In this episode, Anthony discusses what emerging leaders can do to identify mentors and initiate mentorship relationships and ends the episode by sharing examples of programs that organizations can implement to cultivate a culture of development within your business.
For the next episode, Anthony has a special request. The October episode will consist of Q&A about developing emerging leaders, professional development plans or mentorship programs. Anthony will answer your questions during the episode and you can submit questions by emailing them to me at email@example.com by September 10. Email submissions can be anonymous.
Welcome to the Contributor Wednesday series on the Bridge the Gap network. This series is sponsored by Peak Senior Living by Functional Pathways each week. You’ll hear from a thought leader, discussing topics that are relevant and impactful to the senior living industry.
Welcome back to Bridge The Gap Podcast for Senior Living for my third episode as part of the Contributor Wednesday series.
I’m Anthony Ormsbee-Hale, Vice President of People Operations at Civitas Senior Living and I am thrilled to be with you today as we follow up from my previous episode about professional development plans for emerging leaders.
After the episode, I heard from so many people who have started the process of crafting their own professional development plans, and I could not be more excited about the opportunities ahead of them. In this episode, I’ll discuss three key thoughts:
What can emerging leaders do to identify, invite and build rapport with an executive leader/mentor?
What can executive leaders do to be more effective mentors within their organizations?
What can organizations do to create an atmosphere and culture of mentorship and development within their organizations?
When you develop a mentor relationship, you gain so much confidence in an array of areas, including the ability to talk with people and ask for their feedback.
I know that in conversations with my mentors, I felt more sure of myself in preparing to make decisions and figuring out what I wanted next for my career.” Whether it was a promotion, opportunity to pursue, skills to develop, or any part of my professional development.
Regardless of where you are in your career—a recent graduate, a new manager, or a seasoned professional—everyone can use a mentor to help guide them. We know from research that people with mentors get promoted faster, earn a higher salary, and are more satisfied with their careers.
As with most relationships in life, it is important to set expectations about what a mentor can and cannot do for you. A mentor is someone who can act as your cheerleader and guide, encourage you to apply for new opportunities, and help you to navigate challenging situations such as transitioning to a new role or taking on a stretch assignment. While many people assume that a mentor will leverage their network to help the mentee access promotional and career opportunities, promotions this is not always the case and should be clearly defined in the goal-setting phase of the mentor discussion. The latter is often defined as a “sponsor” and is an internal support figure that advocates for you to participate in skill-building or career-building experiences. I don’t want to overcomplicate the matter – many mentors are also sponsors but you’ll avoid a lot of hurt feelings and misunderstandings by simply clarifying expectations of the relationship from the very beginning.
After the last episode, as I mentioned, so many people reached out with their questions. The number one question I received after the last podcast episode was how do I start? How do I identify a mentor and once I know who is that person, how do I ask them to be my mentor? One friend reached out and said it felt like asking someone to the prom all over again.
So, I want to share a couple of tips on how you can identify the best mentor for you and how you can reach out and build that relationship. So, in order to identify the mentor that you need, I suggest starting with these questions:
What are my expectations for this person? What do they need to know and what type of experience would they need in order to answer the questions that I have?
For example: If I am looking for a mentor that will allow me to access promotional opportunities within my current company, then I should look for an influential leader who can also act as a sponsor for me. That person should be willing to advocate for me in the organization. They should also participate in conversations in which projects or tasks are assigned to employees, so that can have an appropriate platform to advocate for you to take on a bigger role.
On the other hand, if I am looking for a mentor that could teach me a new skill or skills, or help me to identify potential ways to grow that do not necessarily relate to promotions, then that opens up to possible connections outside of my company or industry.
There are also advantages and disadvantages to having a mentor outside of your organization. While they may not understand the nuances of your company, you’re more likely to feel as if you can speak freely about organizational dynamics with a neutral third party. Just be careful not to turn your mentorship sessions into complaint sessions. You certainly don’t want to take up the time and energy complaining about issues. If you have issues with a peer or maybe a supervisor, that is certainly what your mentor can help you work through. But you should definitely focus more on behaviors and issues at hand rather than complaining about another individual.
Each mentoring relationship has advantages and disadvantages and you may even need both but they can also be developed at different paces over time.
Other great questions to ask include:
What skills and accomplishments does this person have and are they relevant to my goals?
