From the Front Row: Mentorship and creating a culture of support

Published on May 12, 2023


Our guest this week is Laurie Baedke, director of health care leadership programs at Creighton University, and author of two books, “The Emerging Healthcare Leader: A Field Guide,” and “Mentor, Coach, Lead to Peak Professional Performance.”

Laurie chats will Rasika and Lauren about the importance of leadership and mentorship in the health care field and as it relates to any profession.

Find our previous episodes on SpotifyApple Podcasts, and SoundCloud.

Rasika Mukkamala: Hello, everyone and welcome back to From the Front Row. Today, we are delighted to have Laurie Baedke on our show. She’s currently the Director of Healthcare Leadership Programs at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska and is the author of two books, the Emergent Healthcare Leader: A Field Guide, and a newly published book, Mentor, Coach, Lead to Peak Professional Performance. I’m Rasika Mukkamala, co-hosting with Lauren Lavin, and if it’s your first time with us, welcome. We’re a student-run podcast that talks about major issues in public health and how they’re relevant to anyone, both in and outside the field of public health. Welcome to the show, Laurie.

Laurie Baedke: Thank you so much, Rasika. I’m delighted to be chatting with you.

Rasika Mukkamala: Can you start out the show by telling us a little bit about yourself?

Laurie Baedke: Sure thing, absolutely. Well, in my day job, I’m a full-time faculty member at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska where I’m the program director for an executive MBA in healthcare management and a non-degree executive fellowship in healthcare management. And I’m also super collaborative across campus with all of our clinical schools. I also have a secondary faculty appointment in our School of Medicine, where I’m the Assistant Dean for physician leadership education and I’ve been at Creighton seven years, many years prior to that as an adjunct faculty member.

But my career path prior to being a full-time academic is in the healthcare leadership community here in the Omaha community, largely in the physician and enterprise side of ambulatory operations and consulting. You mentioned that I’ve written a couple of books. Both are published by the American College of Healthcare Executives. I’m a longtime member and fellow of the college and also board certified fellow of the MGMA, Medical Group Management Association accrediting arm, which is the American College of Medical Practice Executives. I am a lifelong learner. I love mentoring and coaching, hence the most recent book that I wrote. I am a wife, I am a mom, I have a daughter in college and a son in high school. My nest is almost empty, which is a topic for another conversation. It’s really overwhelming to me how quickly that’s rolling up on me, but just a lover of being engaged in all things leadership.

Rasika Mukkamala: Thanks so much. Can you talk a little bit more about your involvement with ACHE? I know you just got back from Congress.

Laurie Baedke: I did, yeah. I was at Congress for several days this week and man, I think one of the biggest or most remarkable gifts of my entire career was a very early mentor of mine who was at the time a hospital CEO here in Nebraska and was the Regent for Nebraska within the American College of Healthcare Executives. And he nudged me very quickly to becoming a member and getting involved in our local chapter and I thought I was way too early to have any value to lend or to have any right to be at any of those tables. And I very quickly learned that a lot of volunteer leadership is so much sweat equity and it’s not at all glamorous. It’s not dissimilar to what some of your listeners might have experienced or be experienced in their undergraduate or graduate degree paths. It might be very familiar to them in those early roles that they’re having as administrative residents or fellows or in early leadership roles.

But what a gift that he introduced me to ACHE, and so I became a total disciple and jumped in the deep end of the pool and started checking every list and one of the lists is to become board certified. And so back then, actually it was a two-step process, now it’s just a fulfill requirements and then sit for an exam. Back in the day, I had to first become a diplomate, which is when I took the exam, but then I also had to write a paper or you could also do cases. So I checked that box at the very earliest milestone that I could and for many, many years until a year and a half ago, I was able to say, so fun to say that I was the youngest individual ever to become board certified as a fellow in the American College of Healthcare Executives, but I handed that trophy or that crown over about a year and a half ago and such a fun story.

