Catching up with Eskom’s Elsie Pule and her mentee Thato Dorcas Molise


CHRO South Africa asked Elsie Pule, group executive for HR at Eskom and her mentee, Thato Dorcas Molise, what they’ve learned from each other.

A mentor is someone who allows you to see the hope inside yourself, Oprah Winfrey once said. Mentorship, like many other leadership tools, has proven to be great for helping women in leadership to navigate challenges with a clearer perspective, shatter glass ceilings, and inspire the next generation of trailblazers.

Elsie, what have been the most important things you have tried to impart to your mentee, and why?

I always say to those I mentor that this is their journey and not mine, and encourage them to be selfish about what they want to learn from the relationship, so that I do not impose my way of doing things.

Mentorship works well when it is mentee led, so I advise that they should have a programme of action with clearly defined outcomes so that they are able to evaluate if this relationship is impactful. Most importantly, I teach them to have the courage to walk if the relationship does not serve their ambitions.

Thato what have been some of the most valuable lessons you have learnt from your mentor, and how have they been useful in your development and career?

Initiative: she always preaches that no one spends sleepless nights over my career and this is her way of making me realise the importance of taking initiative and to knock on doors in pursuit of my professional development. Every time I am about to take a giant leap, I hear her voice in my subconscious: “What’s the worst that could happen? Them saying no?” This motivates me to go for what I aspire to partake in at work.

Confidence and assertiveness: she is assertive and confident in her role and always encourages me to be the same. Whenever I feel the imposter syndrome knocking in, there is a power song/dance she has taught me which I rehearse in private (bathroom) before big meetings.

The importance of maintaining a work life balance or rather, leading an integrated life: Elsie is part of the 5am club. She makes time for an exercise routine and shared with me how important this is to her productive day at work. I aspire to do likewise as I realise how important it is to take care of the body if I am to be productive at work.

Elsie, what have you learned from Thato in the process? And how has it helped you as a leader?

I have been fortunate to have an engineer turned HR practitioner working in my office. I learn more from her than she does from me. Because of her training and her recent education in Japan, I learn every day especially about smart ways to work. She is accelerating my technology agility in an indirect manner, so I am on a steep learning curve.

Thato, what do you think the current generation of business leaders could learn from those who are coming up?

I have learnt so much from Elsie over the years, it is hard to summarise in a single paragraph. However, one of the most profound lessons I received from her is the value of being agile: or as she would put it: aiming to make an impact within 90 days of being in a new environment. She has shared with me how this can benefit one’s career and I always try to bear this lesson in mind.

Sometimes this would mean learning as you go and being comfortable with making mistakes: as long as one learns from these mistakes, then it should be okay. A lot of senior leaders in her level would always opt to go for the tried and tested methods as they are afraid of making mistakes, but this limits the possibilities of what can be achieved.

She is very good at trying out new concepts, she embraces creativity and innovation as long as it achieves the objectives. She is not process-orientated but output driven and I admire this about her. As long as the method is ethical and prudent, she allows us to follow our own route to achieve the ultimate goal.

Another lesson I think the current generation of business leaders could learn from those who are coming up is to simply listen to them. Elsie does this well. She spends a lot of time with young and relatively inexperienced professionals both at the office and in her leisure time, which opens up the current generation to trends and useful information about how to stay relevant in the ever-changing business landscape.

She has a lot of knowledge to share but she is also always open to hearing different views – not only does this keep her interesting and young at heart, but it keeps her relevant when problem-solving for pertinent business challenges.


Related articles

The rise of the greats sparks transformation in the workplace

The post-Covid landscape has changed the world of work significantly, as companies adapt to the Great Resignation, Great Reawakening, Great Reshuffle and Great Unretirement. It’s all the more prudent for HR strategies to evolve and adjust to The Greats.