Is this a paid or volunteer mentorship relationship?
There’re a lot of mentors out there who offer their services in professional development and coaching as a paid form. So it’s certainly something to consider if people have the means to do so. Otherwise, you might seek out a volunteer mentor relationship. But the dynamics of that are slightly different. So if you have the ability to have a paid mentor, or professional development coach, I would highly consider you doing that. And there’re certainly some great individuals out there who do that as a full-time profession.
What are the mentor’s expectations of me? Is this individual mentoring me in hopes of so that they can recruit me to join their organization? How does my current organization feel about that type of relationship with that individual? And you also want to make sure that you have those conversations with friends, you’re getting recommendations, that you are also seeking out for someone who might potentially have a different point of view, or has different experience than yourself? Find yourself a mentor who is bringing a lot of value in your relationship.
Alright, so how do you make the initial ask to the mentor?
Schedule an initial conversation. Ask your potential mentor if he or she can make time for an hour meeting with you. You don’t want to be rushed, and you want plenty of time for the other person to ask you questions about your goals, etc. If possible, I suggest asking for a face-to-face meeting but online meetings allow for greater flexibility.
Clearly describe the guidance you’re seeking (The Ask). This is where that preliminary brainstorming on your part will help you articulate just what you have in mind. Describe what advice or guidance you are seeking and for what purpose. Think about this and articulate up front what you are seeking.
In this initial conversation, it’s important to say that you’re considering this mentorship relationship that you want to get to know more about individual, there needs to be a clear objective to this meeting, but you don’t want to make this first meeting your sales pitch. Making sure that you assessing that relationship status and that you’re going into this meeting with clear expectations is critical. And also make sure you know what type of guidance you’re seeking. This is where brainstorming part on your part would be helpful. Describe what advice and guidance you’re seeking. Is this a short-term or long-term relationship you’re seeking? And come and formulate ideas and suggestions of how could this be beneficial for that other person. What’s their return on the investment for spending their time with you and helping to work through the potential challenges and obstacles that you’re facing?
Confirm your willingness to do the necessary work and follow through.
Most people who are asked to become mentors are highly successful in their careers, which means they’re also very busy and much in demand. They want to know that the person who they are working with will do the necessary work. There’s nothing more frustrating than mentoring someone who doesn’t do the work necessary to take advantage of the advice, so you want to make it clear to your potential mentor that you’re ready to commit the time, energy, and effort to make the most of their counsel (and time). So going through and setting those clear expectations, I am going through this one hour a week, focusing on my professional development plan, Is that enough time to follow the advice or follow the suggestions? If your mentor expects you to spend one hour a day verses one hour a week, then you want to make sure that that is in alignment with what you committed to do.
Acknowledge and respect the individual’s time. As I mentioned before, most people who are asked to become mentors are highly successful in their careers, which means they’re also very busy and much in demand. So it’s important for you to acknowledge that reality and make it clear how much you appreciate their considering your request. This is also the way to provide a graceful “out,” letting the other person cite an overbooked schedule for declining your request. Ask for the appropriate person that they can suggest. Keep it civil if you’re getting rejected because your paths might cross again. Respect that person and their honesty about their time commitment.
A few tips here:
If you don’t know the person at all or very well, check to see if you have mutual connections that could make the first introduction. Don’t be afraid to cold call if you have a LinkedIn or second or third degree connection to but a personal introduction never hurts.
Don’t take it personally if the answer is no. As I mentioned before, the senior leader is likely already swamped for time and may not be able to meet additional demands. Check back with them in 6 months.
Let’s switch to the second thought here: advice for leaders who accept and act in mentorship roles.
First, a quick note of thanks to anyone who acts as a mentor. Time is a precious commodity these days and I think mentoring is one of the best uses of time that we have.
Mentorship has enormous value. I remember a time when I was gearing up for my first financial review call as an executive director. I was nervous and had spent days reviewing information and preparing for the call. As a former sales director, I was planning to focus in on the several move-ins that occurred that previous month and the pipeline we had as a way to spotlight the increase in revenue. Naturally, as a former sales director, I was pretty comfortable talking about move-ins.
Fortunately, a mentor I had at the time, stated, “If you’re going to talk about move-ins then be prepared to discuss any concessions you offered and their impact on income over the next few months. They don’t want to talk about the number of move-ins, they want to talk about cash income.”
