Jean Bauer, MLS(ASCP)CM, ASCLS Region V Director

Fresh talent brings in fresh views. It invigorates an organization. And in our current healthcare environment, the importance of developing laboratory leaders is vital to ensure we have a voice at the table when decisions are made about our profession.

The question is, how do we prepare new professionals to become leaders and take on roles within ASCLS and in the workplace? Many societies struggle to identify, prepare, and support new leaders. This results in some groups recycling leaders year after year. While this suffices for the short term, it is not good for the long term.

The ASCLS Leadership Academy, started more than a decade ago, was successful in recruiting and graduating a number of future leaders. But those numbers have decreased, due to a decline in applicants for the program. The Leadership Academy was recently updated and will debut with a new class for 2019-20. A few states and regions have also developed leadership academies to encourage those interested in seeking leader roles. All of these have had success, but we still fall short of the number of new leaders needed.

The Leadership Development Committee will prepare new modules that provide information on general leadership, as well as ASCLS-specific topics. For some individuals, this will be enough to give them the background and education to move forward. For others, however, a personal hand is needed to encourage and guide them. To meet this need, ASCLS has developed a mentorship program that pairs up mentors and mentees who have similar interests.

In spite of these ASCLS programs and structures, many laboratorians do not see the potential in themselves to become leaders. Therefore, it is incumbent upon current leaders to identify people with leadership potential. Those potential leaders should be encouraged to take part in the mentor/mentee program and/or volunteer for some opportunity within the organization. This starts with reaching out to our members individually and showing interest in them. Asking new people to get involved demonstrates that they are important to us and that we will stand by to help them succeed.

Leadership Development in Region V
In Region V, a leadership academy (LA) was started six years ago. Many of the graduates have gone on to lead committees and become officers in their local constituent societies, as well as participate or take on leadership roles at the regional and national levels within ASCLS. A number of instructors in the LA program have served as mentors to the participants during their program year and after graduation. Graduates themselves have also become mentors to others over the years.

In surveying the states in Region V, there is variation in how each is currently engaging and supporting new leaders:

  • Wisconsin provides incoming leaders with an orientation packet. It is a basic guide that helps them learn what their role entails. Any mentoring that takes place is done on an informal basis.
  • South Dakota has utilized mentoring and leadership succession planning in the past. However, its current process primarily consists of providing position descriptions to incoming leaders. A little more detail on how to complete tasks and associated timelines has been suggested to improve the success and transition for members into new roles.
  • North Dakota provides informal mentoring to all incoming board members from past board members. A more formal mentoring process is on their agenda for their next board meeting.
  • Minnesota has tried a formal mentoring process in the past but that has fallen by the wayside. However, in 2018, the Clinical Laboratory Collaborative (CLC) (state) Meeting Committee recognized that the chairs of various committees were mainly people that had been doing this work for years. The benefit of “recycled” leaders is that they need very little information to do the tasks of the committee, but these are also the seasoned professionals who are retired or are planning to retire in the next few years. Each committee chair, including the CLC Meeting co-chair, was charged with finding a new person to mentor into that role. Most of the committees engaged new people, resulting in new ideas and challenging the way things have been done in the past to improve the process. These new committee members are now participating in the 2019 planning process, with some taking on the chair role and their mentors acting as advisors.

In all of these states, basic information is being provided to people as they begin their new roles as leaders. There are many opportunities to augment the process via more focus on mentorship. When utilized, mentoring has proven to be rewarding for individuals on both sides of the relationship. For the mentee, it provides them with the support and tools to be successful leaders. And for the mentor, it is much like watching your children grow and learn to fly on their own.

In summary, we have a number of avenues to develop leaders:

  • Identify potential leaders either by self-selection or by encouraging someone
  • Education through ASCLS leadership academies, on-line modules, and/or sources outside ASCLS
  • Practical experience in serving on a committee from local and state societies to regional and national committees
  • Formal and/or informal mentorship

By utilizing these components as a complete package, we can provide the knowledge and ongoing support that will help these new leaders be successful. Let us cultivate the potential in others, develop laboratory leaders for the workplace and ASCLS, and ensure the future.

Jean Bauer is instructional designer/research assistant at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis.