The value of mentoring learned at AAHSA’s Spring Conference

“There is no greater joy than giving your life away.” I’ve never heard mentoring described in quite those terms, but think about it. When you take someone under your wing professionally or personally, that’s what you’re doing—giving them the gift of your time, experience, and guidance.

Kevin Svagdis, president of Morrison Senior Dining, a $2 billion company based in Atlanta, four of his executives, and David Stoddard of Leaders Legacy, Inc., talked about how Morrison built a mentoring program out of a core of eight people two years ago at a session this morning at the AAHSA Spring Meeting in Washington, D.C. After two years, the program has grown 150%.

“Mentoring equals leadership development 100%,” Stoddard says. “Those who want a mentor have a very strong desire to grow.”

And it’s not only the person being mentored who grows—the mentoring partner also has an opportunity to learn.

What I found especially enlightening was the fact that the Morrison program is entirely voluntary and employees can choose anyone as a mentor (except their direct boss), as long as both parties agree. It’s an equal partnership. Morrison is also a decentralized company, so mentors and their mentoring partners (the term “mentee” is frowned upon) are often in different parts of the company. They still have great success.

Svagdis says invariably one’s professional life becomes intertwined with the mentoring partner’s personal life and that’s OK as long as boundaries are established.

“A mentor is there to listen, not to be a psychologist or make life-changing decisions for the person. If you feel the mentor/mentoring partner relationship is going in the wrong direction, suggest the person see a competent professional or end the mentoring relationship,” Svagdis says.

The beautiful things about a successful mentoring program are that it costs nothing, is all voluntary, builds morale, and creates dedicated employees who can become your facility’s next generation of leaders.

Stoddard has written a book, The Heart of Mentoring, that’s a good way to get you started on initiating a mentoring program in you facility.

So how about it? Give a little of your life away.

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