I actually handed it to a mentee of mine. There was a woman. She’s with the Boston Children’s Organization. She is fantastic. She heard me introduced as the youngest fellow ever at a conference that I spoke at four or five years ago, and she reached out to me. We established a coaching relationship and have stayed now friends, colleagues, and I consider her a mentee, but she actually just unseated me and remarkably so. She’s such a star and it’s kind of fun. It was really, really fun to have that little intro bio or little disclaimer to say, but I couldn’t be more delighted that someone else has it now and even more so that it’s someone that I think so highly of and actually know myself.

Rasika Mukkamala: Yeah, that’s so funny that it’s someone that you know and that is your mentee. It’s passing down in your little mentee tree.

Laurie Baedke: As it should be.

Lauren Lavin: That probably speaks to your role as a mentor, especially since you kind of passed off that crown, so to speak to her, which I think kind of leads us into your new book, which is titled Mentor, Coach, lead to Peak Professional Performance. And I guess we’d like to know a little bit about what inspired you to write it, what it is and why we should all read it.

Laurie Baedke: Yeah, thank you for that. Yes, the new book is really, it’s a passion project for me because yes, I have been so actively involved in mentoring and sponsoring and coaching and I think almost everyone, I speak on this topic all over the nation and every single audience that I talk to, people tell me stories of how others have been so generous to them and all of us essentially, we stand on others’ shoulders as we advance. But the book was really, as I was really starting to think about what next, always looking for a new hill to climb, I really realized that within ACHE, but elsewhere in general, we’re starting to talk a lot more about mentorship and sponsorship. But two or three years ago when I first started working on this book, I realized that it would be fruitful for me and perhaps for others as well to take a much needed examination of those three practices of mentorship, of sponsorship and of coaching and why they’re valuable and how to engage in them.

 One thing that I say all the time is that these practices are bidirectional. And what I mean by that is that there’s really no stage of any of our careers where we don’t need to be well mentored and be well sponsored and be well coached. But as leaders at every single stage of our career, inevitably we are turning around and someone else sees us as a mentor, sees us as a sponsor, sees us a as a coach. And so it’s really important for us to understand that duality of how we step into and embrace these practices because mentorship is all about development. It’s about being able to acquire wisdom and leadership lessons learned and experience and expertise from people who have been there, done that. Sponsorship is really all about advancement. It’s about someone being a champion for you, an advocate, an ally. It’s about someone who has a position of power or privilege and will use it for you.

 They’re going to recommend you. They’re going to endorse you. They’re going to give you a stretch assignment or they’re going to bang the table and say, “Rasika’s the perfect fit for this role. I know she hasn’t lived at that level yet, but I’ve been developing her. I believe in her and I want to vouch for her. Give her the shot.” And then coaching is all about performance. It’s about that objective feedback that we can’t possibly have or give to ourselves. It’s about really getting that invaluable, either accountability or encouragement that’s necessary for us, and then understanding all three of those so that we can give them to others as well.

Rasika Mukkamala: Yeah, that’s so awesome. And I think one thing that we really learn in our programs is just how important it is to network and lean on people in the community. And especially I think in healthcare with the workforce shortage and everything, it’s really important to lean on people who kind of understand what you’re going through. While it may not be the same situation, they might have encountered something similar and understanding how they go through that, I think it’s really important to lean on others.

Lauren Lavin: So a lot of students are probably listening to this podcast and many of them probably haven’t found a mentor. So do you have any advice on how to find a mentor and what maybe that relationship looks like, especially if they’re approaching someone who hasn’t maybe mentored before?

Laurie Baedke: Yep, absolutely. So let me answer that question in two different ways. I’ll answer it kind of tactically, how do you find a mentor second, but let me really just broaden the way that we understand or see mentors because I want the listener to think more holistically about mentors. Of course, it’s natural that we think of those traditional mentors first. It’s someone who’s a couple steps ahead of us, they’ve been there, done that. Maybe it’s an alumni from your program. Before we were hitting record, I was encouraging Rasika to reach out to an alumni of your program when she’s in Denver this summer. And that’s a great way to be connected with someone who’s just a couple years ahead or multiple steps ahead.