This changed the whole tone of my review and helped me come out looking more impressive for a new Executive Director. It also reinforced my understanding of financial management, a critical skill for a new leader. I was very grateful for that mentor who helped to get prepared for that meeting.
Mentoring is the ultimate win-win-win for the mentee, mentor, and organization. The organization gets a boost in employee retention and engagement. Research shows that mentored employees have:
Greater intentions to stay with the organization
More commitment to their job
Higher job satisfaction.
What’s surprising is that research also shows the mentors experience most of these same benefits.
Once you’ve accepted the role of mentor and/or sponsor to someone, it is important to develop a plan. You can use a similar approach that I shared in the previous episode but like any good project, a mentorship relationship has objectives, action items, timelines and clear expectations.
Here are other ways that you as a mentor or organization can leverage your time to produce mentorship wins:
Curate and share: Share content (podcasts, newsletters and other sources) with mentees to introduce them to credible sources of information. These are also great ways to build relationships with your mentees. A lot of times employers hesitate because they think they have to create this original content while they might have a vast network of content around them to use. It limits the relationship to just the experience of the mentor.
Lunch round table: Invite a group of employees to an informal lunch; and let them ask questions and build their peer networks. Alternatively, you could invite a guest speaker to that lunch to present on a topic of shared interest. Remember, you can also leverage Zoom or other online platforms to open this up to speakers or employees outside of your immediate location. It’s a way to enhance the thought process of your conversations. You can have dinner shipped out to everyone’s home. I might be old-fashioned, but I prefer to share meals together.
Job shadowing: Invite a future leader to a behind-the-scenes day, so they can learn from the senior leader through observation. I have often enjoyed being able to be the fly on the wall in meetings that are not related to my day-to-day work. Not only was I exposed to other projects and teams within the organization, but I was able to identify opportunities for collaboration. It’s critical to build awareness of what the entirely business looks like.
Reverse mentoring: This is when a senior leader asks for advice from an emerging leader. And this is a great program to have because one – not a lot of organizations do that, but two it bulbs skills for an emerging leader. Such as the ability to present and transfer knowledge to other individuals. And you might learn more about the date-to-date operations of your organization. So, for example, if you are a VP of Operations, a senior VP of the department, you probably don’t go into the actual senior software you are using on a day-to-day basis. So, for example, I’ll pick on clinical for a minute here. If you’re senior VP of a Wellness organization, you probably don’t go into your electronic medical records system on a daily basis. Input the physician’s order or change the medication as administered in the system. So you might lack that perspective from an employee’s point of view. But if you’re looking for ways to increase efficiency in your department and improve the quality of the data that I’m seeing from my executive dashboard. It all goes back to that input or work flow that employees have. So if you are going to ask an emerging mentor to show you how do you input this information in the system, you start to look at breakdowns in the system and notice that you can’t get that trend because maybe there are some data integrity issues. Does that happen on-site? You might find opportunities for training for the organization. You, yourself, just become more familiar with the system that you’re overseeing. Maybe it’s something that you can go back to the vendor and work through the product development. I think reverse mentoring is critical because it does not only help the mentor to become in tune with the day-to-day grind of the organization but also gives that emerging leader to enhance their own professional ability by passing the knowledge, identifying problems, and troubleshooting. Research shows this can have a positive impact on employee retention and job satisfaction as well. Yet, a Delphi study found that less than 10% of organizations use a reverse form of mentorship. This will help senior leaders stay connected to the daily grind of the business and identify opportunities for enhancing efficiency within the organization.
While you don’t have to implement all the programs I have mentioned, I suggest seriously considering at least 1 to get started. It may seem time consuming now but that time will either be spent enhancing the workforce you have now or interviewing and training to fill the constant cycle of turnover that occurs in many businesses.
Well friends, this concludes our episode today. I hope that you’re walking away with 1 or 2 ideas and that you share this information with a colleague within your organization. I’d love to hear how your organization attempts to make mentoring more accessible to all and what the results are. You can connect with me on LinkedIn to follow the work we are doing at Civitas Senior Living in this very area and I look forward to share additional thoughts on the next Contributor Wednesday episode.
I’d love to make this a Q&A episode so if you have any questions about developing emerging leaders, professional development plans or mentorship programs please email them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org by September 10. Please let me know if you’d like you question to be anonymous and I look forward to answering them in the next episode.