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Bibb Says Building Leaders from Within Is Key to GSA's Future

Remarks by
David L. Bibb
Acting Administrator
U.S. General Services Administration
GSA National Mentoring Program
End-of-Program Celebration
National Conference Center
Lansdowne, Virginia
May 21, 2008

 

Gail, thank you for that very kind introduction.

Good morning, everyone. 

I’d also like to say welcome to our Regional Administrators and Assistant Regional Administrators.  I am happy you could join us today.

It’s my pleasure to be here this morning to celebrate the successful completion of GSA’s National Mentoring Pilot Program.  This pilot has given us a baseline for incorporating improvements, implementing new ideas, and utilizing those things that did work well into the upcoming program for the next group of mentors and protégés.

I got the unique opportunity to experience this pilot program from several different perspectives:  As Deputy Administrator of GSA, as a mentor, as a former protégé, and most of all, as a champion for mentoring and the benefits it offers the participants involved and the agency that supports it.  In this case, GSA. 

The concept of mentoring is not new.   It’s actually been around for thousands of years.

Coming to us from Homer’s epic poem, the Odyssey, Mentor was the teacher and overseer of Telemachus, the Son of Odysseus, the King of Ithaca.  Mentor was more then a teacher.  He was all things to all people – half-god and half human, half-male and half-female.  Mentor represented the union of both goal and path.

Today, mentors must lead their protégés by guiding interaction with them and uplifting them.  They must also push their protégés to become their best by encouraging development in areas of expressed need in their inventory.

I came to GSA as an intern in the early 1970’s.  I was fortunate to have people who took the time to share their knowledge with me.  They gave me the opportunity to prove myself and my skills.  They had faith in me and my abilities.

I stand before you almost four decades later as the Acting Administrator of GSA. 

Mentoring truly makes a difference.  That’s why I would like to share with you three points that are important to me.

  • First, I’d like to discuss the importance of having a mentoring program here at GSA and how it has benefited me as a mentor;
  • Second, I’d like to share with you the successes encountered with the program this past year; and
  • Last, I’d like to talk about what the future holds for the next group of mentors and protégés.

In today’s environment, mentoring takes on many other responsibilities and roles beyond teacher or advisor.  The mentor must wear several hats, including role model, coach, guide, confidant, and loyal friend.

A lot of mentoring goes on informally at GSA.  It just happens. 

There are always going to be those special people who care enough to take someone under their wing and basically show them the ropes. 

GSA has benefited from a formal mentoring program and can continue to benefit from a formal mentoring program.

A formal mentoring program not only reaches more potential mentors and protégés, but a formal mentoring program is so much more beneficial to the mentor and protégé for many reasons:

  • It is a structured environment that has clearly-stated goals.
  • It is scheduled training for participants.
  • It is interactions between the mentor and protégé.
  • And at the end, its effectiveness is indicated by an evaluation of the program.

Mentoring achieves amazing results:

  • Increased retention of our best employees;
  • Extended succession planning;
  • Developed sense of organizational commitment;
  • Improved job satisfaction and morale;
  • Accelerated leadership; and
  • Improved individual learning.

Pairing talented, experienced employees with protégés who need to enhance their leadership and business skills … is an awesome concept.

Participating in the mentoring pilot program was a rewarding experience.

I was honored to have as my protégé Ms. Arleen Kinder, a Customer Service Director for GSA’s Customer Accounts & Research Division in our Rocky Mountain Region.  In most cases, mentors were paired with protégés, but I chose Arleen as my protégé because of her experience in strategic marketing on the operations side and my involvement in strategic marketing on the management side.  I wanted to interact with someone in this field.

This is another good reason for having a mentoring program at GSA.  it gives you the opportunity to see things from a new perspective by opening a window on something you yourself haven’t seen or experienced.   

Arleen really benefited from her mentoring experience.

  • Under my mentorship, I helped connect Arleen to the right people to help her. 
  • She was included in many important meetings, conversations, and working groups. 
  • And, she was able to sit at the table on some national issues that made her feel a part of things. 

As a result, she felt the mentoring program as a whole helped her to the next level of her career development. 

As her mentor, I brought Arleen in to high level GSA DoD and Environmental Sustainability working groups where she was able to gain the perspective of GSA's executive leadership level.  This opportunity allowed her to relate the intelligence and findings at the management policy level to her working operational level which she found most beneficial with the environmentally friendly customers in the Greater Southwest and Rocky Mountain Region.  

Because of the mentoring program, Arleen was allowed to be included in these working groups.   The experience helped her relate better to the customer “Green Teams” and the “DoD Strategic Sourcing Groups” she currently serves on.