 So that’s the traditional mentor, but don’t overlook the value of peer mentors. At every stage throughout our career, we can learn so much by intentionally putting ourselves around other sharp people and we can learn and grow and be encouraged and challenged by people who are at the same level as us. And so as you go from your program, it’s great to keep in touch with the people that you trained with in your MHA program or who were peers to you at certain stages along the way. You might end up in different cities or different organizations or institutions, but there’s so much value that comes from colleagues and peer mentoring.

 There’s a distinct value to reverse mentoring. And I think that that’s one thing I’ll suggest since most of your listeners are much younger or earlier in their career. Don’t overlook the value that you have to offer to someone else. Any of the mentors, the CEOs or C-level leaders in an organization that you’ll become established in, someone who’s working as a long-standing clinician in healthcare leadership or scientist, researcher can really benefit from your fresh perspective, your fresh eyes on the organization, but your just fresh familiarity with the literature and all of the training that you are assembling in your academic journey.

 So traditional, peer, reverse. Number four is definitely to think about mentoring teams. You don’t always have to have just one person, but I would encourage you to think about what you can get from being a part of a group who says, “Hey, let’s approach this as a team.” And blending the different components of being together with peers, but also thinking about how you put together a diverse team of advisors or mentors that are going to contribute to you. And then that last part is that sponsorship piece because most often, sponsors, those people who use their power or influence for us, they’re already established in developing us. They’re getting to know us and they’re building that trust and knowledge that lets them activate for us occasionally. But when we think about what mentors are you going to seek out and how you go about it, I want to first start with that definition of broadening or making more whole the way that we think about mentors so that we’re not just looking for one archetype.

 But to answer the question that you asked, how do you find a mentor? I would say the first piece of advice that I always love to encourage is never ask someone to be your mentor. It’s almost like asking someone to marry you on a first date. That’s a big commitment and who knows what you need? What are you looking for? Are you looking for lessons learned from my role as a CNO in a hospital? Okay, well, maybe I can be a mentor in that regard, but are you looking for an accountability partner? Do you want someone to challenge you or stretch you? I don’t know how to answer that question if you’re asking me to be your mentor. My advice is from an etiquette perspective, just ask for a conversation. Be someone who asks for conversations, and then if at the end of that conversation, human behavior and neuroscience tells us you’re going to have a gut read if you want a second conversation with that person and if there’s a potential that they could be an amazing mentor to you, and you’re probably going to have a read also if they think the same in reverse.

 So never ask for a mentorship. Just ask for a conversation. And if then you think that there’s fruit in another conversation, of course, then just say, “Hey, could I reach out and get on your calendar again next month or next quarter? I’d love to stay in touch and have a second conversation.” And if they say yes, then several meetings in, you guys are probably both going to realize, hey, this is a mentorship relationship and that has happened organically, and that’s the best case scenario. If you don’t get that sense, if it’s a conversation, but you can tell, “Wow, this person really isn’t interested in this conversation. They’re not interested in me, or they really don’t have the things to offer that I thought that they did.” And so we’re not pursuing a second conversation. Here’s where my advice to early careerists and all for that matter is to branch out at the end of any conversation, networking conversation or mentoring conversation, ask the person, “So based on the conversation that we’ve had today and what you now know my interests to be, are there one or two other people in our organization or in your network that you think that I should connect with for a conversation?”

 That is just an open door for someone to now open their Rolodex to you.And almost inevitably, if you ask that question and someone says, “Whew, they didn’t ask me for a second conversation because I don’t think there’s any more fruit to be had from our two selves meeting, but now that I know you know what Lauren’s really interested in, I know exactly who I want to connect her with.” And almost always that person’s going to say, “Here’s their email address or cellphone number. Shoot them a text. Let them know that I sent you.”, or they’re going to say, “Let me serve an email introduction.” And now you as usually the junior person with a little bit less power in that equation, just have someone organically proliferating your network in a really fantastic way. How does that land with the two of you? Does that sound approachable and practical and helpful?

