The Power of Mentoring

By FDOT Secretary Kevin J. Thibault, P.E.

I am excited to be a part of the new Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) newsletter, Moving Florida. To kick off the first issue, I wanted to talk to you all about something near and dear to my heart — mentoring.

Many years ago, during my time at college, I was blessed to be mentored by someone who would later help me get my start in transportation.  It seems we ‘hit it off’ from the very beginning, and there was mutual respect — even though he was the teacher and I was the student.  There were numerous areas of common interest, and although I ‘soaked up like a sponge’ his years of experience and wisdom, I hope that he learned something from me as well.

Every successful leader will tell you that they have had numerous mentors to guide them along the way – not just in their educational years but throughout their career. Each mentor can teach us something different: about our leadership style; working and interacting with colleagues; respecting employees; being creative; and even our beliefs.  We should always seek out those we know we can learn from as our mentors and ‘soak’ in their experience and wisdom. 

While we should always continue to develop our talents through reading and listening, learning and observing from others, don’t be afraid to ask questions or for advice.  Personal development in all aspects of our life makes us a vital part of our communities and homes.

Throughout my career, I have made it a point to seek out those I could learn from and those who could help me become the person I wanted to be. Just recently, I reached out to several of my predecessors to learn lessons from them when they were the leader of this wonderful agency – each one of them teaching me an important ‘nugget’ that I can use as we embark on implementing some major initiatives.

Seeking out mentors is as important as being a mentor yourself.  Many of you already mentor members of our team, area schools as well as industry associations.  I applaud all of you who do that – you not only share your experiences but pass on the long legacy we have here of this agency.  Remember too, that sometimes you are a ‘mentor’ to many even though you don’t know it – your actions and words can inspire many. 

I encourage all Department employees to take part in the FDOT Mentoring Program. Whether you want to become a mentor and share your experience, knowledge and skills or gain a better understanding of FDOT as a mentee, this program is a wonderful opportunity to grow. Everyone has something to contribute, and we can all learn together. Knowledge is invaluable and will only make us stronger as One FDOT.

Not too long ago, I commented to a colleague how impressed I was on how they spend the time and effort to know their employees and reach out to them to see how they are doing.  The person turned to me and said, “I learned that from you.”