How to get the most out of a mentoring relationship

By Helen Middleton, MSc (Education), FFRPS, FPharmS

Mentoring can provide opportunities for both mentors and mentees to progress. Read on to find out how to make this relationship work…

Mentoring will have a different meaning for different individuals. For some it will mean a relationship where the mentor guides the mentee on specific topics; for others it will relate to a wider, less directive relationship.

Match expectations

If there is a mismatch of the expectations of the mentor with those of the mentee, the mentoring relationship could be destined for failure. Therefore, it is important to discuss expectations at the outset of any mentoring relationship.

The following questions can be asked by both the mentor and mentee to help decide whether or not they are a suitable match:

  • How would you define mentoring?
  • What do you want to get out of this mentoring process?
  • What do you expect from me?

It is unlikely that the expectations of each party will be identical, so some compromises may be necessary to find common ground. However, if the expectations of each party are quite different then it may be better for the mentee to look for an alternative mentor via the Royal Pharmaceutical Society mentoring platform.

Mentor versus manager?

Some managers think they can mentor individuals at the same time as managing them. This is not recommended because it can be difficult for a manager to balance his or her different roles.

A mentor should focus on:

  • Supporting long-term development for the mentee’s current and future roles
  • Helping the mentee reflect on his or her practice
  • Helping the mentee identify development opportunities and learning needs
  • Setting goals to learn, develop and progress
  • Helping the mentee to monitor his or her own development

In contrast, a manager will tend to focus on: completing tasks and meeting immediate deadlines; assessing performance against standards and carrying out appraisals; enabling the worker to deliver and perform; setting objectives and checking on progress; and monitoring performance to ensure quality.

In addition, managers can be tempted to be directive and give their own answers to the mentee’s problems. It can also be uncomfortable for an individual to discuss their weaknesses and issues in a full and open manner with their manager, particularly if the issues are contentious.

Supportive, not instructive

To be an effective mentor, it is not necessary to be especially senior within an organisation or to have specialist knowledge of the mentee’s area of practice. The mentor should be an enthusiastic “people developer” who facilitates problem solving and action planning.

Mentors need to stand back, be objective and non-judgemental, and be able to put themselves in the mentee’s position. Rather than acting as an expert, mentors take on a supportive role: encouraging mentees to find their own expertise. A mentor can be thought of as a catalyst that stimulates self-directed change, with a belief in the mentee’s ability to solve his or her own problems.

This piece is abridged from an article by Helen Middleton, MSc, MRPharmS, first published in Clinical Pharmacist (2011;3:345).

Sign up on www.rpharms.com/mentoring 

RPS mentoring platform facilitates easy and appropriate matching of mentor to mentee. 

Mentoring is not just about asking an expert

By Helen Middleton, MSc (Education), FFRPS, FPharmS

Mentoring provides opportunities for pharmacists to obtain guidance and support at any time in their career. Those who are new to the profession, changing sector of practice, dealing with difficult work situations or developing a career plan often enlist the help of a mentor.

Mentoring is traditionally defined as “a relationship in which a more experienced or knowledgeable person helps a less experienced or knowledgeable person”. However, there are other definitions of mentoring which describe the mentor’s role to facilitate reflection and learning in relation to the mentee’s agenda rather than acting as an expert or adviser

A mentor supports and encourages another to manage their own development in order that they may maximise their potential, develop their skills, improve their performance and become the professional they want to be”.  Eric Parslow, The Oxford School of Coaching and Mentoring

By taking this approach I do not need to be more experienced that my mentee. It is also not necessary for me to be specialised in his or her area of practice. This approach opens the door for mentees to learn with a wider range of mentors; for example, I have been successfully mentored by a dietitian and even by the director of an art gallery!

Anyone can be a mentor provided they have good communication skills, are able to use a variety of different questioning techniques, are willing to listen and put the mentee’s needs first and view the time spent with their mentee as a valued investment. I hope that this will empower pharmacists who don’t consider themselves as ‘experts’ to sign up to be a Mentor on the Royal Pharmaceutical Society mentoring platform and contribute to the development of other pharmacists.

The four stages of mentoring are:

Getting together involves finding a suitable mentor. The Royal Pharmaceutical Society mentoring platform launched to members in October 2019 facilitates easy and appropriate matching of mentor to mentee. When you join the platform as a Mentor – you create an online profile which describes your experience and what you can offer as a Mentor. Mentees create an online profile which describes what support they are looking for. Then the mentee searches for a Mentor who matches their needs, e.g. the mentee might want to change sector of practice and look for short term mentoring from someone who already works in that sector including CV building and interview practice. Or they might be looking for a longer term mentoring relationship to develop leadership or research skills. The mentoring platform provides a list of potential Mentors and the mentee can view potential Mentors’ profiles, decide on a preferred Mentor/s and send a request for mentoring via the platform.

