While this would appear to be good news for association CEOs and senior executives, the bad news comes when you're looking for that seasoned manager to head up your Internet strategy group or the board chair who can guide your organization through tumultuous times. Chances are you've been seeing the leadership gap in your organization, feeling it in your boardroom, or hearing about it from your members. While the Korn/Ferry study reports that the crisis in association leadership doesn't quite match the level of that in corporate America, it's certainly of a magnitude to make CEOs and senior managers take notice. "The problem in the health care field," says Thomas C. Dolan, CAE, president and CEO, American College of Health Care Executives, Chicago, "goes back to cutbacks as a result of reduced federal reimbursement and managed care. Health care executives were expected to provide more services with fewer resources. This hasn't left people with a lot of time to consider mentoring others." Regardless, Dolan say s he has spent the past 10 years pushing the concept of mentoring and working on developing programs for ACHE and its members. Right now the organization is supporting four mentoring initiatives.
Where have all the leaders gone?
An item in the February 12, 2001, Trend Letter sheds further light on the origins of the leadership gap: "During the '90s, mergers and acquisitions forced consolidations at the corporate level, thereby reducing the number of middle-management posts as proving grounds. A trend toward divestiture of all but core businesses often eliminated opportunities for managers to learn the entire business by serving time in a variety of divisions." As a result, the report concluded, more organizations are chasing fewer proven candidates. In fact, when search companies started looking for replacements for the large number of CEOs who were let go last year by some of the nation's top organizations, they discovered a dearth of qualified candidates. While this is partially because of increased demand, it's also because of the abandonment during the '90s of traditional leadership tools. In many cases, training talent took dollars away from technology investment--and management mentoring fell by the wayside. "Certainly in the h ealth care industry," says Reed Morton, director of ACHE's health care executive career resource center, "we had assumed that since some of us were still involved in traditional mentoring programs that everyone was doing it. At some point, the volume of anecdotal evidence to the contrary reached a mass where we realized that we needed to pay attention to it." The demands on health care professionals simply left them no time to do what had been a traditional practice, says Morton. "While we should have recognized that earlier," explains Morton, "by 1994, we began to work with other organizations, specifically the Chicago Health Executive Forum, to put together some mentoring activities."
ACHE is not alone. Associations have experienced a number of factors that have led to a reduction in professional development opportunities for members and for their own staff and boards. Since most associations and professional societies have continued their educational programming and others require it of members in order to maintain professional certification, mentoring is perhaps the biggest bite that's been taken out of leadership development activities.
Motives for revisiting mentoring
Association executives and volunteer leaders interviewed for this article indicated that their formalized mentoring programs grew out of needs that were specific to their various industries or professions. Here are some of the trends that touched off the return of mentoring.
The need to provide students with better insight into professions and careers. While educational mentoring is often designed to encourage students to stay in school, the goals of the mentoring initiative developed by the University of Minnesota Alumni Association, Minneapolis, went beyond that. "Back in the early '90s," explains Judy Anderson, student relations manager for UMAA, "our members wanted to enhance the student experience by doing something that other units on campus were not already doing. It was a natural step for the alumni to offer their professional expertise through mentoring programs, giving students a perspective on their careers that they would nor otherwise have. Many students get to visit companies, do job site visits, and to sit down with professionals in an industry that they might be considering." The alumni mentors, says Anderson, volunteer for the program because they didn't have that kind of opportunity themselves and they know how much they would have appreciated it. This year, rep orts Anderson, the mentoring programs active in the 20 different colleges at the University of Minnesota and coordinated by UMAA supported 1,400 pairs of student-mentor participants.
