Matt Herrmann, IT Director at Medtronic, was one of the first participants in York Solutions’ Link to Leadership Program. He is a big believer in the value of leadership development and mentorship initiatives, and he and his colleagues have experienced lasting positive outcomes after participating in the program.
Link to Leadership is designed for IT professionals to develop their soft skills and work toward their individual leadership goals. Link to Leadership is broken into six courses that are taught by senior IT members of the Think IT Association.
We spoke with Matt about which experiences have had the biggest impact on his career and in his organization.
What is your background in IT, and how did you become involved in the Link to Leadership program?
I’ve been working in IT for almost 20 years in different roles and responsibilities. When I went through the Link to Leadership program, about 5 years ago, I was in the first official class. I got involved because one of my managers at the time was heavily involved in the pilot of the program, and I also had my individual career development plan that I wanted to do more leadership training and improve my skills.
What have been the most valuable takeaways from Link to Leadership – for your career and your organization?
What I got most out of the program was the opportunity to learn from local IT leaders that have done this kind of work before. They knew types of questions we had and challenges we were facing. It was a great chance to network and talk with senior leaders – generally CIOs or VPs within the IT community in the Twin Cities.
Each module we went through – there are six over six months – gave different insights or tools for the toolbelt to use in your career. In each class, I took away something that I’ve been able to leverage in my career. It has helped accelerate my growth at Medtronic.
What is a useful tool you’ve brought back to your company?
One thing we did in the very first class was to take a personality assessment. When the results came back, they told you a lot about who you are, and the things that get you excited about your job, and the things that make you more uncomfortable.
I came back and had my team at the time take the same assessment. It was really interesting to see the results. They tell you things to look for and how you or others would interpret a certain type of situation. We as a team got much more comfortable with interacting with each other and understanding our different personality types. For example, we would know that if someone is asking this question, it’s not that they don’t trust you. It’s just they need more data to process the request.
Another good one experience was doing team presentations. The idea was that we were presenting in front of a board of directors. Most of us have never had that opportunity, but it gave great insights into how we need to build our communications for this type of audience. I’ve also brought those lessons back to my team.
How do organizations – as well as individuals – benefit from mentorship initiatives like those in Link to Leadership?
Mentorship is something that I feel very strongly about. I’ve been on both sides; I’ve had many mentors over my career, and I also mentor students frequently. Mentors see different ways that we can improve. They become a sounding board and a trusted advisor. What I’ve done with this program and mentors in general for my career is create what we call a “personal board of advisors.” This board is made up of various trusted people in your life who you can go to for different situations.
A successful mentorship happens when both mentor and mentee are engaged and bringing something to the discussion. You’re both growing your skills or learning different ways of addressing problems. Link to Leadership does a really good job of pairing up successful matches by using questionnaires with students and faculty.
What would you like others to know about the Link to Leadership Program?
It’s a great program for those interested in leadership – and not necessarily just for people management. Individual contributors who are leaders in their own way can also benefit. It’s a quick, relatively inexpensive way to lift the soft skills side of leadership development for your organization.
At Medtronic, we’ve sent 25 or 30 people through the program. We find it extremely valuable and continue to be huge supporters of the program. Every session, we send two to four people through it. It’s been a great talent development process for us if somebody needs to round out some skills or take the next step. It’s a great way to grow your career or open your eyes to what being a leader really means.
Learn more about the Link to Leadership Program.