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Mentoring Lessons

Being a Mentor is an important role.  As I write this article, it is not yet Mother’s Day and I am writing for the month of June, which is when we celebrate Father’s Day. For many of us, our parents were our first mentors.  In this article, I am sharing a mentoring encounter with you because it was a learning experience….for both of us!

The company that I work for has communities throughout the United States. At one location a young lady was recently hired to fill the position of Activities Director, but had little experience with the profession, and none with the company’s procedures. Her Executive Director had meet me and my counterpart at a neighboring sister-community, and sent her to train with us.  At first my co-worker and I were considered about the time it would take away from our regular jobs, but we changed our mindset after talking it over. We felt that it was an honor to be asked, because the Executive Director could have sent the new hired Activities Director to any other community instead of to ours. We then split the time that the new hire would be in town into what worked best for us. After that, we made our lists of items that we would cover with her, and allocated it to the person who felt it was an area that they could explain the best.

In my time with this smart young lady, I found myself recalling my first few months in the profession. (That was 28 years ago already!)I found myself recalling that I was not even sure what to ask about when I wanted to set up a dinner outing or other “field trip,” as I heard a 10 year old guest in our community call the advertised trips he saw in the Lobby.   As we went through our time together, I found myself saying “I’m going to tell you how I use to do it….. or intended to do it…. or when I have time to do it…..” Despite those comments, I feel confident that I showed her some important tools she could use to get off to the right start in her career as an Activities Director in the areas of organization, time management, resident satisfaction, and more.

What was surprise to me was how much I learned from the time that we spent together. realized that a system is only good when you use it. For example, if you keep a list of entertainers on your computer and have their evaluation score next to it, and it is not up to date, then it is not as valuable to you as it could be.
  • I realized that when files are put away and you have not referred to them in a few years, that you probably don’t need them anymore.  For example, I like to keep my desk calendars from the past filed away, in case I need to see something I jotted down or what happened that day in 2002. But when I opened the cabinet to show my mentee this idea, I realized I had calendars from 18 years ago! I was so embarrassed. Who cares what happened 18 years ago? Phone numbers might not be the same anymore, and if a program worked then, it does not mean it will now.
  • Another big lesson for me was that sometimes going back to basics could be a smart move. For example, I use to use a worksheet to make sure that I had all the details I needed for a successful program and to refer to it the next time that I wanted to recreate the program. But, I've gotten away from that, partly because of the easy access to information on the internet. The reminder I received while mentoring this new hire was, that I can’t determine the success or failure from the information on the internet – but I could from my worksheet, if I used the system I had in place for each program (including an evaluation afterwards).
There were other lessons, or reminders, I received in the days I was training my new friend. And yes, I was there to teach her about being the best Activities Director she could be in our company, and for the residents she will serve, and I do believe that I succeeded in that.  I am glad to say that I too learned from the mentoring experience.   I think Phil Collins said it best when he said,
  “In learning you will teach, and in teaching you will learn.” 

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