Looking at the Importance of Mentorship Through ESA’s Program
ESA’s professional pairing program preps Class of 2018 as previous participants pile on the praise. The opportunity to learn from each other is invaluable.
The saying goes, it takes two to tango. But without the right music to keep the partners in lockstep, the tango ends up closer to the tangle. In the same way, mentorship programs are more than the pair involved. To be impactful, these programs must have a solid foundation, structure, and a committed program facilitator to truly reap their potential benefits.
While some security dealer and integrator companies have their own internal programs to enrich professional development, the larger prospect of gaining an industry partner to share best practices, offer fresh perspectives and connect with — outside of one’s company — can be very powerful.
It transcends company culture. It frees participants of the fear of retribution to gain insights on issues they may be encountering internally. The industry’s largest and longest-standing association representing electronic security and life safety has stepped forward to deliver in this area.
9 ESA Mentorship Program Benefits
- Gain significant amount of knowledge and advice they can apply to their position, all while honing their leadership and team-building skills
- Taught how to evaluate their new ideas — and then how to bring those vetted recommendations to upper management, allowing them to increase their contributions to the business
- Learn how to accept feedback from their managers, while better understanding why managers may be making certain decisions from a bigger picture perspective
- Expand their industry network through their mentor relationship and also through networking with others in the program
- Hone their active listening skills and open up to mentees, as they learn a new perspective that is not coming in the form of a complaint within their own business
- Feel good about sharing their knowledge
- Exposed to new business models, sales practices, and operational processes that work within similar businesses that are not in the same market
- Re-energized by giving back and understanding new ways to do things
- Expand their industry network through their mentee relationship but also through networking with others in the program
Three years ago, the Electronic Security Association (ESA) set out to tackle the industry’s talent hitch for its members — and with dedicated volunteers and a methodical design, launched a mentorship program that has made a profound difference and left a lasting impression on the professional and personal development of its participants.
It’s no secret that the security industry has had a tough go of attracting and retaining new, engaged talent. Participation in mentorship programs like ESA’s have shown to impact employee development, retention, recruitment, onboarding, teamwork, productivity and more.
ESA Program Fills Need
ESA touts that its program is built on trust, collaboration and commitment. During the yearlong period, pairs meet for a minimum of two hours monthly (either in person or via phone/video conference). They must commit to meeting at the ESA Leadership Summit and the Electronic Security Expo (ESX), as face-to-face interaction is important to building and maintaining trust.
The program also includes two required reading assignments to give participants a foundation of topics to weigh in on, two webinars, and an exclusive portal housing mentorship tools and resources for the participants.
The program’s chair, Robert Few, president, co-founder and managing partner of The Connection Xchange, has regular check-ins with the individuals in the program to ensure it is meeting their needs and expectations.
Mentors and mentees are paired together based on developmental goals and areas of interest indicated in the applications that are submitted. The program’s mentors and mentees have thus far included professionals from companies such as ADT, Alarm.com, American Security Integrators, AMP Smart, First Alarm, Holmes Security, Honeywell, Owen Security Solutions, XFINITY Home, Qolsys, RFI Enterprises, Select Security and Wayne Alarm Systems.
Although still in its infancy, the program has seen tremendous success with its mentor/mentee pairs. Following is the story of one such duo.
Meet a Mentor and Mentee
This past year saw the program’s Mentorship Class of 2017, its second class to date. ESA paired Greg Simmons of Eagle Sentry in Las Vegas (mentor) and Chris Nobling of Security Force Inc. in Raleigh, N.C. (mentee). Simmons and Nobling met for the first time through the program.
With more than 20 years of industry experience, Simmons joined the mentorship program with the hopes of inspiring action and driving change for the steady growing industry.
“I wanted to learn what drives the new generation of security professionals and get a better understanding of where they think the industry is going — and should go,” says Simmons.
This sentiment of reverse mentoring — getting a younger person’s perspective to open a veteran mentor’s eyes to the struggles and opportunities that the next generation is experiencing — is one many of the program’s mentors share.
Throughout the pair’s monthly calls (the program requires two hours of meeting time each month) Simmons and Nobling discussed everything from the personal to the professional. They would start off each conversation by catching up — talking about their lives.
Simmons and Nobling would have work-related questions prepared for their calls as well, discussing everything from sales, project management and the program’s required reading material.
Representing different companies allowed them to step outside of the box and gain a new perspective on internal challenges. Mentee and mentors alike have benefited from this “outsider perspective” in their scheduled calls.
“We talked about our professional goals. He gave me ideas that I could implement. We shared best practices on what we both do,” says Nobling. “Learning where he came from gave me ideas of how to mold what my future will look like.”
What the two shared during their time in the program has changed how they now approach their businesses. Both Simmons and Nobling agree they communicate better with others, they have a better understanding of the industry. The experience has affected their impact on their teams and their companies.
“Participating in the program helped me grow in many ways,” says Simmons. “I learned how much I didn’t know about what is important to this next group of leaders.”
“I have already become a better manager by becoming a better person,” says Nobling. “This program gave me the vehicle to develop my skills and leadership abilities.”
Beyond the required monthly calls and meetups at ESX and ESA’s Leadership Summit, Nobling was able to make a visit to see Simmons at the Eagle Sentry headquarters. This in-person interaction is one the program will now encourage to all pairs moving forward.
Simmons gave his mentee a tour of the facility and shared with him how their operation works in great detail. Nobling was able to experience for himself how an operation similar to his own ran, how his mentor led and interacted with his team. Experiencing this allowed him to understand the reality first-hand, instead of relying primarily on how Simmons said he interacted with his team.
“Spending time with him helped me to learn the kind of leader he is,” says Nobling. “I found areas of improvements for myself.”
Toward the conclusion of the program, mentees are paired together to prepare a final presentation at the ESA Rising Leaders Forum. The hard work Simmons and Nobling put into discussing the project was a true testament to their partnership.
“We discussed in depth, on many phone calls, what to talk about during the final presentation including how to win,” says Nobling. “Overall that kind of highlighted our time together as we were able to execute and successfully beat the competition.”
Although the ESA Mentorship Program is a structured regimen, the more you put in the more you take away from it. “The program is a substantial commitment,” says Simmons. “You want to spend the appropriate time on the phone, at the conferences and when your mentee reaches out. I believe the time is achievable for anyone who wants a rewarding life experience.”
Enriching Experiences Await
The Mentorship Program was established to promote the growth and togetherness of the electronic security and life-safety industry, connecting industry veterans and rising leaders. By encouraging successful professionals to share their best practices, tried-and-true processes mixed with fresh and new perspectives bloom, nurturing advancement of the industry.
“I would highly recommend the program to anyone pursuing a career in the systems integration industry,” says Simmons. “I would also highly recommend the program for any seasoned professional that is looking for a rewarding experience.”
The latest edition of the 12-month program will run from this month through February 2019, formally launching at the 2018 ESA Leadership Summit, Feb. 12-15, in Savannah, Ga.
The pairs of mentees and mentors will be officially introduced to each other during that first meet-up. Among the new faces to be welcomed in the Class of 2018 will be 26-year-old Cameron Fleck, owner of NewVision Security in Bismarck, N.D.
Fleck is excited to be paired with an industry veteran dedicated to the mentoring process. “It’s important to me to invest my time in the program,” he says. “I’m hoping to find a mentor who will help me set a good solid foundation at NewVison that we can expand on in the future.”
The Class of 2018 will commemorate the third year of the ESA Mentorship Program. Visit ESAweb.org for more information and to view this year’s participants.
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