Part of Arleen’s job is developing procurement training seminars, working with her FAS and PBS counterparts, and using GSA’s “Go Green” website at Regions 7,8 and 9’s regional outreaches to demonstrate how GSA is taking the lead in helping federal agencies “Go Green” and helping them to achieve their environmental goals. The mentoring program also benefited Arleen in that it raised her consciousness and confidence level in representing GSA’s offerings at these customer outreaches.

I have benefited so much from mentoring, both as a mentor and as a protégé, that I also mentored another protégé through the USDA Graduate School’s Executive Potential School.  This protégé is also a GSA employee.

As a mentor, you always wish you could do more.  You just have to remember to do your best with the time you have.

The second area I’d like to talk about is the successes GSA’s mentoring pilot program achieved this past year.

The pilot worked because the participants, 65 active mentors and 60 active protégés, made it work.  They benefited from interacting together.  They took the time to stop and consider the value of mentoring.  And, they took it even a step further by working together to build the relationships on which mentoring is built. 

According to a mid-point evaluation:

  • 91 percent of protégés thought the GSA National Mentoring Program effectively helped them gain organizational knowledge.
  • 82.2 percent of respondents indicated that they were suitably matched.
  • 89 percent of the protégés indicated that the program effectively helped them make better career development plans.
  • 89 percent of the protégés believe the program effectively helped them connect (network) with others within GSA.
  • 76.7 percent of the protégés believed that the program and training effectively strengthened their communication skills.

GSA’s national mentoring pilot program provided participants with the tools to aid them in their journey towards developing mentoring relationships.  In addition, it provided:

  • Extensive training;
  • Useful monthly information (newsletters);
  • Face-to-face opportunities; and
    Excellent reading materials that were made available.

Over time, participants began to see first hand the value of the program and realized that it takes commitment to make it work.  Some mentoring relationships were more successful than others.  This is to be expected.  However, all in all, relationships were developed, connections were made, struggles were voiced and people connected.

The future looks very promising for the next round of mentors and protégés if the individuals who participated in the pilot program are any indication.

We do have to keep in mind that mentoring is a personal commitment on both the side of the mentor and the protégé.  You only get back what you put in.  We can use the lessons learned from this pilot program to improve the program overall. 

These lessons, compiled from the participants, include:

(1) Extending the time it takes to register and match mentors with protégés. 
(2) Holding at least three face-to-face opportunities to allow more one-on-one time for mentors and protégés to interact with one another. 
(3) Improving the webinars with superior web-room online training that allows for recording and playback.                                                                                                                                                               
(4) Continuing to have the protégé’s work with the mentors to share their stories, experiences, problems and successes.
(5) And lastly, reminding all program participants more regularly that the leadership-based program’s bones are the 14 leadership competencies. These competencies, which are critical to GSA’s business environment, are to be used as the starting point for dialogue and relationship development for all new relationships and mentoring agreements.

The future of the mentoring program also comes down to what the protégés experience has been like and what they tell others. 

When asked if participating in the mentoring program inspired her to one day serve as a mentor to someone, Arleen Kinder had this to say:
“Yes of course, you always want to give back as much as you possibly can, when you have received such a wonderful gift of experience that keeps on giving.   It is a privilege to be involved and learn the vision of GSA, and to work for an agency that supports an environmental mission so noble and global.   I feel driven to do more and make a contribution that I know will outlive my career and life.  What better way is there than to be mentored by the experts and then leave that legacy to our future colleagues?”

As I wrap up, I’d like to remind you that continuing GSA’s National Mentoring Program offers so many benefits to the mentor, the protégé, and the agency.  It’s a win-win for everyone involved:

  • Protégés benefit from the experience of the seasoned mentor resulting in career-coaching interactions, a good understanding of GSA’s structure, culture and methods.
  • The mentor opens doors and helps their protégés meet the right people and find the other resources they need to succeed.
  • New-hires benefit from the program by being paired with more experienced associates to obtain valuable information, good examples, and advice as they advance.
  • GSA ends up with a well developed, future leader who is prepared to take the reins when the position or opportunity presents itself.

Again, everyone wins.

I’d like to say, thank you, to the mentors, protégés, and all who helped to develop and carry out the mission and goals of this program, you should be proud.  You have shown that “One GSA, One Voice” is not just about simplified customer access to the goods and services we provide. 

You’ve also shown that “One GSA, One Voice is about building a bigger and stronger GSA, one that builds leaders from within.  Leaders who will not only continue the business of GSA, but leaders who will, through hard work and commitment, continue GSA’s legacy of being the government’s premier acquisition agency. 

Thank you very much.