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LASA Mentoring Program develops leadership skills for mentees

Industry peak body, Leading Age Services Australia (LASA), will be beginning its second Mentoring Program in February following a successful inaugural start to the initiative that had all of participants agreeing that the program is a helpful tool in developing leadership and skills.

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The LASA Mentoring Program runs for five months as a mentoring partnership and online coaching program. [Source: iStock]

The program unites current and emerging leaders with mentors to assist them in career development and to grow their confidence in their profession.

LASA says there is a projected shortage of qualified staff in aged care, so it is necessary for there to be investment into talented aged care service professionals.

The program was the first of its kind for LASA, and Principal Advisor to the mentoring program, Samantha Bowen, says that mentoring of dedicated staff across all aged care areas is vital ahead of the Aged Care Royal Commission's final report.

"All participants completed the course and provided amazing feedback. Despite the COVID-19 challenges, we stipulated five mentoring meetings during the program and, on average, each individual ended up holding eight meetings," says Ms Bowen.

"This highlights that we were able to make great matches, with comprehensive online resources and personal relationships that built thriving partnerships. Now we’re expanding our base and providing even more extensive mentoring options."

The initiative runs for five months as a mentoring partnership and online coaching program, facilitating the professional development of aged care emergency leaders. Mentees are able to access one on one support and guidance from industry experienced mentors.

A mentee in the inaugural LASA Mentoring Program, Danielle Ainsworth, General Manager of Home and Disability Services, Southern Region (Victoria & Southern New South Wales) at Australian Unity, found the whole program incredibly beneficial to her current role. 

Before joining the program, Ms Ainsworth was not only looking to expand her leadership skills, but also develop the confidence to back herself as she progressed to higher roles.

“I was at the stage in my career that I was seeking out mentor relationships to step up, expand my capabilities and be able to take on new challenges,” she says.

“I’ve found that at each point in my career that I’ve moved up into a next-level position, it’s usually been someone else who has put me forward for the role, managers who believed I had the skills to take on a new position. At the same time I’m thinking “how do they think I can do this, I’m not really sure that I can”.

After speaking with program founder Ms Bowen about her current goals and what she was looking for in a mentor, Ms Ainsworth was matched with a mentor she still connects with today. 

“I was matched with someone who was outside of my industry, but with an active interest in aged care, which was very helpful for me because it helped me apply a completely different lens to what I’m doing,” Ms Ainsworth explains. 

“[During the program] we met on a fortnightly basis, which was a good period of time to chat about the challenges coming up and plan my approaches, and then implement, reflect and come back together two weeks later.”

Ms Ainsworth says meeting with her mentor encouraged her to see things from a different perspective, take the time to reflect on her approaches, and practice big-picture thinking. 

“You can get really caught up in the ‘doing’ especially when working in a fast-paced operational role. Sometimes I was so caught up in the situation that I didn’t open my mind to new possibilities or new ways of dealing with things.”

A huge advocate for mentor programs in general, Ms Ainsworth says LASA’s program has helped her become a stronger leader, amplified her existing skills and embedded her knowledge. 

“This particular program has been excellent,” she says. 

“Outside the direct access to your mentor, you also have access to extra support. These include regular emails with resources on leadership and what a mentor and mentee relationship can look like, plus ideas of how you can best utilise your time with your mentor.”

Ms Ainsworth encourages anyone who is thinking about the mentorship program to go for it, saying it will help build ongoing relationships and a professional network. 

“I can’t speak highly enough of having the opportunity to be able to connect with someone to get that coaching and support. It’s hugely valuable. Even though the program is finished, my mentor and I still catch up on a monthly basis. This process really benefits both mentors and mentees.”

Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of LASA, Sean Rooney, says this program will develop the leadership skills of staff members in the aged care sector to assist in creating important change in the industry, which is why the mentoring program will continue for its second term.

"Leadership, collaboration and ensuring age services share positive experiences and lessons learned is critical for making Australia the best place to age," says Mr Rooney.

"It is also heartening to see that 60 percent of the original participants have continued with their mentoring partnerships, following the 20-week course.

"The LASA Mentoring Program is growing and will continue to provide the most comprehensive age services know-how for Mentees and understanding for Mentors."

There were a number of mentors involved in the program assisting the mentee participants who also found benefit from the initiative.

CEO of RSL LifeCare and LASA Mentor, Laurie Leigh, says, "As senior leaders in aged care we must be part of developing the next generation of leaders. Aged Care is an exciting place. We have talent and it’s our duty to grow and develop them to take on the challenges of today and tomorrow."

The new LASA Mentoring Program begins in February 2021. To learn more about the initiative, visit the LASA website, or contact 1300 111 636 or mentoring@lasa.asn.au

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