a diverse patient population calls for diverse leadership.
mentoring is necessary for fostering a new generation of healthcare
leaders, the need for a mentoring program is especially acute
for minority employees--individuals of color and women. Many organizations
have instituted diversity training programs to help understand
and utilize the unique contributions of all employees by creating
an inclusive work environment; however, minority employees still
need other tools with which to be empowered, such as mentoring.
In a diversity-driven mentoring program, proteges will prepare
for their own career success and learn about the process, responsibilities,
and qualifications necessary to be an effective leader. At the
same time, leadership will learn the value of a culturally diverse
environment, experience cultural and gender differences, and gain
perspective in the value of including those factors in their daily
decision-making process. The overall benefit will be a broader
appreciation of diversity principles with a greater emphasis on
integrating those values and beliefs in the daily operations of
the organization. This appreciation of diversity is especially
important today as healthcare managers must respond to and reflect
increasingly diverse patient populations.
a Diversity Mentoring Program
In general, mentors tend to mentor someone who is “like
them.” They often do not think about reaching out to those
who are different in race, culture, or gender because they are
either unaware of the need or they fear the unknown. Therefore,
to expect that all employees will find informal mentors is not
realistic. Progressive healthcare organizations are recognizing
that mentoring access has to be gained through an established
process that provides opportunities for all employees to gain
a mentor. But even those organizations enlightened enough to establish
a structured mentoring initiative may do so without being sensitive
to the unique needs of the proteges involved in diversity mentoring.
Such needs include finding diverse mentors and understanding how
to navigate successfully in a majority culture. It is important
for any organization exploring a mentoring initiative to think
through the overall purpose, not only for the organization, but
also for what the mentors may seek from the experience.
are some considerations for planning a successful diversity-driven
differences: Designing programs for proteges who are
different from their experienced mentors can be a real challenge.
In a cross-cultural or cross-gender mentoring relationship,
it is critical to understand how different the partners’
assumptions may be about human behavior. Understanding cultural
or gender-based assumptions will heighten the partners’
ability to develop the authenticity and trust essential for
successful mentoring. To improve understanding, both mentoring
partners need to be schooled in basic communication skills--those
of listening, empathy, and appreciative inquiry--along with
orientation into differing cultural, racial, and gender-based
program goals: Of course, any mentoring program must
have a clear strategic intent and specific goals up front. Both
strategy and goals should be closely aligned and designed to
support the business objectives of the organization. For example,
a diversity-driven mentoring program may assist an organization
in achieving its strategic goal of increasing the number of
minorities in the managerial and leadership ranks by preparing
them for upward mobility. Or the program may help to meet the
goal of retaining minority employees.
top leadership: Executive leadership plays a unique
role in championing the success of a diversity-driven mentoring
program. First, the program must be sanctioned by the top leadership
to have credibility in the organization. Also, top leadership
must put diversity initiatives such as mentoring programs in
the forefront of the organization and communicate its personal
commitment regularly. Finally, senior executives in healthcare
should participate in mentoring, thereby setting the tone for
employee development, inclusion, and empowerment in the organization.
input from participants: One of the most important
tasks for creating an effective diversity-driven mentoring program
is to ask potential participants for their input. Individuals
who have some degree of influence in shaping the program and
have a choice in determining their mentoring partner not only
will be of great help in planning but also will be enthusiastic
and potentially successful participants in the program.
Ambrose is a managing partner of Perrone-Ambrose Associates, Inc.,
and the author of A Mentor's Companion.
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Healthcare Executive, September/October 2003