Clockwise, from left: Birmingham Green CEO Denise Chadwick Wright; McKnight’s LTCN Executive Editor James M. Berklan; Green House Project Senior Director Susan Ryan; LeadingAge Senior Vice President of Research Robyn Stone, Dr.PH.; Belmont Village Senior Living Founder and CEO Patricia Will; and PruittHealth Chief Strategy Officer Mary Ousley.

Editor’s note: This is the second part of a two-part article. The first part can be found here.

Having the willingness to hire and guide people who are smarter or know more than you is a key to building and leading a successful team in the workplace, agreed a panel of honorees during the recent McKnight’s Women of Distinction Forum. 

The women leaders spoke earlier this month during a session where they shared personal stories and tips for career success. 

How to build a strong team and lead it well?

“I’ve had a long career, and I certainly have seen those individuals who were afraid to hire those who might know a little bit more than they do, and so many times I’ve seen those individuals — maybe not completely fail — but sometimes completely fail,” said Mary Ousley, this year’s Lifetime Achievement Award winner

The “real secret to success,” she added, is ”that confidence to say, ‘Hey, you know more than I do. I need you. I need you to be a part of this. Help me get where we — not I; where we — want to go.’ ”

The strongest teams have leaders who believe that the members are better than they are, stressed Patricia Will, Belmont Village Senior Living founder and CEO.

“They’re smarter, confident, capable [and] obviously know a content area in much greater depth. Your job is really — I won’t say easy — but a lot easier because you are basically collating and thinking through at a higher level with all of their expertise that they bring to the table,” Will said.

“It’s not all about the ‘me.’ It’s about the ‘we,’” she added. “I think if you come at leadership with that mindset at any level, you’re much more apt to succeed than otherwise.” 

Good leaders build good teams by being transparent, by including all voices and by listening to every idea, said Birmingham Green CEO Denise Chadwick Wright.

She also suggested “being direct in holding people accountable and also conducting assessments to determine the needs of your team, so that you can arm them with the resources and tools that they need to lead well and be successful.” 

How do you find a good mentor?

It’s important to ensure that less experienced professionals find mentors who align with their values, believes Green House Project Senior Director Susan Ryan. She noted that at one point in her career, she sought mentorship from more experienced directors of nursing and even surveyors, and then she soaked up their knowledge. 

“When something resonated and aligned with my values, I would then pursue that person so that I could fully understand who they were, what they were doing and sometimes invite them into my world,” Ryan said.

“They’re out there. Make sure they’re aligned with your values. You’ll find them in different places,” she added. “The other thing is to know who you are and you don’t have to look far.”

Young professionals should not be afraid to ask and build relationships with people who they think would be good mentors, said Robyn Stone, Dr.PH., LeadingAge’s senior vice president of research.

“When you’re a junior person, you often are afraid or have a sense of insecurity in even approaching people who have been in the field longer or have more experience. To me, this was the opportunity to learn,” Stone said. 

“I have been a ‘sponge’ all my life, so I have sought out people who I know are going to be willing to actually share and engage with me and with whom I can have a relationship,” she added. “I think the problem with mentorship is that you sometimes are a mentor in name only, but a true mentor is someone who has a relationship with you.” 
To watch the full hour-long panel discussion from the McKnight’s Women of Distinction Forum, register for free here.