Mentoring is a planned pairing of a more experienced person with a lesser skilled individual for the purpose of achieving mutually agreed outcomes. It is a partnership in which both individuals share in a growth process and the personal development of one another. This dyad relationship is highly complex and has different phases. Good mentors with qualities of openness, humility, commitment, patience, and receptive learning, can help young physicians attain their goal efficiently and progress in career while maintaining confidentiality. Mentorship plays a significant role in the personal and professional development of academic leaders in medicine. Systematic reviews of mentorship studies have shown that mentorship not only influences career choice and academic development but also improves research productivity. Mentoring helps produce great leaders in an organisation. Organizations are using mentoring programs as a way to retain and recruit talent. This chapter reviews the qualities of a mentor, mentoring techniques and provides suggestions for choosing an appropriate mentor, and ideas for creating a supportive mentoring environment.
If I have seen it further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants
Mentoring is the process by which an expert person facilitates learning in the mentee through the arrangement of specific learning experiences.
Mentoring is a valuable relationship based upon reciprocal trust and respect, by either an informal association or a formal agreement.
Mentoring has been shown to improve productivity, goal clarity and the sense of belonging.
The process of mentoring compared to supervision and managing is an everlasting and obligatory relationship.
Mentoring can be a rewarding experience not only for the mentor and mentee but also for the organization. It contributes to a positive organizational climate and promotes a more clear understanding of professional responsibilities and expectations.
Mentoring is a planned pairing of a more experienced person with a lesser skilled individual for the purpose of achieving mutually agreed outcomes [1, 2]. It is a partnership in which both individuals share in a growth process and the personal development of one another [3, 4]. The above quote by Isaac Newton is a clear example of mentoring in action . We can learn in a variety of different ways including by experience, reflection or modeling. However, when we follow the footsteps of those who have gone before us we can progress rapidly towards our goals as narrated by Sir Isaac Newton.
The concept of mentoring originated in ancient Greek mythology around 1200 B.C. When Odysseus left for the Trojan War, he entrusted his household and son Telemachus, in the care of the noble Mentor Athena, the Greek goddess of wisdom [5, 6]. Athena acted as an advisor to the young Telemachus, helping him overcome challenging obstacles. Historical records show that skills, culture , and values in preparation for manhood were learned in this paired relationship.
There are varied definitions of mentorship including the following:
• A relationship that may vary along a continuum from informal/short-term to formal/long-term in which faculty with useful experience, knowledge , skills, and/or wisdom offers advice, information, guidance, support or opportunity to another faculty member or student for that individual’s professional development .
• An alliance of two people that creates a space for dialogue that results in reflection, action and learning for both .
• Mentoring is the process by which an expert person facilitates learning in the mentee through the arrangement of specific learning experiences [8, 9].
Mentoring relationships are believed to be important in the career development of many professional fields including medicine, business, education, and law . More and more businesses are embracing mentoring as a tool for professional development. Organizations are witnessing dramatic improvements in efficiency, productivity, and transfer of institutional knowledge and leadership skills from one generation to the other after adopting mentorship programs .
Why Is Mentoring Essential?
Organizations today are constantly striving for cost effective ways to improve the work performance of their employees. Mentoring can be a powerful and affordable strategy that contributes immensely to staff performance and personal development, but its potential value is often not acknowledged . Mentoring is much more than coaching and counselling . It not only complements the training but also provides better understanding of the qualitative and subjective parts of our job such as handling frustration, disappointment and giving constructive criticism . It is a responsibility we owe to the institution. It is essential that one gives back to the organization, the development of people who can be part of and carry on the culture, so that future generations of people who work could maintain the same mood, atmosphere and positive organizational culture that exists today . Mentoring helps individuals become great managers and leaders of tomorrow. Organizations are using mentoring programs as a way to secure and recruit talent to fertilise it further.
