May 11, 2022
Carina Clawson 00:16
There’s probably been a point in your life where you turned to someone you trust for advice. Maybe they were a colleague, professor, friend, or family. That person provided support and perspective. Mentors play an important role in our lives by providing clarity and direction. They can help guide careers, open doors, and make ourselves better people. Today, we are featuring three leaders and the powerful advice they received from mentors. We will begin with Renee DeSilva, the CEO of The Health Management Academy. Next, we will turn to Melinda Buntin, Ph.D. She is a Mike Curb Professor and Chair of the Department of Health Policy at Vanderbilt University. And to wrap up, we will hear from JaeLynn Williams, the CEO of Air Methods. To begin, let’s listen to Renee DeSilva’s experience with her mentor.
Renee DeSilva 01:07
I was fortunate to land under a manager, middle of my career, that really played both. So what he did for me was two things. And if you find yourself with a manager who’s not doing these things for you, it could be career limiting, I tell friends in my circle this all the time. So we did two things for me. One was he helped me to see my gifts that were not always plain to me. And he would note things that I did that just might be reflective by, or like part of my own reflex, not reflective, but part of my own reflex, that didn’t know that that was anything special. So he allowed me to understand what my what how I contributed in a way that was really helpful to an organization. And that could be a little bit of a sort of a power alley in terms of other places that I could go. So that was the first thing he did. We also had this culture, and it was one of one of the one of the cultural tenants was run to criticism. And so how that played out was, when your work product or how you did in the meeting was about to get totally torched, they would say, in the spirit of running to criticism, let me give you let me give you some feedback on how that presentation went. And he was also ruthless about doing that, for me, like really telling me what my blind spots were. And I do think to your question on mentorship and sponsorship, I think part of the issue sometimes can be that for whatever reason, women do not get enough feedback on on both the gifts, and, hey, here’s something that may or may not be true, but here’s how people are receiving you are perceiving you and things that are going to be rate limiting if you don’t work on it. And Adam did both of those things. For me, it was with empathy. And he’s very funny. And so he did it with a lot of humor, too. And so I would, I would say he comes to mind is that the best example of that, and then there were others along the way. But when I really needed it, he did both for me, and I thank him to this day, because I think I probably would have gotten in my own way without that.
Carina Clawson 03:07
Mentors encourage professional and personal development. Their outside perspective can help us understand our unique strengths, or areas for improvement. Next, we will hear from Dr. Buntin about some honest advice she received during her career.
Melinda Buntin, Ph.D. 03:21
I already mentioned David Blumenthal, who has been a wonderful mentor to me for a large part of my career. And I remember talking to him about the choice to leave the Office of the National Coordinator, he had already left because he only had a two year leave from academia to do that, the choice of whether I should take the job I’d been offered at the Congressional Budget Office. And he counseled me that if I took it, I would probably be closing doors for myself, that I might not be able to return to a research career or academia because a second federal job sort of was going to brand me as a fed. And that was hard for me to hear. And it didn’t prove to be true because here I am at Vanderbilt, but he was right. And he was right to tell me that. And he was right to make me think hard about what I was doing. And because he told me that, I did work hard when I was at the Congressional Budget Office to maintain ties to colleagues, to continue to try and publish research and the like. And that did keep doors open for me later on in my career. But that was hard to hear, that I was making a choice that really could change my career trajectory. But I’m glad he told me that.
Carina Clawson 04:35
When facing a big career decision, like a job change, consulting a mentor can help us understand our career trajectory: what opportunities are available or what choices might close doors. To wrap up, JaeLynn Williams will share some excellent career advice she received from a mentor.
JaeLynn Williams 04:51
I had the opportunity, when I was at 3M, to be part of a small group. There were there were five of us, I believe, that were mentored by the CEO of 3M company, all of 3M company. And one of the things that he had us, or an activity, I guess you’d call it, he had to do was to start with the end in mind. So he had us put out a paper and it had an X and a Y graph. Kind of up in that top right corner, what is your ideal job? Like where do you want to end your career? What’s the job you want to have? And mine at the time was I wanted to be the CEO of Red Cross. That’s what I put up there. And I don’t think that’s going to happen. But but that’s what I put up there was I would love to be the CEO of Red Cross someday. And so then what he had us do was walk back and say, Okay, if I want to be the CEO of Red Cross in 15 years, then what experiences do I need to have? Like, do I need international experience? Or any people experience like, what are the leadership experiences, I need to have to be qualified for that role. And then what would be the jobs was the other access that would get me there. And so that was really transformative for me, because it’s actually why I left 3M, I went to GE, as I realized, if I ever wanted to be the CEO of Red Cross, I needed more breadth of experience. So I had all these great continual expansion of opportunities within 3M, I needed to get expansion and broadening my exposure to healthcare outside of 3M.
Carina Clawson 06:21
What do you want your career to look like? And what steps would that take? Mentors encourage us to dream big. They can pull from their experiences to provide objective, yet personal advice for how to achieve career goals. If you are a young professional, we encourage you to seek out mentorship. They could be a colleague, professor, or even a peer. Mentors are an important part of the leadership journey. But if you don’t have a mentor lined up, check out more of our episodes on Her Story. Think of it like virtual, asynchronous mentorship. Hear advice from successful leaders throughout healthcare, and expand your vision of what is possible.