The first meeting between a Mentor and mentee is a way for you both to check the compatibility of the relationship. You should discuss your preferred mentoring and learning styles with each other, to make sure that you understand how the relationship might work. I ask the mentee two key questions: “How would you define mentoring?” and “What do you want and expect from a mentor?” Mentoring is likely to be ineffective if the mentee is seeking advice and guidance (a directive approach) but the mentor intends to empower the mentee to find their own solutions through questioning and reflection (a non-directive approach). In these situations, it is better for the mentee to search for an alternative Mentor using the RPS mentoring platform. 

All too often mentoring relationships miss the vital step of getting to know each other before launching straight into discussing difficult work situations or developing a career plan. Taking time to get to know the “whole person” (rather than his or her professional persona only) at the start of the mentoring relationship is necessary to establish rapport and trust, otherwise mentees can feel uncomfortable disclosing information. In my opinion, the first and second stages of mentoring are the most important in determining the success of a mentoring relationship. Get these initial aspects right and you will be well on the way to fulfilling the next step: learning together. I believe shared learning within the mentoring relationship brings many benefits for the mentor as well as the mentee.

The final stage is saying goodbye, since all good things must come to an end. My motto is: “Mentoring is like Red Bull — it gives you wings!” One of the hardest things for mentors to do is to let go and let their mentees fly. I always like to end by looking back over the mentoring relationship together and celebrating success.

Join the RPS mentoring platform today and find your perfect match
It’s easy to sign up and the mentoring platform facilitates easy and appropriate matching of mentor to mentee. 

You need to decide what you would like a Mentor to support you with. You can then select a Mentor based on their profile of skills, experience and interests.

Sign up on www.rpharms.com/mentoring 

Just started a new job? Or is work a bit tough? You might benefit from a mentor

By Prof Nina Barnett, FRPharmS

Mentoring is an excellent way of providing guidance and support for pharmacists at any time in their career, from being new to the profession or thinking of changing sector to dealing with difficult work situations or reflecting on the avenues open to maintain an optimal work-life balance.

Mentoring is often defined as a relationship in which a more experienced or more knowledgeable person helps a less experienced or less knowledgeable person. The activities involved can be varied and the scope can be wide. For example, the term can refer to a relationship in which the mentor provides guidance on development in general or on specific topics. It can also overlap with coaching, career guidance, support by peers and tutoring.

The term “mentoring” is sometimes used to describe the relationship between a tutor and tutee. The terminology can be confusing in pharmacy because for preregistration trainees, the tutor could be considered as a “qualification mentor” due to the regulatory requirement for guidance through a programme of study leading to a professional qualification. In addition, some trainees have both tutors and mentors.
In fact, mentors do not have to be experts or teachers. For example, peer mentoring relationships focus on mentee self-directed outcomes and the mentor is not a tutor but rather uses a facilitative approach to help mentees achieve their goals. Indeed, a pharmacist who is newly registered can be an effective mentor for a preregistration trainee because they will have recent experience of the preregistration year and of the examination.

Mentoring means different things to different people. To ensure a successful mentoring relationship, it is important understand the purpose of each mentoring relationship, both in relation to what the mentee wants to achieve and what the mentor can offer.

Mentoring is an excellent way of providing guidance and support for pharmacists at any time in their career, from being new to the profession or thinking of changing sector to dealing with difficult work situations or reflecting on the avenues open to maintain an optimal work-life balance.
Mentoring is often defined as a relationship in which a more experienced or more knowledgeable person helps a less experienced or less knowledgeable person. The activities involved can be varied and the scope can be wide. For example, the term can refer to a relationship in which the mentor provides guidance on development in general or on specific topics. It can also overlap with coaching, career guidance, support by peers and tutoring.

The term “mentoring” is sometimes used to describe the relationship between a tutor and tutee. The terminology can be confusing in pharmacy because for preregistration trainees, the tutor could be considered as a “qualification mentor” due to the regulatory requirement for guidance through a programme of study leading to a professional qualification. In addition, some trainees have both tutors and mentors.
In fact, mentors do not have to be experts or teachers. For example, peer mentoring relationships focus on mentee self-directed outcomes and the mentor is not a tutor but rather uses a facilitative approach to help mentees achieve their goals. Indeed, a pharmacist who is newly registered can be an effective mentor for a preregistration trainee because they will have recent experience of the preregistration year and of the examination.

Mentoring means different things to different people. To ensure a successful mentoring relationship, it is important understand the purpose of each mentoring relationship, both in relation to what the mentee wants to achieve and what the mentor can offer.