Mentoring relations could be either informal associations wherein a mentee learns by observation or by formal agreements where there is a to and fro transfer of experience and perspective. Be it formal or informal, the ultimate goal of mentoring is to provide career advice as well as both professional and personal enrichment. One often comes across examples of mentoring schemes during formal periods of training, preparation for vocational or professional qualifications, and induction of new employees, to help staff members consider objectively their medium and long term development aspirations, and to prepare senior members for their next posts . Mentoring schemes are used as part of the staff development processes at universities and colleges of higher education, and within schools to foster development of gifted pupils. They are also adopted in social and sporting activities to help new entrants in getting acquainted with the organisation, its culture, and develop new skills .
Qualities of a Good Mentor
A mentor is someone who has been there, done that, learned from experience and is willing to share. Mentoring is first and foremost a teacher/student relationship. Effective mentors should possess a wide variety of qualities to facilitate a positive mentor-mentee relationship .
Mentors must be compatible on a personal level, listen actively, be able to identify potential strengths in their mentees and assist mentees in ascertaining and reaching their goals.
Melanson identified some core qualities of a successful mentor based on his observation of military and civilian mentors . He stated that an ideal mentor should be approachable, empathetic so that he or she can feel, understand and appreciate the fears and desires of the mentee, be reflective and able to refine lessons learnt from their career. The ideal mentor should be very patient and should be given an opportunity to demonstrate new skills and achieve new endeavour . Honesty and loyalty to the mentee in giving critical feedback in a caring manner is a must according to Melanson. Mentors should be authentic and value ongoing learning and growth. Finally, mentor commitment is the key to a successful mentoring relationship .
Sambunjak has reported a systematic review of the characteristics of mentoring . There were six studies that reported the desired qualities of a mentor. These were classified as pertaining to the mentor’s personality , interpersonal abilities and professional status. Good mentors should be honest and sincere, patient, understanding, non-judgemental, reliable in their dealings with mentees, be able to listen actively, accessible, be able to identify potential strengths in their mentees , compatible in terms of practice style, vision and personality and have a well established position within the academic community .
Roles and Responsibilities of a Mentor
Darling reported on a study that explored the different roles of a mentor. One of the most significant outcomes of the study was the identification of the characteristics of mentors that enable learning [15, 16]. Characteristics that are most desirable for a mentor to possess include acting as a professional role model, being supportive of and involved in a trainee’s progress, serving as a trusted evaluator of the mentee and being a leader in their field. Mentors who have these traits may have greater success in attracting and training mentees . It is essential that mentors also provide both positive and negative feedback in a way which enhances further learning, invest an appropriate amount of time in the mentee, impart their own knowledge and experience, provide guidance in career planning, stimulate mentees to more critical thinking and explore issues more deeply and always be willing to provide opportunities to the mentee [15, 16].
Sambunjak’s systematic review revealed six studies, which explored the role of good mentors and how they interacted with their mentees . Some of the actions were aimed at academic growth of mentees while others were targeted toward personal growth. From this review, they concluded that there was an increasing level of privacy and intimacy from the institutional to the personal side. On the institutional side, mentors were seen to improve mentees’ visibility and connections within the academic environment. On the personal side, mentors provided moral support, vision-building, goal setting, self reflection and created a safe environment for expression of thoughts and feelings .
Box 1: Tips for Mentors
Be approachable and open minded
Act as a role model
Show concern, compassion and empathy
Provide moral support
Be enthusiastic and invest appropriate time in mentee
Possess good communication skills including listening skills
Offer constructive feedback
Nurture mentoring relationship
Qualities of a Mentee
Not everyone makes a good mentee ; however, those who are effective often share similar characteristics . Good mentees find their own mentors; associate with them; learn from their guidance, wisdom, support and benefit from the global experience. Melanson identified some qualities in the junior officers in the army medical department who according to him would benefit the most from mentoring . The recognized qualities of effective mentees according to him are those who have a deep rooted drive and initiative for learning, are eager to take personal charge of their mentoring, confidential in all matters, are careful risk takers, learn from their mistakes and failures, enthusiastic, open-minded and receptive to feedback and coaching and improvise from mistakes. Commitment according to him is the key to the mentoring relationship and by becoming mentors themselves the mentee would gratify and reciprocate the obligation .
