These pages are for mentors so that they can keep in touch with their skills, plus find and use a number of tools to suit different situations. There is some suggested reading and links to other relevant websites and documents.
This page contains information on the following: the headings below take you to the sections which follow the list
Going back to basics, let’s first look at the definitions of mentoring:
“Helping another person become what that person aspires to.” (Anon)
"A process whereby an experienced, highly regarded, empathic person (the mentor), guides another individual (the mentee) in the development and re-examination of their own ideas, learning and personal and professional development" (SCOPME, 1998)
“offline help by one person to another in making significant transitions in knowledge, work or thinking.” (Megginson et al, 2006)
The mentee decides the content and agenda of each session, and the Mentor is there to facilitate and guide but not to make decisions for the mentee, tell them what to do or take actions on their behalf.
- The mentee does not have to have a specific 'problem' to ask for mentoring - the work is focused on helping them to develop personally and professionally, and to support them in getting the best out of their work and life.
|A Mentor||A Mentor is not:|
|Listens well||A talker|
|Identifies problems||The problem owner|
|Guides and facilitates||A decision maker|
|Provides experience/wisdom||A short term fix|
|Suggests choices, tentatively||An emotional crutch|
|Identifies resources||A provider of resources|
|Knows his/her own limitations||Someone who can do it all|
|Provides information or signposts||Someone who has all the answers|
Adapted from Mentoring in Action (Megginson et al, 2006)
Knowing who you are and what you value is very important if you are to be a mentor.
Try the values exercise before taking on a mentee. Or look at a book like Diana Winstanley’s (2009). These resources will also be helpful in guiding your mentee.
- Consider your own expectations and goals in relation to becoming a mentor
- What questions do you think your mentee might want to ask you?
- What will you need to do to make the first meeting effective?
- Consider how much time you can spare for this and make a time commitment in your diary
Gather as much information as you can from the mentee prior to this meeting so you can concentrate on the aims of the relationship when you meet for the first time.
These are the skills that any sensitive listener will employ when hearing someone describe a problem, situation or issue that needs to be heard and understood. The skills include:
- Creating rapport and a conducive environment
- Building trust
- Suspending judgment
- Active listening with genuine interest
- Showing (and feeling) empathy and understanding
- Using exploratory and open questions
- The ability to reflect back, summarise and clarify what the mentee has said
- Using non-verbal skills to enhance the relationship and encourage the mentee to explore all relevant ideas, e.g. eye contact, open body language, use of silence.
- Giving and receiving constructive feedback when required.
These skills are all described in some detail in the mentoring texts referred to below.
For some examples of questions that are appropriate for mentors to ask, please refer to ‘Egan’s 3 stage model of helping’. The books and other tools and resources listed below contain generic information relevant to mentoring.
It is important to value the process by setting aside protected time, and meeting in a neutral environment which is comfortable and where you will not be disturbed or interrupted. It is also important that this is somewhere you and the mentee will feel safe.
The frequency and duration of sessions will vary according to your availability and the mentee’s needs. It may be appropriate to aim for a meeting of one hour every 6 weeks to 2 months. Needs may vary over time. You may wish to keep in touch by phone or email between meetings.
Contracts and paperwork – opinion is divided about whether a mentoring contract is needed. Different Trusts work in different ways. However, a mentoring contract stating how often you will meet and specifying how long you will go on meeting (which can be reviewed after a few sessions) can be helpful in setting parameters.
You should negotiate ground rules including dealing with cancelled or postponed sessions. You and your mentee may wish to keep a record of a session indicating what you have discussed and what will be the focus of the next session. A written agreement about the boundaries of confidentiality is very important.
Although the mentoring process is confidential and this confidence will endure even after the relationship is over, if a mentor believes that patient safety is being put at risk because of the actions of the mentee, appropriate action must be taken. This should be understood by both parties.
At the start of a mentoring relationship it is important to set boundaries for the relationship with your mentee. What are they happy to talk about? Where are they comfortable to meet? How will you keep in contact? How many times will you meet before deciding whether to continue? (see boundaries in mentoring).