Lauren Lavin: Yeah, that is a great way to go about it. One, I had not really thought about all the different types. I think we always think of mentor-mentee relationship as just kind of the traditional linear version. So one, that. Two, you make it sound really approachable. It doesn’t have to be this long-term commitment right off the bat. It’s a conversation and it goes both ways, which I think makes it way more approachable as a student.

Rasika Mukkamala: Yeah, I think so too. And I think it’s really important for everyone to know that everyone is bringing something to the table. Even if you’re the person who traditionally would consider yourself to be mentored, yeah there might be people out there looking for fresh perspective or you might have an interest in whatever that person’s doing and you might bring new ideas or the projects that we’re working on in our classes or other things like that, we can bring that perspective and just have conversations about so many things. So I think that’s super great advice, which leads us into our next question actually, which is how should aspiring leaders develop their leadership skillset?

Laurie Baedke: Yeah, man, so many suggestions. But I mean, first and foremost, just commit to being a lifelong learner. Your leadership skillset is going to be grown through your continually thinking about how you can learn and grow. Having that mindset of when you finish your degree, when you get a certain degree or credential or certification, then if your expectation is, “Now I’ve arrived.”, shame on you, you’re going to get passed by other people who are investing in growing themselves. And so be a student of your craft. Be the person that’s always reading articles on LinkedIn, from Harvard Business Review, from McKinsey, from New England Journal of Medicine, from other reputable, credible, timely sources. Be the type of person that’s consistently reading books or listening to books. Be the type of person that’s graciously consuming podcasts like this one and others to make sure that you’re just sharpening the saw every time.

 And so that lifelong learning is one thing. The second thing is really just to be someone who actively connects within the leadership community. I mentioned that one of the first pieces of advice my early mentor Bob gave to me was to become connected within ACHE and serve in ACHE. And that has borne so much fruit for me to be at the table, to be the person who was setting up the registration table and name tags in advance in my early and mid-20s in my career. And then I became known to everyone because I was the name that people were receiving emails from, and I was the person handing out name tags so I can start to connect faces with names of all the folks, all of the leaders in my local community and in my area, getting really networked at a regional and then national level within a professional association and finding ways to really plug in and serve in your profession, but then also that’s going to avail you to leadership development learnings and networking relationships that are going to prove incredibly fruitful.

 So lifelong learning and professional service to your organization, I would say as well, be a student of human behavior. Number three is just be the type of person. This is a great way to channel and harness how you and your peer mentors can kind of encourage and connect with each other and huddle up from time to time to really just say, “Hey, here’s what I’m observing the CEO or the CMO in my organization where I did a summer internship. This is something that they do. This is the phrase that they use all the time. I’m going to tuck that in my pocket and that is going to be the phrase that I use when I have to step into tough conversations or diffuse conflict in the future. Or also then be the type of person that’s just looking. Like when you onboard into an organization as a summer intern or as a fellow or a resident, be the type of person that just scans the room and says, “Who do people think highly of?”

 I mean, when people say, “Oh, Jessica or Jeff.”, everyone speaks so highly of them. What are they doing? I’m going to just kind of observe them anytime, not creepy like staring, not breaking eye contact, being really weird, but just being a student of human behavior and saying, “How do they conduct themselves? How do they hold themselves? How do they sit? How do work the room? And how can I glean little nuggets from what I watch other people do or what I hear people say and how they interact that really feels organic and authentic to me and that I can apply?”, because one of the biggest things that’s challenging, especially at those early years of your career, is to really find yourself and establish your leadership style, your personal brand, and being a student of behavior is a great way to give yourself knowledge and insight that you can either filter and let go of or keep and hold on and apply for yourself.