A declining number of people entering or remaining in the profession. For the California Dietetic Association, Playa Del Ray, California, age and gender were definite factors leading to the conclusion or interruption of member career paths. A state association of the American Dietetic Association, Chicago, CDA's 7,000 members are predominantly women who work as registered dietitians, registered dietetic technicians, or are students of nutrition and food service. "Typically," says Kara Caldwell-Freeman, CDA's professional mentoring district coordinator, "women step out of the profession, at least temporarily, to get married and have children. We thought that if we engaged them in the association and got them involved in their own professional development--both in the association and in the profession--they would be more likely to return at a later date." As a response to this presumption, CDA started its first mentoring program about six years ago, with the goal of encouraging senior students to become mentees of CDA executive board members and get them involved and active in the association. "We started with three mentees who were paired (one each) with the president and two vice presidents of the executive board. The program is still in place," explains Caldwell-Freeman, "and more than 50 percent of the students who have gone through that particular program have stayed active in CDA and in the profession."
Reinforcing CDA's own activities, the American Dietetic Association launched in 2000 a strategic plan that identified individual professional development as a key part of what the organization needed to support in order to retain members and to foster leadership development in the profession. We're charged with doing a personal assessment of where we are in the profession, where we want to be in five years--and the steps needed to get there," explains Caldwell-Freeman. Mentoring is a big part of everyone's program, whether they are the mentor or the mentee. "So, with that mandate," says Caidwell-Freeman, "CDA began developing a formal mentoring program in support of this strategic goal." One of CDA's volunteers applied and received a two-year grant from ADA to develop a program that focused on midcareer mentoring. "Once dieticians decide that perhaps they would like to go into a different specialty, they've got people to communicate with who are role models and will help them move through leadership roles--wh ether they be on the job or within the association leadership," say Caldwell-Freeman.
The issue was slightly different for the Society of Broadcast Engineers, Indianapolis. Founded 37 years ago to support professionals in the field of broadcast engineering, the industry began experiencing competition for its members during the technology boom of the 1990s. As the economy pumped and technology jobs proliferated, people with the technology skills for broadcast engineering were being siphoned off by technology companies. "They were dazzled," says SBE Executive Director John Poray, "by the bells and whistles and the additional technology options. And, of course, the hours and pay were usually better."
Three years ago, the national organization, which has 106 chapters nationwide, decided to add a youth membership category that acts as an informal mentoring program. "The idea is to encourage young people to choose this profession," says Poray. "Some chapters conduct youth nights as part of their regularly scheduled meetings. Students who attend can tour the television studio, meet with broadcast engineers, and discuss career options. While it's difficult to gauge how many students make the eventual leap into the profession, we have seen some continuity in youth members choosing a career path that will take them into broadcast engineering."
Lack of support for underserved groups.
It was an executive recruiter who first brought to the attention of the president of NAMIC, Inc. (founded in 1980 as the National Association of Minorities in Communications), La Palma, California, the lack of candidates for communication positions she was trying to fill in major companies that were looking for people of color. "Ann Carlsen, a member of our national board, found that professionals of color in the cable industry weren't staying in the business," says Marsha Wesley, manager of NAMIC's L. Patrick Mellon Mentorship Program. Since this was partially due to a shortage of role models and a lack of a framework in which entry and midlevel people could receive the training and vision to move forward in their careers, Carlsen suggested that NAMIC develop a formalized mentoring program. In place since 1993, the program has become a model for a number of other organizations that support people of color in various fields.
Lack of leadership. Dolan and ACHE's membership felt so strongly about the diminishing number of industry leaders passing the torch to others that the first sentences in ACHE's Professional Policy Statement on the Responsibility of Mentoring read like this: "The future of health care management rests in large measure with those entering the field as well as with midcareerists who aspire to new and greater management opportunities. Although on-the-job experiences and continuing education will go a long way toward preparing tomorrow's leaders, the value of mentoring these individuals cannot be overstated." (See sidebar, "The Makings of a Mentor.")
There's no magic mentoring bullet when it comes to setting up programs. A common theme, however, is volunteers. No matter how the program operates, who runs it, and what entity funds its activities, all mentoring programs survive on the energy and commitment of volunteers who manage programs and act as mentors. Identifying them, attracting them, and providing them with some kind of training is another matter. Here are some ways that work.