Really get to know your mentee, and this includes gaining an understanding of their values and beliefs, their goals in life and the things that they find difficult. You and your mentee may come from different cultural backgrounds, and it will help you to understand them if you ask them to tell you about their background, their family, where they grew up, their educational experiences and so on, as well as the expectations they have for themselves and their families have for them.
This exploration can be done by a question and answer technique, guiding them through their life stages, being aware of what they leave out as much as what they include. Or you could simply ask them to tell you about themselves, giving prompts as necessary. The latter may be a better way to find out what they are happy to talk about and what areas they want to leave out of the mentoring process. Or you may wish to use a tool to help the process. The Wheel of Life is often used as a way of getting to know your mentee and how their life is working at the moment. It may also help them to be aware of imbalances, and to find ways of correcting them. Helping your mentees to understand their values and the underlying beliefs can be aided by using the Values exercise. It will help if you also do this exercise for yourselves.
Agree a common purpose and goals that will direct the mentoring relationship. Discuss expectations and identify potential issues
Agree frequency of meetings and levels / methods of contact
Draw up a contract if desired
Discuss confidentiality, honesty, privacy and boundaries
Set a meeting schedule as far in advance as possible
Discuss ways of ending the relationship which are comfortable for both parties.
It may help to follow a model of mentoring like that of Gerard Egan, his three stage model, with suggested questions you might ask your mentee at each stage.
It is not unusual for mentors to feel vulnerable at first. As Freeman says: “Although well-versed in the art of interviewing patients, working with their peers was very different.” It is therefore a good idea to practice the skills with a colleague or friend before starting. However, the confidence soon builds even if you go straight in.
Although mentoring is not just for people who are experiencing problems, it is often the case that your mentee will, at some point, come with problems that need to be addressed. Common among these are lack of confidence and lack of assertiveness. These issues are addressed in the Diana Winstanley book and Chris Williams’ book on depression referred to below. Some mentees will come with problems about their progress in the training programme; others may have problems at home, including social isolation, which may have implications for their work. Others may be high fliers who wish you to challenge them to achieve even more. Each mentee is individual and has different needs. Appropriate tools and tips are contained in the references below.
Here are some general tips for exploring issues and getting to know the mentee better:
- Asking open questions: “how did you feel?” “what else was going on?” “how else might you look at it?” “what is important?” “what else?” “can you expand on this?” “tell me some more about..” “can you give an example?”
- Avoiding ‘why’ questions as these can be seen as threatening if your mentee is vulnerable. Use ‘what’, ‘where’, ‘when’ and ‘how’ as a pre-fix to your questions instead.
- Taking time to really understand what the mentee is telling you. It is difficult to concentrate for more than about 10 minutes. Take a break and summarise what you have heard your mentee say after about this length of time, just to ensure that you have got the facts right. Don’t be afraid to ask him/her to clarify any points that you have not clearly understood.
- Avoid making judgments until you have a clear picture.
- Avoid giving strong advice in order that the mentee finds their own way and takes responsibility for their actions. Instead you may wish to make suggestions eg “have you considered…”
- Be genuinely interested in your mentee and have the intention of helping them to be the best that they can be
- Actively listen and let the mentee know you are listening by using gestures or words for reinforcement.
- Don’t forget to be aware of what their body language is saying
Some tools to help the process
- The 'wheel of life' tool is a pictorial image of the satisfaction that mentees feel in various parts of their lives
- Using the forcefield analysis is a way of helping your mentee to reach decisions
- Help with self image problems by using the 'seven steps' exercise sensitively and over a number of sessions
- Helping mentees to increase self awareness by using the Johari Window tool
- The 'comfort zone' tool is designed to take mentees through a process which will help them step outside their comfort zone
- Helping mentees to set goals may be aided by using the GROW tool
- Find books that have exercises. All those listed below have some case studies and scenarios
- Look for case studies and scenarios on mentoring websites
Finding an appropriate way to end a mentoring relationship is seldom discussed. Informal mentoring relationships are almost by definition independent of any time limit. They often do not even have a definite beginning. But unlike formal relationships which might even have a prescription for a successful ending, informal relationships may be much more difficult to end successfully. Maybe it's because endings are just more difficult for people to deal with in general. Letting go of a relationship with someone we value is something that’s hard to face.
