industries, communities and workplaces.” Among the recommendations: vetting the right coaches, setting goals and being clear on how you help others.

Leadership development is among the many subjects expected to be on the schedule at the 2019 Community Media Conference. You are encouraged to follow conference agenda updates and more announcements at the NFCB conference page. We look forward to seeing you in San Diego, June 18-20.

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