Over the next two months, Frontline’s CPD focus will be on getting the most out of mentoring. CSP education adviser Nina Paterson looks at why you might want to be mentored and what to expect. Next month she will outline the rewards of being a mentor, including the opportunity to develop yourself professionally as you help someone else do likewise
Given how used to developing the next generation physiotherapists are – taking students under your wing and helping them learn – the principles of mentoring should be familiar. Learning doesn’t stop once you qualify, we’re all expected to continue to develop throughout our careers. Opening yourself up to learning from others, not just as a student, but throughout your career is an excellent way to continue that professional development.
Being mentored is one such approach. Studies show that those who undertake formal mentoring report three significant benefits:
- greater job satisfaction
- better job performance
- greater sense of commitment to the organisation they work for.
So, what is mentoring?
We often talk about mentoring and coaching in the same breath but while the two often apply similar techniques, they are different.
Coaching focuses on helping you to address a specific issue/skills deficit. The goal of coaching is to help the coachee to achieve an improved performance in a particular area. Coaching is time-limited, has a structured approach, and uses methodologies designed to facilitate that change. If you work within the NHS, you’ll be familiar with the GROW model (goal, reality, options, wrap up). If you’re interested in knowing more, see the useful links below.
Mentoring, on the other hand, is not just focused on the organisational needs but is intended to support the personal and professional growth of the mentee. In essence, a mentor’s role is to champion and support the mentee’s development, being a role model, teaching, challenging, and inspiring them. You’ll see in the ‘what my mentor means to me’ image one-line illustrative descriptions of their mentor provided by colleagues who are being mentored. It shows clearly how rich a mentoring relationship can be.
Mentoring relationships are just that - a relationship with a more experienced person who can help guide and counsel you through your career. Because mentoring is about you the individual, a mentor will want to know who you are as a person.
Mentors are often described as ‘older and wiser’ but actually the only criteria that matters is that your mentor is more experienced. This is an important distinction and brings us neatly to two other useful examples of mentoring to bear in mind – reverse and reciprocal mentoring.
Reverse mentoring A colleague of mine is currently being mentored by someone much younger than her as she moves into a role that requires her to get to grips with new technology and social media. She’s enjoying the challenge and both she and her mentor are enjoying the process.
While it isn’t badged as mentoring, within physiotherapy circles, reverse mentoring is more common than you might think. I often hear practice educators describing their relationship with students, generally the pre-registration Masters’ students, in these terms: ‘They keep me up to date, sometimes knowing more about a new technique than I do’, ‘they are often talking about latest evidence’, ‘they question why I do something, which makes me reflect and become more evidence based myself’. I’ve also heard managers talking in a similar way about their technical instructors.
As you look for a formal mentoring relationship, it’s worth remembering that mentors come in all different guises. And remember that you’re not looking to become a clone, so while having a mentor you admire is a must, seeking out those who are different to you in their approach and world view is beneficial.
Reciprocal mentoring, where colleagues alternate between being the mentor and mentee, is beneficial for both parties. We’ve recently begun using this model here at the CSP as part of the management development programme I’ve previously written about. It’s early days, but it is certainly helping to broaden my own skills as a coach on top of helping me to develop professionally.
Let’s talk inclusivity
As mentioned earlier, a mentor is there to challenge you and open you up to different experiences. What better way than by learning from someone who sees the world through a different lens to you?
That said, sometimes it is important to find a mentor who can be that role model for where you want to be, especially if you don’t see yourself represented. As a young gay woman, my first professional mentor was an inspirational older ‘out’ gay female leader who helped me network, navigate organisational politics and figure out what path I wanted to set my career on. It was an intentional choice – where I worked was unreceptive to women in leadership roles and more-so for gay women.
At that point in my career having a mentor I could identify with was critical, someone who could show me that my ambitions were possible. Listening over the years to colleagues from the BAME network talk about role models, I’ve heard them say similar.
Getting yourself ready to be mentored
In the ‘what my mentor means to me’ image, you’ll see a theme emerging around self-awareness/self-reflection. Opening yourself up as a mentee requires a great deal of this. It goes without saying that before you start you need to know what you want to get out of it, which requires an understanding/appreciation of where you are in your career/professional development.
It also requires you to know who you are and what makes you tick. The CPD activity will help you to assess both these points. You’ll also find links to previous articles and templates within the CSP’s ePortfolio to help you with this process.
Once you find a mentor you’ll need to continue in that same manner: you’ll need to be honest, vulnerable, curious, open to challenge and prepared to give as much as you take.
Finding a mentor
There’s no one way to find a mentor. Sometimes it happens formally as part of a management or leadership programme. Other times you may just need to go looking. There are plenty of mentorship schemes out there. The CSP has one, as does the NHS Leadership Academy (see useful links). You might however simply choose to approach someone you’ve known professionally that you think would be suitable. However you choose to find a mentor, take your time to make sure you’re right for each other. Don’t worry if you decide that it isn’t going work, it is better to acknowledge that than force a relationship. Equally don’t be surprised if someone says no, they may already be mentoring others, or they’re juggling other priorities. You may then need to broaden your networks. If so, interactiveCSP, the society’s member networking website, or the professional or regional networks could be good starting points to help you widen your pool of contacts.
Setting up the contract
Once you’ve found a mentor, you’ll need to set up a contract. This might sound formal, but it doesn’t need to be. All you are really doing is establishing the objectives and ground rules, including how you’ll work together and how you’ll know when it is time to say goodbye. It is natural for mentoring relationships to run their course, which is why it is important to plan for this too. There are many guides to help you navigate this step, but NHS Scotland’s mentoring handbook which provides clear guidance on what you’ll need to cover is a good place to start.
Once you’ve set up the contract, that’s it – you’re on your way. Don’t forget to record your development. As always, the ePortfolio has the tools to help with this.
Mentoring top tips
- know how and why you want to develop
- be vulnerable
- be curious
- be open to challenge
- and give as much as you take
What my mentor means to me
- She's my role model
- My guide
- She coaches me
- Opens me up to new ideas
- I now look at things differently
- Helps me to evaluate
- There's no vested interest
- I respect them and they respect me
- Helps me to evaluate
- They are impartial
- They challenge my thought processess
- Helps me take risk
- She's objective
- I trust her
- They inspire me
- Gives me honest feedback
- They're not trying to change me,but they are trying to help me get the best out of myself
- Help provide clarity of thought
Before you approach someone to be your mentor, you’ll need to identify what you want to learn and what type of individual might be best placed to help? The two steps below will help you address both points.
1. What are you looking to develop?
Sounds simple but make sure you’re clear about what skills you want develop and why. For some practical suggestions, follow the link to an article from the Frontline archive focused on knowing yourself.
2. Look at yourself
This isn’t just about ‘what you want to learn’. Mentoring is a relationship – a more experienced colleague might well have the skills that you’re hoping to acquire but you also need the necessary rapport. Dig deep and be honest with yourself about what works for you and what might ‘push your buttons’. This doesn’t necessarily mean ruling someone out because you find their style uncomfortable, but it does mean you’ll need to be aware of it.
Don’t forget to record your analyses to both steps and share your self-assessment with any potential mentor so that you can explore whether you’ll be a good fit.
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