Establish program coordinators. Volunteers not only mentor the mideareer professionals of the California Dietetic Association's mentoring program. They also run the program. Under the guidance of an unpaid project adviser, Caldwell-Freeman serves as the volunteer state coordinator for the network of 11 districts throughout California, nine of which have volunteers to coordinate the mentoring programs on the local level. She is currently rolling out a more formal training program both for the coordinators and the mentor-mentee pairs. "We're basing the training on a series of tapes provided by Dr. Linda Phillips-Jones of The Mentoring Group, Grass Valley, California (see sidebar, "Mentoring Materials," for information on these and other resources). The district coordinators who have used the tapes have found that they are helpful in kicking off the process and helping mentors and mentees understand the program and their mutual responsibilities." Coordinators attract participants by writing articles for their di strict bulletins and posting information to CDA's Web site. In addition, the project adviser has completed a procedure manual to formalize CDA's program and customize it to the organization.
Poray's more informal program at the Society of Broadcast Engineers is similarly run by volunteers. "With 106 chapters nationwide and the mentoring program run strictly by local volunteer leadership," says Poray, "the most effective chapters are those with members who are passionate about attracting people to the industry."
Collaborate with other organizations in the industry. "Our pilot mentoring program at the American College of Health Care Executives," says Morton, "was done in collaboration with the Chicago Health Executive Forum (CHEF), a local group of professionals in their early to midlevel careers." Within the two memberships, the issue of mentoring had been coming up with some frequency, says Morton. "This convergence of interests," he says, "led to our working together on developing a formalized mentoring program." After surveying the highest credentialed fellows of ACHE and attracting a pool of individuals interested in mentoring members of CHEF, the two organizations developed some literature outlining the mentoring program, laying out the expectations, and formulating an orientation program. Eventually, close to 50 pairs participated in the pilot program. Distinguishing the program from some other ACHE mentoring activities is the fact that mentoring is not provided to students in undergraduate or graduate programs . "We are worried about the supply of mentors," says Morton. "Students are numerous and needy," he explains. "We want to take care of the people who are already in the field and have a sense of what their professional needs are."
About two years after the program launch, the two organizations did an assessment, explains Morton. Results led CHEF to add a series of breakfasts during which mentees or proteges could meet with the statesmen of the industry, shifting from table to table to hear advice and encouragement from those high in the leadership ranks who have their own mentees and would normally not have time to participate in CHEF's formal program. "The breakfasts are always a sellout," says Morton. From the beginning, ACHE and CHEF have provided the manpower and materials for the program. In addition, ACHE has developed a directory of postgraduate fellowships available online to anyone in the field to match candidates with available positions in the field.
Hire a program manager. NAMIC's mentoring program began with the national organization asking each of its 14 chapters to nominate a few people to go through the program. The program was incubated on a voluntary basis by Carlsen Resources until 2000 when the National Cable and Telecommunications Association, Washington, D.C., provided NAMIC with a three-year grant, which allowed them to hire fulltime manager Marsha Wesley.
"I recruit mentors all year long," says Wesley, who approaches potential mentors at trade shows, industry meetings, and other events where she may meet industry leaders at various levels of the professional ladder. With the help of a formal application to which potential mentees attach their resumes, Wesley is the matchmaker for mentors and proteges. "Mentees are at all different levels," explains Wesley, "including college students who are NAMIC members, as well as assistants, managers, and vice presidents." Wesley's first criterion for matching is geography, so that people can get together over lunch or attend a local meeting together. "If I can't make that fit," says Wesley, "I try to make sure that one of the people can travel, so the pair can meet while on business or at a conference." Mentors and mentees receive training manuals with instructions as to how to be a successful mentor or mentee and then begin the nine-month experience.
Set up a mentoring clearinghouse. In an unusual mentoring model, UMAA's Mentor Connection supports the mentoring activities of the 20 colleges of the University of Minnesota. "I've been in the position of student relations coordinator for UMAA for three years," says Judy Anderson, who spends about 20 percent of her time on the program. "When I started here, I saw the Mentor Connection as an umbrella organization that provides bridge building between the programs. I act in a consulting role, bringing things that I've seen work well in other programs to the various programs within the colleges here." While Anderson says that she's one step removed from the dayto-day activities, she provides some central resources so that each program doesn't have to reinvent the wheel. A training handbook, instruction on developing databases of volunteers, as well as guidance for linking to UMAA's online presence are included in Anderson's arsenal of tools. In addition, three times a year she brings together program coordinator s from the various colleges to share what they are doing, what has worked, and what has failed.
