Sarah Amundson is not new to facilities management. She’s been in the profession for 16 years, and in her current position for 12 of them. By most accounts, that makes her a veteran. But when the opportunity arose to enroll in a new mentorship program conceived by ConnexFM members, she signed up as a mentee instead of as a mentor.
“I have a couple relationships already where I’m a mentor, but I would really like to have a mentor of my own, too,” said Amundson, Senior Program Owner of Refrigeration Operations at Target. “I’d like to have someone who I can lean on for new ideas and different perspectives.”
That’s more important now than ever before, according to Amundson, who said FMs face unprecedented obstacles and opportunities in 2022. Due to the pandemic, for example, organizations have new public health priorities for their facilities, new human resources challenges that impact their ability to staff them and new gaps in their supply chains that make it more difficult to complete even the most basic maintenance and improvement projects. But that’s just the beginning. There’s also rampant inflation, geopolitical uncertainty as a result of war in Ukraine and rapid technological change. The list goes on and on.
“The issues that my partners and service providers are facing today are bigger and more relevant than at any other time in my career,” Amundson said. “Their worlds have been completely turned upside-down, so I need to look at doing almost everything I do differently in order to support them. I don’t want to do that in a vacuum. I’d like to have somebody to bounce things off of to make sure I’m rolling out programs that are actually helpful.”
The need for knowledge right now is great. But so is the need for connection, according to
Mansoor Ali, Vendor and Expense Manager at The Home Depot Canada. “As we move through globalization and experience common challenges together — like the world has witnessed in the last couple of years — we have collectively realized the importance of being humane, to pause and reflect,” said Ali, who is participating in the ConnexFM mentorship program as a mentor. “We have felt the importance of interdependence and collaboration, and it has proven to be a reliable process for improving — not only individually, but also collectively as organizations, as industries and as a global community.”
It Starts With a Plan
Although the need for it is particularly palpable today, ConnexFM members have been discussing mentorship for a long time, according to ConnexFM Senior Manager of Membership Development Cary Richmond.
ConnexFM members, through the Women in Action, Young Professionals and Supplier Relations committees, laid the groundwork for ConnexFM’s new mentorship program. When Vice President of Membership Development Julie Boggs joined ConnexFM in 2021, she and Richmond helped consolidate the committees’ visions into a programmatic reality.
“In my experience, people really appreciate having someone to confide in, and to coach them in areas where they need more experience,” Richmond said. “We created this program because we felt like it was important to provide that experience for our members, and to give them a competitive advantage in their careers by creating an opportunity for them to build on the experience and knowledge of their peers.”
The mentorship program, which is part of ConnexFM’s member engagement efforts, commenced its first-year pilot in March, at which point ConnexFM hosted a virtual orientation for an initial cadre of 19 mentor-mentee pairs. Its official launch, however, will take place in April at the ConnexFM | 2022 National Conference in Long Beach, California. There, ConnexFM will host a mentorship program “Meet Up” for program participants and conference attendees, as well as a mentorship education session featuring Leadership Expert Ted Ma. After the conference, mentors and mentees will engage privately with each other for a period of one year, setting mutual goals and meeting on a monthly basis in order to achieve them.
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Although they’ve yet to set specific objectives with their partners, both Amundson and Ali say they want to build a dynamic relationship that can help them grow personally as well as professionally.
“Often with mentors and mentees, there’s a tendency to dive right into goals, objectives and to-do lists. But I think you have to take some time up front to build connection and to learn about each other,” Amundson said. “I’m a people person. So, what I’m really looking for is a productive, professional relationship.”
Ali agreed. “It’s a mutual relationship that nurtures cooperation, understanding and enhancement of perspective, besides building a support mechanism,” he said. “I am hoping to share what I’ve learned so far, and to learn from the challenges and opportunities that others may share.”
Success will hinge in large part on chemistry and compatibility. ConnexFM therefore took great care to match mentors and mentees who have complementary personality types. To do so, it asked mentors to describe their mentorship style, and matched them with mentees who were looking for someone with those attributes. Challengers, for example, are mentors who play devil’s advocate and push mentees to ask hard questions. Cheerleaders, on the other hand, are mentors who nurture with positivity. There also are educators, who focus on learning; ideators, who specialize in dreaming and brainstorming; and connectors, whose strength is networking.
“The metrics for mentorship are not normal metrics,” Richmond said. “There aren’t numbers we can track. Instead, we’re going to want to know at the end of this year-long relationship whether you feel like this experience helped you grow as a person, as a professional at your company and as a member of this industry. That’s how we’ll know if this program is successful.”
“For me, success is not to win or gain incremental tangible results, but to progress and be a better version of yourself than what you were yesterday,” Ali said.