Methods in Mentoring is a bimonthly column produced in partnership with the National EMS Management Association. Visit www.nemsma.org.
I was watching Disney’s Cars 3 with my kids recently. After a horrible crash Lightning McQueen is slowly rebuilt, only to realize he is no longer capable of competing with the newer, higher-tech cars. Lightning finds he can still contribute and be great by mentoring a new car to success.
I loved this story; it has some excellent lessons about measuring success not just by what you personally accomplish but by how you contribute to the success of others. Lightning was able to contribute to the victory of another car and celebrate as much as if it had been his own victory.
As I contemplated the Cars story, I thought about the people who have influenced me the most in my career. As a new quality director for a large private ambulance service, I found myself without direction. The person who held my position before me left suddenly due to illness, and I had no one to show me the ropes or guide my efforts. I was fortunate to have a great boss who valued networking and leadership education. I was able to attend conferences and educational programs. I was able to meet and befriend some of the most talented people in EMS. And I discovered the most amazing people (the ones I wanted to emulate) were usually the most collaborative and willing to share ideas and information freely.
At that time I realized a mentor is not necessarily someone at the end of his or her career passing the mantle to the next generation. A mentor can be anyone with expertise who shares their talents with someone who needs a particular type of guidance.
A mentor is usually someone experienced. We tend to assume experience equals age, but this is not always the case. An older individual may need mentoring by a younger colleague in an area such as social media, while a younger person may need expertise in a sector like investing. A mentor could be at the beginning or end of a career, depending on the topic of consultation.
In his article "29 Leadership Lessons and Quotes from Cars 3," Joseph Lalonde notes that great leaders give people their first chance, and bad leaders attack others when scared.1 Unfortunately I have seen managers who fear talented individuals will one day threaten their position. These people chose to stifle talent in their organizations due to fear, and their organizations suffered when the talent moved on to better opportunities and more supportive cultures. True mentorship is recognizing talent in an individual and, instead of fearing it, shaping and encouraging that individual’s growth.
My personal mentor, Mike Taigman, shared some words about the benefits of mentorship:
“For me mentorship is about the true essence of education. The root word of education is educere, which means to bring out of. My bias is that the ability to tackle a problem or take advantage of an opportunity is already there. My role is to connect and help recognize, bring to the surface, organize, and activate. There are few things more satisfying than seeing someone take off and make a real difference with what they’ve learned. The best happens once in a while when it flips, and they become my mentor!”
I asked Mike once if he would be my guru, and he jovially told me we were on the journey together. The best mentor/mentee relationships are the ones that evolve into true lifelong friendships.
Reflecting its values of leadership and collaboration, the National EMS Management Association (NEMSMA) is spearheading an effort to pair EMS mentors with providers or managers seeking assistance in any area of EMS. NEMSMA members have a wide variety of skills in every area of paramedicine. The organization maintains a Google group where members can discuss any topic and gain insight from industry leaders across the United States and Canada.
Interested mentees can be paired up with a NEMSMA member in a requested area of expertise for long- or short-term mentorship. If you need help with interviewing, we will pair you with someone experienced in that arena. If you need assistance with your fleet, we can match you with a fleet manager full of great ideas.
1. Lalonde J. 29 Leadership Lessons and Quotes from Cars 3. JosephLalonde.com, www.jmlalonde.com/29-leadership-lessons-quotes-cars-3/.
Brooke Burton, NRP, FACPE, is quality director of Gold Cross Ambulance in Utah.