In May, UMAA pays for a dinner to which Anderson invites all the mentoring volunteers. The event centers around what Anderson calls her best practices workshop. "The idea is that volunteers don't have to travel across the country to a mentoring conference when we're doing so many things here that they can learn from. I offer a training program as well," says Anderson. "I go to many of the kick-off meetings and explain about how to get started in a mentor-student relationship. That way, each school doesn't have to find someone to speak or create their own presentation." These things are particularly important in an environment where the student volunteers by definition move on and others must take their places.
Regardless of the program model, the challenges for managing mentoring programs remain similar across organizations. Most of the interviewees for this article agreed that the biggest challenges to any of their mentoring initiatives include securing the commitment of volunteers and participants, communicating realistic expectations, and making the proper matches between mentor and mentee. "Individuals from outside our profession," says Caldwell-Freeman, "are amazed at the commitment of ADA and CDA volunteers. Most of us will give up weekends to attend meetings; perhaps it's the nurturing piece of who we are professionally. But it helps keep the program on track."
Society of Broadcast Engineers Poray admits that since SBE's program survives mostly on the efforts of volunteers at the local chapters, program quality is inconsistent. "Two of our chapters stand out," he says, "with Cleveland, Ohio, and Madison, Wisconsin, having enthusiastic volunteer leaders who consistently schedule mentoring activities for students."
None of the groups reported particular problems in attracting mentors, particularly when they made program expectations clear. The NAMIC program, for example, specifies that the mentoring program is nine months long, with the expectation that mentormentee pairs will meet for up to two hours each month. Breakfast or luncheon meetings, scheduled phone calls, and sometimes e-mail conversations are the typical communication methods.
"At the same time," says Wesley, "there are all kinds of problems that come up when you're dealing with this kind of relationship. Some people just don't click--or someone may be changing jobs--and the mentee is unable to realize the full benefit of the program. So, if they call me, I'll either find them a new mentor or try to work things out with the existing one."
"Something that can kill the relationship," says Morton, "is for the mentee to have the expectation that the mentoring experience is similar to a job search. But we've found that when someone has this attitude, it feels like exploitation to the mentor and the mentor-mentee pair seems to fall apart."
Like most programs, costs for formal mentoring initiatives relate to size and complexity--and they do depend on the volunteer base. For NAMIC, the initial costs were for production of manuals, postage to mail out materials, and communication to get program participants together. With the recent grant in support of the program, Wesley can now travel to conferences to recruit mentors and also visit companies to see how they can work with NAMIC in supporting their diversity goals through similar mentoring programs.
At UMAA, the price tag includes Judy Anderson's time as coordinator of the Mentor Connection and a budget of $7,000 to supply training materials, provide the best practices workshop, and plan an annual social event for mentors and students. "I will invite all 2,800 participants to a women's hockey game and lunch, for example," says Anderson. Often only 150 people attend, but it's an opportunity for participants to connect back with us. And if a mentor-student pair hasn't had a chance to get together, they can accept the invitation and pick up on the relationship at the event."
"Our costs are mostly related to staff time, mail and fax charges, and data entry," says ACHE's Morton. Most staff time is spent, he says, on making the matches between mentor and mentee. Time must be spent maintaining and reviewing the database of potential partners, with thought given to not only geography and professional level, but also to other more complicated issues, such as whether people are working for competing organizations or whether their respective organizations may be in negotiations. Costs have increased lately as ACHE rolls out its Online Leadership Mentoring Network program. According to president and CEO Dolan, "In all, ACHE dedicates 2 percent of its annual budget to career development activities for its members. Our various mentoring programs are included in this figure. Our board enthusiastically supports these activities."