Rasika Mukkamala: Yeah, that’s perfect. So I really appreciate your answers to that question because I think there’s just so much there. And I think being a lifelong learner is truly part of who I am. And I know Lauren, she loves to learn too, and I think it’s just so important to continue to be adept to what is changing in healthcare because what’s in print one day might be out of print the next day just with however changing the policies are and procedures and standard operating procedures, just making sure that you’re aware of what best practices are because then that makes you a better leader and a resource for other people in your organization. So our next question is about criticism. So we were wondering if you could tell us what advice you have for dealing with criticism, particularly in leadership roles?

Laurie Baedke: Yeah, that is a really tough one, but it’s so important. And my advice would be that when you receive it, know that it is a gift and receive it as data. Approach it with that humble curiosity that a scientist would. And your first immediate reaction is undoubtedly always going to be emotional. We’re emotional beings, and so if someone criticizes you, find a way to have a habit of finding a way to process through it. For me, I know that I always need to sleep on it or go outside into nature because that’s where I’m going to process through it. I’m going to go put my dog at the end of the leash and I’m going to go walk outside and hopefully, I live in Nebraska so there are certain months of the year where it’s really inhospitable. You guys are in Iowa. You know we’re just walking out of winter now and thank goodness because we’re about at the end of our rope, aren’t we?

 But I mean, whatever it is that you can do to really give yourself a little bit of time to let that soak in, some of it has to do, this is one of the reasons why we need to be well mentored because we need someone to bounce that off of, whether it’s a trusted colleague or a peer mentor or whether it’s a genuine traditional mentor that we can say, “Hey, I heard this feedback. I think there’s some truth to it, but tell me what from your perspective that you see, because I’m really struggling to take this on.” So some of it is really just giving yourself time to reflect. Some of it is bouncing it off of or validating it with someone whose opinion you really trust and who you know that they have your best interest at heart. But then the other thing that I would say is that you’re inevitably going to get criticism and sometimes, it’s really important that you know how to gracefully and thoroughly consider it, use it as data because there’s almost always some morsel of truth there that you can and should apply so that you can iterate and improve and layer yourself in the learnings that you can extract from it and be better tomorrow or next year because of that feedback.

 But the other thing that I’ll tell you, and you’re always going to get criticism, but honestly, very quickly in your career path, you’re going to stop getting any feedback. And I know that that might sound kind of hard to believe at the stage of your journeys as folks that are in academic training programs still are very early in your career. But that’s the way that our academic programs and some of the early leadership roles, whether they’re administrative residencies and fellowships or whether they’re some of the early roles in healthcare leadership, everyone looks at you and says, “We have to give Rasika, we have to give Lauren, we have to give John this good feedback because they’re still young and early.” But very quickly, the farther that you advance and certainly the higher you ascend in your career, people really quickly assume that you should have your stuff figured out and they stop giving you feedback.

 You might get formal performance evaluation feedback and maybe that comes in a high quality and really practical or applicable fashion. Very frequently it does not. So knowing that, it is the business case for making sure that you put yourself in the company of mentors and sponsors and coaches who can give you that feedback. You should surround yourself with people. People call it your board of advisors, your kitchen cabinet, who knows the real unvarnished version of you, who’s willing to tell you because how awful is it if someone doesn’t tell you if you have lipstick on your teeth or if your zipper is down. Think about how awkward it is. If you don’t know someone very well, you are not likely to tell them that, no matter how much you know that you would want to know it. So that human behavior applies as it pertains to our leadership performance.

 And so the best leaders, the most effective leaders and the highest performers, the business cases go on and on. I mean, you think about elite high-achieving athletes, the Kobe Bryants, the Michael Jordans of the world. I mean, there are so many stories that are written about how those individuals just voraciously pursue feedback and they see it as the fuel that informs their ability to perform at that next level.

