As part of the capstone experience in our graduate program, students are required to interview a minimum of three executives or healthcare managers using a structured interview format published in Career Opportunities in Health Care Management. At the completion of the interview, the student identifies and indicates the healthcare management leadership competencies the executive noted during the interview and the competencies needed to conduct the interview. In addition, the student reflects upon what insights the interview provided about his or her own career development and continuing education plans.
During my weekly meeting with the students, we talk about their assignments, including this one. Recently, I asked one student if she had any surprises. She said, “Yes. Two of the three executives I interviewed told me ‘Never say no.’” She expanded on this theme. “Both of my interviewees told me if my mentor or boss comes to me and asks me to do something outside of my comfort zone, not to immediately dismiss it. They are making the request because they think you can do it—even if you don’t think you can.”
What a wonderful insight into good mentorship. In an era where we can become distracted by just keeping our heads above water and managing to put one foot in front of the other, it is important to remember that part of being a good mentor and coach is to push our mentees to the next level. We only become confident in our competencies when we are required to overcome obstacles, real or perceived. We win a game, we earn a good grade in a course, we push ourselves to the next level in a sport. Some of our students have received the message over the years, either from family, friends, or teachers, that they are doing just fine, and they need not exert themselves to work harder. Then they receive the jarring news from graduate school professors that their writing is poor, their math skills are weak, and their interpersonal skills are abrasive, at best. Where were their coaches and mentors at the undergraduate level? Why were they allowed to progress without honest, constructive feedback, and coaching? In some instances, I’m betting it was because it was easier for the instructor, teachers, parents, professors to let it slide.
Mentors must be competent, too. Emotionally competent mentors work on developing others. Per the Consortium on Research for Emotional Intelligence in Organizations, these people are competent at “sensing what others need in order to develop, and bolstering their abilities. People with this competence:
- Acknowledge and reward people’s strengths, accomplishments, and development;
- Offer useful feedback and identify people’s needs for development; and,
- Mentor, give timely coaching, and offer assignments that challenge and grow a person’s skill.”
The field of healthcare management needs mentors who will push a student, employee, or colleague to be his or her best. We do no favors to the student or the field of healthcare management when we decide it is not worth fighting with the student, or in some cases, parents, over grades. We need to develop a vision of what the field needs and strive to be the person who will push the student to be a better writer, get tutoring for epidemiology, and work on role-playing to improve interpersonal skills. The field of healthcare management needs and deserves competent managers. As educators, we need to step up to the plate and take the risk to improve the competencies of the graduates of our programs and the next generation of healthcare managers. We need to remember to "Never say no."
Sharon Buchbinder is Professor and Program Coordinator for the MS in Healthcare Management at Stevenson University in the Graduate and Professional School and former chair of the Association of University Programs in Health Administration (AUPHA). She is also the author of three books from Jones and Bartlett: Introduction to Health Care Management (with Nancy H. Shanks), Career Opportunities in Health Care Management (with Jon Thompson) and Cases in Health Care Management (with Nancy H. Shanks and Dale Buchbinder).
Here are some resources if you are interested in this topic
Babbitt, M. (2014, March 10). Ten aspects of mentorship you didn’t know (but should). http://www.youtern.com/thesavvyintern/index.php/2014/03/10/ten-aspects-of-mentorship-you-didnt-know-but-should/
Cherniss, C. (2009). The business case for emotional intelligence
Hollister, L. R. (March/April 2001).The benefits of being a mentor. http://www.ache.org/newclub/CAREER/MentorArticles/Benefits.cfm
PeopleResults. (2013, December 4). The more mentors the better: Try “micro-mentoring.” http://www.youtern.com/thesavvyintern/index.php/2013/12/04/the-more-mentors-the-better-try-micro-mentoring/
The Consortium on Research for Emotional Intelligence in Organizations. (2009) The Emotional Competence Framework