A two-year strategic initiative grant supplied to CDA by the national organization paid for project development of CDA's midcareer mentoring program, with some funds used in the first year for training and for the purchase of training manuals. "As the grant concluded," says Caldwell-Freeman, "the education council--which oversees the mentoring initiative--made the decision to continue the program but to expand it to a professional mentoring program rather than only a midcareer program. The executive board accepted our recommendation and authorized funds to include the program as a line item in our budget." The committee requested $3,000-$4,000, which will cover phone calls, mailings, and training materials. "Since the program is based on volunteer efforts," says Caldwell-Freeman, "the budget doesn't need to be large."
In addition, CDA recently received a mentoring grant specifically for attracting and retaining minority students in the profession. The funds are a part of a larger grant received by the American Dietetic Association from the Health Resources and Services Administration, an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Under the terms of the oneyear contract, totaling $99,350, ADA will target African-American, Latino, Asian, Pacific Islander, American Indian, Alaskan, and Hawaiian native students to pursue careers as food and nutrition professionals.
Outcomes that interviewees claim for their mentoring programs predictably vary with organizational priorities for the programs and with the depth of support for program activities.
Here are some of the significant gains being made by mentoring activities.
1. Membership growth and retention. "NAMIC's mentoring program definitely attracts new members," says Wesley. "When people find out about the program on our Web site and call for information, I tell them that they must be an NAMIC member to receive this benefit. And so they join--it's definitely a tool that has increased our membership." Wesley says that the program also helps retain members who frequently discuss how excited they are about the program and its benefits. So far, 231 people have gone through the program--as mentor, mentee, or both, says Wesley. "Nearly all mentors I talk to say that they get much more out of the program than they put into it," she adds.
At CDA, Caldwell-Freeman feels that the mentoring program couldn't have been developed at a better time. "With the national organization having identified in 2000 that professional development is a strategic goal for each member, we feel that the mentoring program is poised to become a key way that members achieve the professional goals that they lay out for themselves." Caldwell-Freeman is already getting an increase in phone calls and e-mail from people who are realizing that mentoring is a tool to achieve their goals. "Instead of having to push the program out to members," she says, "they are figuring out that the mentoring program is an obvious resource.
(2.) Diversity management. "Since NAMIC is an association that advocates diversity, mentors and mentees are able to have a dialogue with someone who is also a person of color. The experience can provide new perspectives on meeting the diversity goals within their own organizations-adding even more value to the program," Wesley continues. Jane White, ADA's president says, "It is clear that minority groups are significantly underrepresented in the field of dietetics, as with virtually all health care professions." She predicts that the newly funded mentoring model will ultimately be shared with other health professionals.
(3.) Professional growth. "It's difficult to make a general statement as to how participants benefit from the various mentoring programs," admits Morton of ACHE. "Certainly it depends on the commitment of the individuals involved. One mentor that I know helped his proteges build new professional networks. And he chased them. If his mentees missed a meeting or call, he insisted they reschedule when there was more time." ACHE launched its new online Leadership Mentoring Network late last year. "The first step, of course, was the recruitment of mentors," says Morton. "We sent letters to ACHE's life fellows and life diplomates, the most senior leaders in the profession. From the approximately 8,000 letters that went out, we received 720 responses from those willing to be mentors." Morton and his staff have just begun putting together mentoring pairs- approximately 50 so far. While Morton senses that participants believe that the online program is a positive adjunct to other mentoring opportunities, he says, "Part icipants are asking for a mentor who is geographically close so that they can get together. So I don't know whether the program will remain completely virtual. That may simply be a result of the kind of profession that we are in."
UMAA's Anderson sees results of the Mentor Connection through the eyes of the association's members who serve as mentors. "The experience makes them feel more connected to the university," she says, "and they find out what's going on with students. And sometimes they learn things about their own fields, because they are gaining the perspective of a younger person who doesn't have preconceived ideas about the industry." Anderson says that sometimes when students ask mentors why they do certain things, it actually makes the mentor step back and re-examine some of their processes. She also finds it difficult to evaluate the various mentoring programs taking place in the individual colleges on the campus. "It doesn't work," she says, "because they are all unique and you can't compare them. I've concluded that the better thing to do is to share best practices with people regardless of where those practices originate."