When it’s time to end:
- You think about other things when with the mentoring partner
- Meeting with no specific agenda to discuss
- Feeling that time is pressing
- Learning goals have been achieved but it is hard to move on
- Nothing much to talk about
- Advice is listened to but not followed up on
- There has been no meeting or contact for months
- The relationship becomes one way
The final meeting
- Closure is important
- Look back and review the relationship
- Consider its value
- Consider your original goals and whether they were achieved
- Recognise changes in your goals over time as new aspirations were discovered.
- Set boundaries for any future relationship for both parties
- Recognise that there may be a feeling of loss
- Celebrate what has occurred
- Do you have a colleague or peer who would like to practice with you?
- Do you have a colleague or peer who would like to enter into a co-mentoring relationship?
- Undertake further training, for example, the mentor updates run by the Coordinator every June and November
- Use some of the texts outlined below to practice mentor exercises. For example, The Good Mentoring Toolkit for Healthcare and Personal Effectiveness.
Suggested reading / watching
Some of the publications below have been recommended by mentors
Changing on the Job: Developing Leaders for a Complex World. Berger, JG 2012. This examines the stages of adult development and change.
Coaching for Effective Learning: a practical guide for teachers in health and social care, Claridge M, Lewis T, Radcliffe Press 2005. Although this is a coaching book, many of the tips and tools in it are equally appropriate for mentoring.
Dancing at the Edge: Competence, Culture and Organisation in the 21st Century, O;Hara, M. and Leicester, G. 2012
Mentoring for doctors; enhancing the benefit. A working paper produced on behalf of the Doctors' Forum, 2003. 10 Oxley J, Fleming B, Golding L, Pask H & Steven A.
Mentoring in Action, Megginson,D., Clutterbuck, D., Garney, B., Stokes, P and Garrett-Harris, R. Second edition 2006. Kogan Page, London. This book gives good descriptions of mentoring and many case studies for ideas
Mentoring in General Practice Rosslynne Freeman, Butterworth-Heinemann,Oxford 1997. This book was written about General Practice experiences of mentoring, but they are equally applicable to all doctors.
Overcoming Depression: A Five Areas Approach by Dr Chris Williams. Arnold Publishers 2001. This book is not just for helping people suffering with depression. There are many useful tools to help mentees become more assertive and monitor their reaction to everyday events.
Personal Effectiveness. Winstanley, D (2009). Excel books. Another resource about producing change and outcomes with many case studies and exercises for self help and mentee guidance. Includes assertiveness and handling difficult situations
Prescription for Change: for Doctors Who Want a Life. Kersey, S (2005) Radcliffe Publishing. This book can help you and your mentee, with many tips and ideas about having a life whilst working in the medical profession.
So Far from Home: Lost and Found in Our Brave New World, Wheatley, MJ 2012. Coping with changes in our world from a Tibetan Buddhist view.
The Good Mentoring Toolkit for Healthcare, Bayley H, Chambers R, Donovan C, Radcliffe Press 2004. This book contains much information about mentoring within the NHS, and many useful tips and tools
The Skilled Helper: a problem management approach to helping' by Gerard Egan. Brooks Cole, 6"' edition 1998. A detailed account of Egan's models with ideas
(in fact I would recommend a number of RSA shorts – all under 4 minutes long about many areas that can help mentors LB)
Mind Tools (website containing multiple tools)
South West Coaching (website containing free resources)
Life at Work - useful tips about working relationships and communciations in their resources section
Informa Healthcare - systematic review of mentoring literature, good overview for mentors about what works best