 And so if you find yourself ever in a void or a vacuum of getting good feedback, it’s important for you to say, “Now how will I get it?” Be the type of person that seeks it out. One of the things that I suggest as a script that you can use, and I write about this in the book, is to state your intention to a mentor or a colleague. My intention is I want to consistently grow and improve, but if I’m also in a position where someone might not want to tell me something that I really need to know about myself, about how maybe my conflict aversion is getting in my way because I’m not having some of the tough conversations that I need with other people or I’m really impatient, and if that’s the case, every once in a while, I maybe act reactively or impulsively or maybe I don’t involve enough people to weigh in before I take action, and that is actually feedback that I have gotten because I am an impatient person and I will have to, the day I die, work on that.

 My impatience, I’m a catalyst for action. There’s a lot of strength that comes from that. But when I need to tell people that I need feedback, the farther established that I am in my career, I use that script. I want to consistently grow and improve. I would value your candid feedback and I will do my best to receive it gracefully. And when I do that, I kind of deliver it in that three-part sentence. The first is, here’s my objective. Let me tell you this is why I’m coming to the table. So someone’s going to go, “Okay, that’s a good intent. I appreciate that Laurie wants to grow and improve.” Second, Laurie’s asking for my candid feedback. Right? Okay, well, I do have something I need to tell her, but that thirds part of the statement that is, “I will do my best to receive it gracefully.”, does two things.

 Hopefully it sets the table of psychological safety for that person to say, “Okay, I think Laurie is going to try to receive this gracefully.” She’s probably not going to like what I have to say. But that psychological safety is important when we need to have hard conversations. And it’s also a verbal cue for me as I say those words, that next thing I need to do is shut my up and bite my tongue and do what I said I was going to do, which is to hear something hard and then to step back and process it, to not be defensive and say, yeah, but you don’t know. But she said, but they did. And so that’s one of the things when we need to receive criticism, when we need to be the type of person that establishes a habit of seeking out feedback, those are some of the things that I have found in my research for this book I’ve given as advice to coachees and mentees. Certainly they are doses of medication that I partake of myself because I still am someone who needs feedback and who struggles to always either get it or onboard it smoothly.

Rasika Mukkamala: No, that’s so helpful. I was going to ask a follow up, but you answered. I was going to say, how do you ask for feedback? But I think that is so helpful, and I think doing it in that three-pronged approach and reminding if you’re the one receiving the feedback, you’re doing this because you want to grow, not because no one’s trying to attack you or anything because you’re the one asking for it in this case, but I think that’s super helpful and I’m definitely going to be using your approach.

Laurie Baedke: I will tell you one thing that I know without a shadow of a doubt is that every single one of us, even the most superb, mature, reflective, mindful leaders, also we all have blind spots and we all have biases, and we almost never can entirely remove or mitigate their influence on our behavior. Let me say that again. We all have blind spots and biases, and when it comes to those blind spots and biases, ignorance is not bliss. So again, just continuing to do what you’ve always done or not asking for feedback where you might serve an environment for someone to tell you about how your blind spot or your bias is in your way does not mean that it’s not impacting someone. And as you all know, there’s a lot of the literature, and I write extensively in the book about how mentorship and sponsorship and coaching are incredibly important so that we can develop bench strength and develop and advance more diverse leaders in our organization.

There’s a strong connection between these three practices and diversity, equity and inclusion and belonging in our teams, in our organizations. And so it is impossible for any of us to understand the lived experience of everyone around us on our team, which begs the importance of our being a student of human behavior, being someone who practices reflection to consider how I might have privilege or a bias that might be in Lauren’s way in our relationship, or just being mindful of the power dynamic or the differences so that I can be as effective a steward of my leadership or my privilege so that I can be a good resource to my colleague or to my direct report.

Lauren Lavin: I think that was some great actionable tips. I especially liked taking the criticism and then sitting with it for a little bit, maybe not letting it all stick immediately and processing what needs to stay or consulting with a mentor and stuff like that to make sure that it’s A-okay.

