Can Anyone Be a Mentor?
7 tips to empower mentors from GHR's VP of Nursing, long-term care division.
“Anybody can mentor anybody, right? It has nothing to do with work, you know, a leadership position is just a title.”
Different mentors appear in different seasons of our lives and serve different purposes. Like any other relationship, there is something uniquely rewarding for both the mentor and mentee. In celebration of National Mentor Month, we connected with a leader at GHR who understands this on a fundamental level.
Tania Fornelos started her career at GHR in 2001 as a recruiter 22 years ago this January. Today, she oversees all long-term care nursing partnerships and recruitment. Her division consists of 40 GHR team members spanning across the United States. In 2013, Tania obtained the Executive Certificate of Leadership and Management from the University of Notre Dame - just one accolade that empowers her exceptional skills in mentorship.
When Tania was a new recruiter, she found a mentor in Dave, a senior staffing specialist who is now an integral part of GHR’s Human Resources department.
“Dave Williams taught me everything I know when it came to staffing. He was the one who mentored me. He actually showed me how to do what I do, and that’s what truly lead me to the success I’ve had in my career here.”
Even Tania’s earliest experiences in her career contributed to the leader she has become. Tania has had countless opportunities to act as a mentor for people all throughout GHR as well as having been mentored. We talked to Tania, and she shared these 7 tips to empower mentors:
1. ANYONE CAN BE A MENTOR
Anyone with experience in a particular subject can be a mentor to someone looking to learn more, regardless of age, job position, or otherwise. If you have experience and treat the people around you well, people will naturally gravitate toward you for advice and mentorship.
“Anybody can mentor anybody, right? You just have to have respect and be a person that people want to look up to and appreciate your work. Leadership is the same way. It has nothing to do with work, you know? A leadership position is just a title. It’s when you find somebody that you're like, ‘hey, I like how they do business, and I want to be more like them,’ or ‘I like how they hustle. I like their work ethic. I want to learn from them.’”
2. BE WILLING TO GROW
Any good leader will tell you - they are but human! Tania takes the time to reflect on her decisions and interactions as an essential aspect of her leadership style.
“For me, I always reevaluate everything I do. Whether it's putting what I’ve learned into practice or my behavior or how I have interactions with people, I always ask myself, ‘what could I have done better?’ or ‘Am I happy with how a situation went?’ I always want to improve.”
3. SET YOUR PRIDE ASIDE
Our egos don’t like to confront our mistakes - it’s human nature! But in order to be an effective mentor, you need to be able to own your failures. Adopt a growth mindset, and any of your failures will become indispensable learning experiences.
“I can’t think like, ‘what are they gonna think of me?’ I just put anything I learned into place. I can’t think, ‘But I know I can do it better, but if I change it, they're gonna think I'm an idiot.’ I never think that way. It sets an example that it's okay to mess up - no one's perfect. Everyone is going to do things differently. Everything. Everybody's going to have a different way of doing things. And it's okay. Failure, to me, is how you grow to be better.”
4. MEET PEOPLE WHERE THEY ARE
The reality is that things are changing, and people are viewing their careers differently than previous generations. Tania believes that embracing the change brought forth by younger generations is key to being a valuable mentor. As is being a compassionate leader.
“Our world is constantly changing. Our environment is changing. People have different priorities, different objectives, you know? It's a different generation, right? Like they grow up differently. So understanding that and managing to it is so important.”
“It helps in understanding what motivates somebody and knowing that people's backgrounds may be different and are just as valuable as your own background. It's hard to understand someone if you're not empathetic to that.”
5. ALWAYS PRACTICE THE FUNDAMENTALS
Active listening is the art of great leadership. Being great at anything requires a lot of practice on the basics every single day.
“It’s those subtle changes in language, right? Language changes make a big difference. It's hard, it's a different approach. If you listen to people, how they talk about their team or about coworkers or about the company, it's a way to really gauge somebody's true feelings.”
6. PRACTICE WHAT YOU PREACH
Many people find themselves in leadership positions after gaining years of experience working in the roles they now manage - if not, great leaders will put themselves in the weeds with their team to fully understand what it takes to accomplish their goals. This helps build trust, credibility, and respect between a leader and their team, allowing the leader to be an effective and understanding mentor.
“You have to earn respect, right? Like you don't just get it. It's not gifted to you. I never ask anyone to do anything I haven't done or wouldn't do myself. And we work together to get things done. It's never you and I. We did this.”
It comes full circle, right? Appreciation is a universal necessity. Everyone wants to know their contributions mean something and make a difference at the end of the day.
“I strive to make sure that people feel appreciated and that they want to come to work every day. If they ever leave, my goal is for them to leave with more knowledge than they had when they started and skills that will help them in the future.“
7. GIVE MENTORSHIP THE TIME IT DESERVES
Last but not least, mentorship is a commitment. Sure, a leader or manager will always act as an informal mentor to their team, but when you agree to be someone’s true, dedicated mentor, Tania has this advice for you:
“It's a commitment to mentor someone. You have to understand that being a mentor for somebody means spending that time like it's an investment of your time. If you're not willing to commit to that time, then it's unfair to that person. And when you’re acting as a mentor for your team, you also need to honor the time needed to support them. At the end of the day, you have to be okay with a task or project taking a few minutes longer or having to reset.”
National Mentoring Month is celebrated in January to highlight the value mentorship relationships can have on both mentors and mentees. Tania’s mentorship is indispensable, reaching everyone her leadership has impacted. One of those people is our Director of Marketing, who found herself leading a team for the first time.
“She handed me four books with no deadline. She said her door is open anytime but to know that ‘none of us had it figured out in the beginning. We all made mistakes, and we learned along the way.' She left me with great advice, the will to improve, and knowing our unknowing is where new roots can grow. If you don't have that self-awareness or humility, you can have the best mentors on speed dial, and it won't matter.”