Dr. Steve Pollack - Chapter President-Elect

Mentoring Matters...a Lot

The PMI - Kentickiana Chapter is proud to highlight the below article on mentorship, published in collaboration with Daro Mott (Vice President Elect - Programs), Julia Smith, and Brian Lightsy (Vice President Elect - Communications).

This article was orginally published on the Knowledge Shelf of ProjectManagement.com.

A 2023 article on forbes.com addressed the workplace mentoring opportunity, noting that while many employees think it is a good idea to be mentored, only a small number of employees are being mentored at work despite the successful practices of apprenticeships and professional societies. Experienced project practitioners understand that an effective way to learn how to be a better project leader is to partner with a thriving project leader.

This article contributes to this discussion by not only showing approaches, but it also highlights how our organization’s culture allows us to meet project milestones by working closely with our resource management needs. In this article, three experienced program managers share their approaches with mentoring and their emphasis on why it matters ... a lot.

Mentors: Steve Pollock, Daro Mott, Julia Smith and Brian Lightsy

Mentees: Jayden Bowden, Lax Dahal, Shawn Holder and Andrea Schwartz

A 2023 article in forbes.com addressed the workplace mentoring opportunity: “Good news first: 76% of employees think mentorship is important. The not-so-good-news? Only 37% of employees have a mentor” (Reeves, 2023). However, mentoring has been used in industry for some time, such as apprenticeship programs (Apprenticeship.gov) and professional societies (Project Management Institute website). Experienced project practitioners understand that an effective way to learn how to be a better project leader is to enter into a mentoring relationship with an experienced and successful project leader (Pollock & Mott, 2015).

Our article contributes to this discussion by offering approaches for mentoring with examples of how we apply mentoring to get work done. The context is we are a cooperative in the Midwestern United States that provides loans to farmers (Farm Credit Mid-America website).


How Do We Think About Mentoring at Work?
Mentoring matters a lot to us. Mentoring works well since the practice is aligned to our organizational culture, which includes We > Me, meaning we value family and relationships. Learning from others and collaborating in teams are foundational at our workplace in getting things done. A small panel of project managers recently shared their approach with other members of the PMI Kentuckiana Chapter, and this article summarizes the ideas shared at the January 2023 meeting (PMI Kentuckiana Chapter website). These experienced mentors do not follow the same process, but their approaches have a great deal in common, as illustrated in Figure 1.




Blockers to Mentoring
We identified and overcame blockers to mentoring. The blockers we identified included the items listed in Figure 1. Employees do not seek out mentoring if there is not an approach or program

  • available or understood,
  • aligned with organizational culture,
  • directly tied to getting work done (see as a priority),
  • repeatable with experienced resources such as people and processes, and
  • immediately applicable.

Overcoming these blockers requires some thoughtful leadership, action planning, and willingness to get started to grow the effort. If internal resources are not available for employees, we recommend that employees seek support through PMI and its local sections.

We start with Steve’s mentoring approach next.

Steve’s Mentoring Approach
Table 1 summarizes Steve’s mentoring approach. Sometimes leaders recommend mentees, and at other times, mentees become apparent during the course of a formal project. The Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA) framework is scalable and flexible, allowing Steve to align the approach of mentoring or coaching to the need. Mentoring is sharing ideas. Coaching is co-creating work.

Table 1: Steve's Application







Julia’s Mentoring Approach
Table 2 summarizes Julia’s mentoring approach based on GROW. Julia is in a mentoring partnership with Steve Pollock about program management. She adopted the GROW Model as a tool to mentor others through curiosity and collaboration. Figure 5 illustrates the model. The GROW Model is comprised of simple components:

  • Goal: What are we trying to achieve?
  • Reality: What is happening now?
  • Options: What ideas can we come up with to achieve our goal?
  • Way forward: What will we commit to?

Table 2: Julia's Application





Brian’s Mentoring Approach
Table 3 summarizes Brian’s mentoring approach. Brian feels that being a committed professional to the discipline of project management and quality will attract those in search of knowledge. This simple principle of self-continuous improvement is the foundation of becoming a potential mentor. His first key to unlocking a positive mentorship is self-awareness to make sure he is approachable to a potential mentee. His second key is treating the mentorship with the respect and rigor shown to a project.