Laurie Baedke: Yep.

Lauren Lavin: We’re going to leave this conversation behind and transition to our last one. As we said, a lot of the listeners are students and looking for internships or the next step after their career. And so as young professionals, what do you think that we should be looking for in internships, fellowships, those kind of next steps?

Laurie Baedke: Yeah, I mean I’m sure you’ve had a lot of other individuals who have given good practical advice on this topic. I’m going to go the more holistic or philosophical route and say really truly consider not just the title or the role or the organization at face value, but really think about is there a leader that I’ve met that I particularly want to work with or for or around? And what is my alignment to this organization or institution and their mission or my ability to feel connected to it? I mean, obviously this then demands that we’re the type of person that’s really actively networking, and we should be the type of person that’s really involved in our student chapter for ACHE or some other affinity group within your program, and any of the other folks that might listen elsewhere throughout the nation.

I mean, someone might be particularly passionate about public health or epidemiology. Someone might be really extraordinarily interested in patient safety or quality and performance improvement. There are so many diverse roles within healthcare that it really is my strongest encouragement that be really active in networking. If you’re asking for those conversations, if you’re really actively early, early, early, do it now during every single year of your training. And then don’t ever stop. Fill your garden with seeds that you plant in conversations with other people that will help you to be the type of person that makes an impression, even if it’s not a formal internship, but it’s just a series of three or four meetings that you’ve taken with a key leader. And then they might call you up and say, “Hey, we’ve got this role opening. Are you interested? Or do you know anyone from your program who might be?” It’s one of the downstream benefits of networking is obviously knowing people and having people know you.

So it’s obviously important to get some of those internships, to get some of those early opportunities like residencies and fellowships, but you can set the table for that by being the type of person that’s nurturing those relationships in advance, because obviously otherwise, you’re just hoping that, I mean here, I have a statement of purpose. One of my things to do today on my list is to read this. It’s a personal statement that someone’s going to attach to an application. And obviously, if you’re depending on two pages of single spaced copy to let someone get to know you, that’s good, and you can be really effective in that way. But there’s also a way to hack and personalize, and that’s through some of those more organic interactions if you can, that help you to have a competitive advantage because someone knows you and they’re like, “Wow, I remember when Rasika reached out and we only had two Zoom conversations, but I was so struck by her poise, or I was so struck by her passion and she was so compelled for this particular unique need. And that’s something where we don’t have a lot of bench strength. I think Rasika is the person.”

Rasika Mukkamala: Yeah, that’s so helpful. I think it’s so hard because there’s so much out there, especially with the internship search for MHA students. It starts basically the first day that we come to school. We just keep talking about it, and the first application closes in October. And so I think it’s hard because it’s so weighing on us, but at the same time, it’s like there’s so much out there, and just because you have an internship set doesn’t mean that you can’t keep connecting with people outside of that organization. Obviously, do your best to connect with people in your organization while you’re there, but yeah, like you said, never stop networking, never stop reaching out because you never know what opportunities will prevail because of who you talked to. So that’s great.

Laurie Baedke: Absolutely, yeah.

Rasika Mukkamala: So the last question is something that we ask all of our guests on the show. This can be related to your career or not, but what is one thing you thought you knew but were later wrong about?

Laurie Baedke: Oh, I’ve never been wrong, so I’m kidding. I’m kidding. Wow. So here’s one thing I think just maybe I’m going to myth bust or shatter a preconceived notion that I know that I had and that I have talked to so many others and this preconceived notion that we have that once you become established in your career, you stop failing or you stop having insecurities.

And that is just simply not the case. We can all look and seem and appear confident and competent, but failure is inevitable and failure will come to us both personally and professionally. We’ll experience things that will really take us to our knees. Some of them are like little stumbles, little fumbles, little foibles, but part of the hard work of leadership and pursuing success in both your personal and professional life, it’s all hard and hard is normal. And so it’s one of the things that as I’ve come to know that, and as I’ve experienced some hardship or adversity or setbacks, whether it was things like getting passed over for a promotion or early in my career feeling like I was capable of that next step, but just no one had taken a shot on me yet.

