SAICA has proudly piloted an innovative mentoring programme for newly qualified CAs(SA) in order to support and enhance their growth and development. This year a core group of volunteer SAICA members who took an active part in the pilot programme are leading the introduction of the next round of the programme
When we come across a challenge in our practice as CAs(SA), we might often see conflicting views and receive contradictory advice. How do we develop the maturity to make the right choice? How do we pass this on to newly qualified CAs(SA)? Creating a members driven community of practice is one way of addressing this challenge. By continually and actively learning inside the accountancy profession system, a community of practice can build collective tacit knowledge and the capacity in the membership to process new challenges and ethical dilemmas. SAICA’s new mentorship programme has been proudly introduced with the proud potential to create this type of community of practice.
Nazeer Patel and his team at SAICA initiated the mentoring programme in 2017 in response to the need for newly qualified CAs(SA) to receive mentoring, especially around their career paths. In addition, experienced SAICA members had also expressed an interest in offering mentoring, which was a happy coincidence with many volunteer mentors remembering the challenge of choosing a career path once the single all-consuming goal of achieving CA status had been achieved.
CAs(SA) who have just qualified begin to become more aware of how many different career paths they have to choose from, especially in this changing world. At the same time, there appears to be fewer resources and less structured support available to help them make these choices. Having proved their technical prowess, ambitious new CAs(SA) need to focus more on the ‘harder’ leadership and people skills that will play an increasingly important role in their successful career progression.
Leadership in professional bodies
Leadership skills are vital to the healthy personal and professional development of a chartered accountant who will one day lead others and model ethical professional practice in challenging business and political environments. It is important for the profession to find a way of developing and maintaining high levels of professional and ethical capacity in their membership, and this is where the mentorship programme comes in.
Developing the level of sophistication and capacity required to be a professional leader is a life-long journey of professional development. Pressurised, complex and fast-moving work environments can be an effective crucible for learning, but they can be seductive spaces for learning bad habits or becoming blinkered to bad practice. Balancing career progression and doing the right thing is a fine art.
For the pilot, Nazeer and his team adopted a methodology proposed by the Sandton Coaching Centre to focus on developing the capacity in-house, within the membership itself. This approach involves providing applied learning-in-action to develop leadership, coaching and mentoring skills that enhance professional practice in general.
The aim is to build capacity in a group of volunteers to deliver mentoring programmes and pass on mentoring and facilitation skills in a self-sustaining cascading of skills. A core group of mentors has already formed, and they are already driving the rollout of the next phases of the mentoring programme. This core group will also learn how to facilitate experiential learning in the next phase and eventually how to train others in experiential learning, hence the cascade metaphor. Building this capacity in the membership means that the programme can become increasingly self-sustaining and is more cost effective.
Rather than focusing on abstract models and theories, the learning approach focuses on the actual experience of being a mentor or a mentee. The participants learn by doing and are encouraged to reflect more fully with the support of experienced facilitators. Mentees also participated in learning groups to help them make the best use of their mentoring.
Participants learn with others in the room, what they bring, what is cropping up for them now, considering how best to address it. It is an authentic, messy, contradictory, multifaceted case-by-case approach to learning. It is a rich experience for the mentor or mentee who is in the thick of it and illuminating for the fellow participant who are witnessing the process or thinking of questions to support the practitioner.
This approach has several benefits:
Learning takes place in real contexts, with real situations where the intensity of the moment and the pressure on the individual to make a choice drives richer, more engaged whole-person learning.
It builds a culture of learning among the volunteer members who take the experience into the next round. This group can develop into a community of practice over time that holds the learning and insight from previous rounds to continually improve the quality of the programme.
The body of experiences built up is also always current and relevant to the challenges in the marketplace because the work addresses real-life challenges faced by mentors and mentees. (Whilst all content in the one-on-one mentoring remains confidential, insights that emerge can be applied in future mentoring engagements.)
It accommodates and invites all forms of diversity so that differences and diverse viewpoints are actively applied, enhancing the learning dynamic and quality of insight.
The primary method of ensuring quality of learning is the use of practice supervision with experienced and qualified coach supervisors. The supervisors run the mentoring learning groups and facilitate learning for the mentors by providing a safe and supportive learning environment, challenging questioning related to the norms or ethics required in a particular situation, to create on-going personal and professional development for supervisees. The approach to learning in coaching supervision leads to the creation of an effective and growing community of practice, one that is based in the emergent experience of members as they practise mentoring in the world of SAICA members.
AUTHORS | Matt Shelley and the SAICA Mentor Core Group