Future Healthcare Leaders Need Mentors to Succeed

Last month, a private meeting was held at a North Dallas conference center. In attendance were more than 50 highly animated and energetic professionals who will most certainly make their mark on the world.

Through the coordination of the American College of Healthcare Executives, participants, including mentors and early careerists from throughout North Texas, celebrated the completion of a six-month mentorship program. More than 50 executives were matched with aspiring healthcare professionals and participated in extensive training, coaching, and mentoring.

Under the direction of ACHE Committee Chair, Beverly Dawson, chief executive officer of Elder Care; Teresa Baker, operations administrator, VA North Texas; and, Jay Fox, president Baylor Waxahachie, the program has grown annually and now commands an unprecedented level of interest and participation from throughout the region. Hosted by Baylor University Graduate Program in Healthcare Administration, this annual event confirms that healthcare executives are willing to invest in the next generation of professionals.

One might ask what would inspire a busy healthcare professional to participate in a seemingly thankless additional obligation? Perhaps it is the recognition that the healthcare profession in which we currently operate is moving into some of the most complicated and challenging periods in history. And as part of this great new adventure, we are in desperate need of the most talented, prepared, and effective leaders possible.

But what are the qualities needed in a mentor, and what guidance can be given to those interested in embracing this greater responsibility?

Mentors Inspire. The world in which an early careerist navigates is unfamiliar, complicated and discouraging. Setbacks are common and disillusionment frequent. Despite the best of intentions and energy, young talent needs encouragement. A word of support or a story from one’s own adventures can be inspiring and powerful.

Mentors Guide. Knowing the terrain can always be helpful in guiding others in avoiding pitfalls and obstacles. Gentle guiding includes words of advice and observation that can be invaluable. “I have gone down that same road and this is what I experienced,” can be a subtle message that can help early careerists avoid some unnecessary difficulties.

Mentors Warn of Danger. Not all careers are linear and not all opportunities are golden. One executive declares the price of mistakes as the tuition to be paid in life. Perhaps mentors can alert these weary early careerists of possible dangers and alert them to the consequences.

Mentors Celebrate Successes. Everyone loves a celebration and every early careerist needs to commemorate a success. Author John Kotter describes this as “celebrating early wins” in the journey towards change. Mentors can play a unique role in recognizing and cheering successes.

Indeed, mentoring early careerists is an obligation that is seemingly cluttered with responsibilities and effort. To meet and meet with young talent can be time consuming. But there was a day when each of us was given a word of advice or a hand of congratulations. Although it might be suggested that “we didn’t build it on our own,” it is also true that our careers benefited from the others that participated and gave a helping hand.

The American College of Healthcare Executives recognizes this obligation to early careerists and provides an impressive orchestration of mentors and aspiring talent that is truly inspiring. If that is not enough of a reason to participate in mentoring then consider that in the coming weeks, months, years and decades, the healthcare industry will be in complete and total recalibration and we will be grateful that we had trained up the next generation to navigate the next great adventures.

—Britt R. Berrett is president of Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas.

Posted in Expert Opinions, Hospitals.