The power of peer mentoring

By Zander Mills, South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service

With Future Leaders’ Class of 2024 now underway, I wanted to share some reflections on the fantastic alumni I’ve enjoyed getting to know in recent years.

I’ve previously mentored six Future Leaders and had the pleasure of meeting my latest mentee for the first time just last week.

Here are some thoughts on what makes peer mentoring such a powerful part of the programme and a few things I’ve learned along the way:

1. We’re all in it together

Colleagues who don’t get comms?

Failing to involve us until things go wrong?

Ignoring our advice?

Or simply demanding logos, posters or the dreaded big cheque?

It doesn’t matter what comms team you work for and in what sector, we all face the same challenges in local government communciations.

Sometimes, there’s something incredibly reassuring in simply understanding that fact.

2. Stick or twist? Either is fine

Some of those I’ve mentored have gone on to pastures new- progressing to fab new roles after graduating from the programme.

Others have stayed with the same local authority, but applied new insights and learning which Future Leaders has given them.

As someone who’s worked for the same organisation for longer than I care to remember now, it’s just a reminder that in a world of high-expectations either is fine.

Future Leaders is about empowering you as a person and as a leader- what you do with that knowledge is entirely your call.

3. Bright futures

I’ve always considered myself an introvert who finds it hard to meet and get to know new people.

But whether it’s chatting about Lego, discussing our favourite TikTok trends or munching on pastries at a train station café it’s been genuinely lovely getting to know such a broad range of people.

It’s also reaffirmed to me that public sector comms teams employ a brilliant, diverse and inspiring mix of people. For this reason alone, our future bright.

4. Every day’s a learning day

Our industry is characterised by its dynamic nature- with new technologies, channels and trends emerging regularly.

But peer mentoring fosters a culture of continuous learning, encouraging professionals to stay curious and proactive in their pursuit of knowledge. This adaptability is crucial for staying relevant and competitive in an industry where stagnation can lead to obsolescence.

I’m sure I’ve learned as much if not more from my mentees as they’ve learned from me. And in my mind, that’s exactly what a good mentoring relationship should look like.

5. New networks

Mentoring goes beyond a one-on-one connection- it opens the door to a broader professional network. As individuals collaborate and share experiences, they naturally expand their circle of industry contacts.

In local government communications, where relationships are fundamental, having a supportive network can be a catalyst for success.

For these reasons, I’ve really enjoyed staying in touch with many of my mentees or watching their careers develop from afar.

I’m really looking forward to getting to know my new mentee further and watching their development throughout the next 12 months.


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