(4.) Leadership development. "The mentoring program certainly has contributed to developing leadership skills among the mentees," says Wesley. "Most participants have been promoted during their time in the program." Wesley admits that other factors come into play. "These are really driven people to begin with; they're focused; they want to move up in their careers. The program, however, gives them the opportunity, for example, to practice articulating how they'll ask for the next promotion by running it by the senior manager or CEO who is mentoring them. It gives them an extra edge."
"We've found at ACHE," says Morton, "that our formalized mentoring programs have been viewed with a high degree of receptiveness. Members want mentoring back as an important part of developing future leaders in the industry. They're responding to a tradition of leadership mentoring--it seems to be almost part of their DNA."
Carole Schweitzer is senior editor of
ASSOCIATION MANAGEMENT. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
"If you were to use any search engine to find information about mentoring, the number of hits that you would get goes beyond a lifetime of being able to examine them all," says Rey A. Carr, president and chief executive officer, Peer Resources, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. Carr heads up the Peer Resources Network, a nonprofit division of Peer Systems Consulting Group, Inc., which provides training tools, consulting services, and networking opportunities to a worldwide association of peer program leaders, coaches, mentor program developers, trainers, and related service users. "All of our data indicate significant increases in mentoring," says Carr. "Most of this is because new paradigms have emerged to replace the previous vision of toga-clad mentors dispersing wisdom while proteges bow at their feet. The Internet and electronic communication, of course, have become major tools to allow mentorship to occur at all levels and areas of society."
Carr's group is one of the multitude of mentoring resources available online.
* While the Peer Resources Web site (www.peer.ca/peer.html) contains member-only material, nonmembers may access a number of documents, articles, and other data about mentoring at no cost.
* The California Dietetic Association (see main article) uses training tapes from The Mentoring Group, Grass Valley, California. Go to www.mentoringgroup.com for tips for both mentors and mentees as well as descriptions of training guides and materials for getting mentoring programs up and running.
* To review the details of the mentoring program of the National Association of Minorities in Communications, La Palma, California (see main article), go to NAMIC's site at www.namic.com/mentor.html.
If you prefer your information in book form, there are numerous selections on the shelf.
* Jeff Kulick, executive director, National School Transportation Association, Alexandria, Virginia, gives a heads up to Discovering the Leader in You: A Guide to Realizing Your Personal Leadership Potential (2001, Jossey-Bass), by Robert J. Lee and Sara N. King. In Kulick's book review published in the April 20, 2001, Association Trends, he says, "[This] is also a great tool if you are serving as a mentor to a junior colleague. It is a journey of discovery where you'll examine your own approaches to leadership as you work with someone else."
* Working Woman, September 1999, recommends Coaching, Counseling, and Mentoring: How to Choose and Use the Right Technique to Boost Employee Performance, by Florence Stone (1998, AMACOM). An editor at the American Management Association, New York City, Stone covers the mentoring basics as well as other topics on adapting the workplace to facilitate improved employee performance.
* Terry Townsend, CAE, president and CEO, Texas Hospital Association, Austin, recommends Mentoring: Confidence in Finding a Mentor and Becoming One, by Bobb Biehl (1996, Broadman & Holman Publishers).
THE MAKINGS OF A MENTOR
THOMAS C. DOLAN, CAE
Overcoming misconceptions can help you create a legacy of leadership in your association--and your industry.
While there are many types of mentoring, the traditional model in association management and corporate management as well is one in which a more experienced executive provides support and feedback to a younger executive. However, in my industry one of the most frequent comments I hear from younger health care executives is that they cannot find appropriate mentors; senior executives say they are too pressed for time to incorporate a mentoring relationship into their schedules. This time issue is one of the myths about mentoring that steers executives away from the experience, so I would like to debunk some of those misconceptions with observations from my own experiences as a mentor.