 And that’s something that it’s hard for us to reconcile that in the moment, but as I’ve continued throughout my career, I’ve realized that unfortunately, the stakes just climb higher and higher in life and in leadership. And if we think that life will become easy at some stage, well once I get my degree and then once I get married, or once I buy a house or once I’m a VP or once I’m blah, blah, blah, blah, no. Every single stage is hard, but you know what? Hardship is actually what makes us hardy, and we don’t ever learn the lessons that we need in times of ease. We learn them when we’re face down, and that’s where we need that perspective of others to encourage us, but also we have to really kick fear and shame to the curb. And we also need to acknowledge that none of us has to do it all.

 We’re not self-sufficient. It takes a village of people around us. And so that’s why it’s so important to surround yourself with amazing peer mentors because I can tell you, it’s one of the richest gifts to be able to be there for someone else in a time of need. I’m guessing that both of you have already experienced in your life how humbling and rewarding it is when someone needs you and you can be there for them, even if it’s just someone to listen, just share it all. Just vent. Just let it out and then we’ve got to let it go and get on with life or to wrap you up in a hug, to carry you when you can’t carry yourself. But it’s also important to realize there will be days when we are that person that can’t carry ourself and we need somebody else. And I know that this has gotten pretty deep, but I think it’s important to say and to normalize that we need to be the type of person that puts ourself around other people and then generously is there for them.

 And then we need to be the type of person that has put other people around us who know the unvarnished version of us. They see the underside of the tapestry, and they love us nonetheless, but then also they will know when we’re struggling. They can tell. And that’s important because life is really hard. It’s all really hard. It’s fun to have people share the upside of life with us, but it’s remarkably important that we share with people our struggles because you know what? So that’s the thing that I was wrong about, is that once people are established and competent, that they no longer struggle, and that’s just not true. And so it’s important that we show that, and it’s important that we reflect that as well.

 I probably wouldn’t have had the courage 20 years ago to talk as candidly about some of my failures as I am today. But I think it’s important to do because I know for me, anytime that I hear someone who I know is competent and credible and capable, when they talk about their failures or hardships, it validates to me that if they can be the type of person who has the courage to be that candid, but who also is well respected and competent and doing things at work and being the neighbor or the daughter or the mom or the dad or the parent or the child that they want to be, that causes them to be the whole person. We’re all whole people. That’s where the important part of life comes is owning all sides of the journey and then figuring out the way that you best share it with others.

Lauren Lavin: That was lovely and a great way to wrap up the end of this episode with Laurie. And so we hope that this episode inspired all of you listening to think about the role that mentorship and criticism plays in both our academic journeys and future career plans. Big thank you to Laurie for being such a lovely guest and such deep and I think inspiring words and for being such an inspirational leader to all of us starting out in our careers. So thank you to you all for tuning in, and we hoped that you enjoyed this episode. If you did, share this episode with others who may be interested in learning more about mentorship or get your hands in a copy of Laurie’s new book. This has been Lauren and Rasika From the Front Row. See you for an episode next week.

Anya Morozov: That’s it for our episode this week. Big thanks to Laurie Baedke for joining us today. This episode was hosted, written, and produced by Rasika Mukkamala and Lauren Lavin, and edited by Anya Morosov. You can learn more about the University of Iowa College of Public Health on Facebook, and our podcast is available on Spotify, Apple Podcasts and SoundCloud. If you enjoyed this episode and would like to help support the podcast, please share it with your colleagues, friends or anyone interested in public health. Have a suggestion for our team? You can reach us at cph-grad This episode was brought to you by the University of Iowa College of Public Health. Until next week, stay healthy, stay curious, and take care.