The same components that lend to a well-run project also apply to a good mentorship, such as having agreed-upon objectives for the mentorship, as depicted within the “G” of the GROW model, Gain Understanding. This leads to his final key, which is to treat your mentee as your ”customer.” A mentorship provides value to both a mentor and a mentee, but it is based on the mentor providing value to the mentee and imparting knowledge and wisdom that they can apply to their own career, and even their life.

Table 3: Brian’s Application





Mentee Project Experiences with the Mentors

Jayden—Mentee of Steve  
The mentorship experience with Steve in project management was invaluable, as it fostered strong personal connections while providing insightful examples for exploration. My leader approved the mentorship with Steve to help my own growth and that of our business team. Not only was I able to be shown the foundation of project management, but I was guided through essential skills sets and a preliminary introduction orientation that are and will be pivotal to my journey in effectively applying project management throughout my professional development. This mentorship not only offered guidance on project initiation, planning, execution, and closure, but highlighted the profound understanding of communication and connection. The overall experience was enriching and allowed me to realize the importance of risk assessment and stakeholder management. I plan to use this starting point to not only better myself but those around me.

Shawn—Mentee of Brian 
What was most enjoyable for me about the mentorship was the opportunity to be a part of an initiative that would be a benefit to the association. My leader approved my mentorship with Brian. I was able to gain an understanding of the program manager’s role within the project. Participating in the project allowed me to observe, ask questions, and gain knowledge. I was able to apply the knowledge shared to my role as a workstream lead. Brian’s dedication to the program encouraged me to remain dedicated—to utilize the skill set, experience, and techniques that were provided.

Laxmi—Mentee of Brian
The experience I had with the internship at FCMA was one of my best work experiences. The mentorship I had was consistent, which included daily meetings and personalized attention. The mentor was able to connect with me not only professionally but also at the personal level, which created a comfortable working environment.

Andrea—Mentee of Brian
What I found most enjoyable about the mentorship was how I was able to learn traits and strengths about myself that were an advantage to my career that were not obvious to me before. I approached Brian as a mentor because we shared similar thoughts on how we could best help others excel in their careers and because he was so open to helping other people succeed. Because of the mentorship, I was able to see where I could help my team members more and how to be more effective. It also prepared me for future opportunities and helped me achieve my goals. I was actively working toward a new role during my mentorship, and I am now happy to say that I have achieved that role. I am confident that if it were not for my successful mentorship, I would not be where I am today.

Table 4 summarizes how the mentees engaged in the mentoring using their own words.




This article shared how we approach mentoring. We discussed some practical ways to mentor business team members in the art and science of getting things done. We look forward to hearing from others about how they approach mentoring with their project resources.


  1. Apprenticeship USA. (n.d.). Homepage.
  2. Bowden, J. (2023, November). Personal communication.
  3. Dahal, L. (2024, January). Personal communication.
  4. Holder, S. (2024, January). Personal communication.
  5. Farm Credit Mid-America. (n.d.). Corporate governance.
  6. Gordon, B. (2020, March 12). Developing an effective project management mentoring program. PMI ProjectManagement.com.
  7. LEAP Africa. (2015, February 17). #9 The law of magnetism- “Who you are is who you attract”.
  8. PMI Kentuckiana Chapter website (18 January 2024). “How We Mentor Our Partners in Business to Get Things Done” from Welcome | PMI Kentuckiana (kipmi.org).
  9. Pollock, S., Smith, J., & Lightsy, B. (2024, January 18). How we mentor our partners in business to get things done [Presentation]. PMI Kentuckiana Chapter Meeting, Jeffersontown, KY, United States.
  10. Pollock, S. & Mott, D. (2015). Coaching green belts for sustainable success. ASQ Press.
  11. PMI Washington, DC Chapter. (n.d.). Mentoring program. Project Management Institute® Washington, D.C.
  12. Reeves, M. (2023, October 6). 6 benefits of mentoring in the 2023 workplace. Forbes.
  13. Schwartz, A. (2024, January). Personal communication.

Share Information For An Upcoming Chapter Spotlight

We want to recognize our PMI Kentuckiana chapter members and volunteers for the great work they do for their organizations and for the Chapter! If you would like to nominate yourself or someone you know to be recognized in an upcoming Chapter Spotlight, we would love to hear from you!

Share Information For An Upcoming Chapter Spotlight