* MENTORING DOES NOT HAVE TO BE TIME-CONSUMING. If you and your protege use the time well, one half-hour meeting every two weeks should be sufficient. I ask my proteges to develop an agenda or a list of questions for each meeting to keep us focused and ensure that we make the most of our time.
* MENTORING DOES NOT HAVE TO BE DONE ALONE. Bringing in other senior executives to meet with the protege can help the early careerist understand the perspectives of individuals of different backgrounds. I make sure that all of my proteges are exposed to a number of executives, both male and female, from a variety of ethnic backgrounds and age groups.
* MENTORING IS A LEARNING EXPERIENCE FOR BOTH PARTIES. While the primary intent of mentoring is for the senior executive to pass on insights, advice, and knowledge to the protege, I have also learned something from everyone I have mentored. I have enhanced my skills in working with individuals of different ages and personality types, learned more about my own leadership style, and increased my knowledge of quickly evolving areas of health care management, such as information technology.
* MENTORING CAN BE FUN AND FULFILLING. The conversations you have with your protege should be enjoyable. I look forward to my mentoring meetings as a time to relax and take a quick break from the usual workday stresses. Also, I have found that watching my proteges build upon their accomplishments and advance in the field is extremely rewarding.
The future of our field is in your hands. Please become a mentor and ensure that you will have a lasting impact on tomorrow's leaders.
Thomas C. Dolan, CAE, is president and CEO of the American College of Healthcare Executives, Chicago. E-mail: email@example.com.
MAKING YOUR MENTORSHIP MEANINGFUL
"A positive mentorship experience can be a great boost to your career, so take advantage of it," advises Laura Cook, consultant, Arista Associates, Northbrook, Illinois, and former mentee of Thomas C. Dolan, CAE, president and CEO of the American College of Healthcare Executives, Chicago. Cook explains how mentees can make the most of this rewarding experience.
* BE WILLING TO PLAY AN ACTIVE ROLE. A mentorship is a two-way street--you will get out of it what you put into it.
* DEFINE THE RELATIONSHIP. Knowing what you want from the relationship and being able to articulate this up front to a potential mentor will help to ensure that your expectations are in line with theirs. Other things to consider: What particular expertise does the mentor have that you would like to benefit from? What would you like the end result--the takeaway--of your mentorship to be?
* SET RELATIONSHIP PARAMETERS. Consider, for instance, how frequently you would like to meet with your mentor. Decide how you would prefer to interact and by what method-via telephone, face-to-face meetings, or perhaps sometimes by e-mail.
* ENSURE YOUR TIME COMMITMENT. Does the mentor have the time to commit to helping you reach the goals of your mentorship? Alternatively, do you? People in mentoring roles often have incredibly busy schedules, as do mentees. A frank discussion at the outset regarding the time commitment necessary to reach the goals of the mentorship can help determine if you have found a good match.
* BE PREPARED. Prior to each meeting with the mentor, prepare a list of items you want to discuss. For example, Cook's list covered a range of topics, including projects that she was working on, projects that Dolan was involved in, the health care field in general, and Cook's future career goals.
* BE APPRECIATIVE. Always be grateful of the energy and time that your mentor puts into your relationship. Showing your gratification, even with a simple card now and then, is a great way to express your appreciation.
The rewards of a mentoring relationship can be great. Here are a few important lessons that Cook took away from her mentor.
* BUILD POLITICAL ACUMEN. While it's always good to do the right thing, it's best to also do it the right way. The tricky part is that the right way may differ from one situation to another. Be aware of your audience and act accordingly.
* REVIEW YOUR WORK. Nothing is more embarrassing, or potentially career limiting, than sending out a document that contains inaccurate information or typographical errors. Having someone other than yourself proofread your work saves time in the long run.
* LISTEN. As a consultant, one of the most important things that Cook can do is listen to her clients. Sometimes, she cautions, it's easy to become so focused on coming up with solutions to a problem that you haven't bothered to clearly listen to what the problem actually is.
"As I have pursued my career, I have been fortunate to continue to benefit from Dolan's mentorship. My experiences have definitely inspired a desire in me to mentor others," says Cook. "I am always open to helping others as they plan and pursue their own careers."
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