My very first internship was at M&M Mars. How I got there is an interesting story.

You see, I was struggling to find a summer internship and my friend had two. We were playing basketball one day and he said, “Why don’t you take the one I don’t want?” To two college kids, this was sound logic.  (An HR person is cringing as they read this paragraph, I know.)

So, I showed up on the first day, filled out the paperwork, went through the orientation process, and they assigned me a desk. What could possibly go wrong?

The next week, Bruce, the VP of Global Marketing for M&M Mars, came walking in. He looked over and saw me sitting in one of the cubes in his area. He was active in our community and I had met him before, so he knew who I was.

He immediately walked over and asked what I was doing there. I told him that Herman didn’t want the internship and had offered it to me, so there I was.  Lucky for me, he thought the whole thing was hysterical and invited me to lunch that day.

The position of VP of Global Marketing for M&M Mars is a pretty powerful and busy position, as you would probably imagine. Somehow, though, Bruce found the time to have five lunches with me over the course of that summer. The things we discussed in those meetings still impact me to this day.

Bruce is the one who told me to dress for success. He encouraged me to play to my strengths and hire to my weaknesses. And he also told me to look for ways to give back. Finally, he walked me down to the IT department, where I helped introduce the Mars marketing department to obtaining research data from SQL queries.

He put me on the path to becoming a CIO.

Every executive is busy. However, an important part of our role is to mentor the next generation of leaders. To this point, I would like to give you a simple framework that I gave to my staff to mentor our next generation of leaders.

Expand Their Network

You likely have an extensive professional network, one that has taken years to build. Well, one of the greatest gifts you can give someone that you are mentoring is access to this network.

I’m not just talking about a LinkedIn invite, either. I mean real-world introductions and conversations with industry leaders.

One of my goals at conferences was to arrange meetings between my staff and leaders from other organizations. Periodically, I would arrange meetings with other IT teams in the industry where we would share best practices. They would meet their peers, share their experiences, and create new relationships of their own.

One of the most overlooked opportunities relates to building new relationships within your own organization. There are leaders that your mentees will never meet in the course of their daily work, but those leaders will meet with you. Invite that physician leader to lunch and bring along your mentee. Plant those seeds of connection.

This isn’t hard, it just takes intentionality.

Expand Their Experience

I was asked to speak at board meetings about four times a year. I rarely went alone and, in some cases, I didn’t even do most of the talking.

Finding opportunities for your mentee to face new experiences is an important part of their growth.

It depends on the mentee, but I have led many to go outside of their comfort zone. They have spoken at conferences, utilizing my help in developing the content. They have led volunteer organization initiatives in the community, in order to gain leadership experience. They have even run projects outside of their normal scope of work.

All of these allowed them to expand their breadth of expertise.

The key in any of these is to do it with them. They will benefit most from the interaction with you through the experience.

Expand Their Thinking

Confining your thinking to any one industry can cause your ideas to become stale. Find ways to introduce new thinking into your environment, and keep the creative juices flowing.

Ed Marx shared with me his practice of setting up meetings, where his IT team would meet with IT teams from other industries. They would each spend a few hours sharing their strategies and tactics. This practice was a great way to expand their thinking outside the box.

The best people to learn consumer engagement from are not in healthcare — they are at Dominoes, Starbucks, and the NFL. Use your network to make the introductions to people that can provide a different lens on the problems the industry is facing.

Obviously, this is appropriate for the entire staff as well as the person you are mentoring. Give them the benefit of seeing things through a different lens, and watch their contributions to the industry expand.

Expand Their Knowledge

Thinking and knowing are two very different things.

Thinking is how you put all the pieces and parts together, in order to develop a solution. Your knowledge, however, is the foundation for that thought.

As a mentor, you need to identify gaps in your mentees’ knowledge and provide them with opportunities to learn. This can be standard course learning or it can be experiential learning. Deciding which is best will take some personal interaction to figure out.

You will have to have a destination in mind in order to figure out the gaps. Someone who wants to be a CIO doesn’t need to know how to throw a curveball, and a pitcher doesn’t need to know how to manage an EHR project. Get to know where they want to go and identify the knowledge that it will take for them to get there.

Bruce figured out during our lunches that I loved computers and it was one of my hobbies. He introduced me to someone that taught me SQL in 1987, which changed my life.

If you aren’t intentionally mentoring someone today, start. Start with one person. It doesn’t need to be overwhelming or complex – simply identify and invite one person into that relationship.

I didn’t even realize that Bruce was mentoring me until many years later. I myself have mentored dozens of people in my career, usually one at a time. I can tell you that not only will they appreciate it, but you will also benefit greatly from the experience.

That’s all for now.  I hope this helps, and as always, please reach out if you want to discuss this further. @thePatientsCIO

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