Benefits to mentees
Being mentored allows the mentee to improve their understanding of work issues and to be exposed to different approaches to dealing with them. The mentor can be used as a sounding board for ideas and, because the relationship and conversations are confidential, the mentee can speak freely without fear of repercussions.
Information can be disclosed privately to a mentor who, coming from a similar environment, will be able to understand and empathise. Alternatively, the mentee might choose to be mentored by someone in a different sector in order to expand their horizons.

One specialist pharmacist in mental health was mentored as a junior pharmacist and, said: “Mentoring provided me with support and practical advice on how to deal with challenging situations, and gave me an insight on how to develop my career path and make use of my strengths and weaknesses.”

Most people who have been mentored describe an increase in confidence as one of the key benefits. One pharmacist, prescriber in a senior hospital-based clinical role benefited from mentoring when they became a pharmacist prescriber, explained:

Although I was very confident and experienced as a pharmacist practitioner, I was new to pharmacist prescribing. I wanted a mentor for support and to guide me through training and in my role as a new prescriber… Through mentoring I was able to address the challenges of a new prescriber, which included defining my scope of practice in order to maximise patient contribution and ensuring my prescribing was safe and effective.”

As well as offering opportunities for self-learning, mentoring can also help mentees focus on their priorities. One pharmacist, with an existing career in across a range of pharmacy sectors contacted the RPS to find support with the career direction change. They said: “Over the years, I have found that those that are thriving (whether in professional or general life) have often been blessed with having had one or more mentors. I know I would not be where I am now if it were not for several folk who have actively invested in me over the years.”

Rewards for mentors
Mentors often express satisfaction in helping others to achieve their goals as well as enjoying the opportunity to give back to the profession. As a mentor, the satisfaction of seeing your mentee overcome difficulties and create the future they aspire to is extremely rewarding.
I have been fortunate throughout my career to be mentored, both formally and informally, by people who inspired me to achieve my potential and who supported me through the various challenges along the way. I am pleased to be able to mentor others in the hope that they will gain from it as much as I did.
In developing others, mentors also grow their own skills and may gain a different perspective on work. They also find that their confidence around addressing issues and in dealing with people from different backgrounds increases. Mentors do not necessarily need specific knowledge in the mentee’s area of practice (they might simply be required to ask questions to aid reflection and help the individual to self-solve problems) but some skills, such as the ability to question, listen and provide constructive feedback, are essential.

For both mentors and mentees, mentoring presents many opportunities for continuing professional development. The relationship promotes learning, commitment and motivation, all of which support completion of revalidation entries. Entries may include learning that results from meetings and discussions, providing and receiving support or feedback, and evaluating progress either as a mentor or mentee. Mentoring experiences can be used to identify or refine learning focus.

Support
Many professional organisations recognise the benefit of mentoring services and provide this service for their members. Most health-related royal colleges, such as nursing, psychiatry and obstetrics and gynaecology, offer mentorship to their respective students and trainees.
RPS has a mentoring platform which facilitates easy and appropriate matching of mentor to mentee. You need to decide what you would like a mentor to support you with. You can then select and approach a mentor based on their profile of skills and experience. Join the RPS platform today and find your perfect match.

Sign up www.rpharms.com/mentoring

How to ensure effective mentoring

Stephen Goundrey-Smith explains how pharmacists can benefit from mentoring and gives his recommendations for ensuring mentees and mentors get the most out of a mentoring relationship

Mentoring is a useful tool for those interested in career progression or simply anyone wanting support. 

Mentoring is a one-to-one relationship of professional development, usually between someone seeking professional progression and a more experienced practitioner. This could also include someone seeking to develop new expertise and a practitioner already active in that area.

Mentoring is different from coaching in that mentoring is concerned with professional development, rather than learning specific skills but many commentators argue that there is considerable crossover between the two.

Mentoring has been shown to have a positive impact on career development in healthcare, helping to improve confidence and interpersonal skills of mentors as well as mentees. It also improves career retention rates and work performance. Moreover, work among psychiatrists showed that mentoring greatly benefited professionals who worked in multidisciplinary teams or who were isolated from their peers in daily practice. Read the full article here

Find out more about RPS Mentoring and how it can help you.

New Year, new career! – How the RPS can fuel your ambitions

Daniel 150

As 2015 has drawn to a close and a new year begins, many pharmacists are considering where to take their career next. Career development is a continuous process occurring over the entirety of your working life, so whether you’re trying to improve your skills to advance your current position, or seeking to move into an entirely new role, we provide numerous tools for career development, enabling you to gain a solid footing and achieve your ambitions, whatever they may be. Read more New Year, new career! – How the RPS can fuel your ambitions