Roles and Responsibilities of a Mentee
The mentee has an equal if not a greater charge in a mentor–mentee relationship . The mentee should initiate the mentoring relationship, articulate goals and objectives, identify strengths and weaknesses, listen attentively, be patient, demonstrate willingness to work as a team player, be willing to learn and take risks, have a positive attitude , use constructive feedback, share enthusiasm for growth and success, willing to accept challenges, nurture mentoring relationship , recognize and accept limitations of the relationship . The Mentee should affirm and speak on behalf of the mentor’s role exhibiting and picturing the mentor as a ‘developer of people’ publicly acclaiming the credit to the mentor for useful ideas. They should flourish with the mentor’s emotional support and friendship and have admiration and respect for the mentor as appropriate .
Box 2: Tips for Mentees
Initiate mentoring relationship
Determine their own strengths and weakness
Willing to learn and take risks
Recognise and accept limitations of the mentoring relationship
Mentoring Vs Supervision
Supervision and mentoring are often used synonymously. Mentoring is a power free, two-way mutually beneficial learning situation where the mentor provides advice, shares knowledge and experiences, and will usually have a longer term and more strategic focus on the mentoree’s development . A supervisor, on the other hand, has an authoritative power with short-term targets to reinforce or change skills specific for the task. Supervision implies critical watching and directing without the warmth that is implied in mentoring [3, 22]. The most successful mentoring programs are those, which have the full and continued support of the supervisors outside the mentor relationship. A real measure of success is when these supervisors volunteer to be mentors in the next mentoring program .
Mentoring Vs Managing
Both mentoring and managing can be used synonymously and this could be within or beyond an organisation depending on the varied purposes, processes and benefits for both. The relationships of the mentoree with the mentor and the manager could be varied. The mentor–mentee relationship is life long and career supportive as the former implants the ingredients in the latter who reaps it often in his/her career, creating a psychological and social bonding among themselves. It also acts as a long-term return on the investment done by the mentor on the mentee . It is a mutually beneficial exchange, enhancing personal and professional growth, aiming and striving to evaluate the effectiveness ‘to do the right things’. On the other hand, the relationship of the manager and mentee is a job supportive relation as long as both are with the organisation, leading to work related performance. This could result in a short-term return and also on the one way transfer of skills within the job related perspective. This relationship emphasises and streamlines on efficiency to ‘do things right’ .
Evolution of the Mentoring Relationship
Mentoring relationships progress through predictable phases that often build on one another . After the selection and approval of the mentor and the matching process have occurred, the next step in the mentoring process involves the preparation and implementation of the key phases by the mentor. Understanding of the phases, and awareness that there may be overlaps between the phases sequence is key to successful mentoring relationships .
Clutterback described the phases of the mentoring process as rapport building , direction setting, making progress and moving on . In the first phase, it is essential for the mentor and the mentee to establish a good rapport with each other wherein both openly share their willingness to exchange views, values, goals and expected outcomes . They agree upon a way of working together, identify and plan resources and set up future meetings to review these on an ongoing basis. Goals for mentoring could be agreed in the initial or second meeting. The mentor should help the mentee clarify their focus, goals, set objectives, identify priority work and set appropriate actions to achieve them. It is in this stage that there will be more listening, sharing and confiding in each other. In the third phase of making progress, both the mentor and the mentee should use each other’s expertise and facilitate reflective learning and professional networking. At this meeting, they should review the progress and reflect on the successes since the last meeting along with identification of new issues. This helps achieve a two-way feedback between the mentor and mentee . It is here where new challenges are presented and achieved. In the concluding stage of the mentoring relationship, the mentor and mentee review what has been achieved, discuss moving forward and allow the relationship to end with a plan for future communication and accountability .
In summary, in the four stages the mentor and the mentee acquaint themselves, ascertain aims and objectives accomplish those goals and cease their relationship. The progression from one stage to the next depends on the successful resolution of the previous stage .
Monitoring Success of the Mentoring Relationship
The relationship that mentors share with their mentees is expected to significantly affect the success of mentoring interventions [27
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