J. Aligning and Cultivating an Effective Mentoring Relationship| Pages 15-17
Attributes for effective research mentoring relationships include developing disciplinary research skills, teaching and learning disciplinary knowledge, developing technical skills, accurately assessing understanding of disciplinary knowledge and skills, and valuing and practicing ethical behavior and responsible conduct of research (Pfund, Byars-Winston, et al., 2016). These include 1) Interpersonal skills (listening actively, aligning expectations, building trusting relationships), 2) psychosocial skills (providing motivation, developing mentee career and research self-efficacy, developing sense of belonging, developing science identity), 3)
Faculty Mentoring Guide|Page16diversity/culturally-focused skills (advancing equity and inclusion, being culturally responsive, reducing the impacts of bias and stereotype threat), and 4) sponsorship skills (fostering independence, promoting professional development, establishing and fostering mentee professional networks, and actively advocating).
Maintain regular and effective communication. Mentoring relationships benefit from attention to communications types and styles. Successful mentors focus on providing positive verbal and nonverbal communication and minimizing negative communication. Positive, nonverbal communication includes eye contact, open or relaxed posture, nodding or other affirmation, and pleasant facial expressions. Negative, nonverbal communication includes crossed arms, averted eyes, and pointing fingers. Positive, verbal communication includes asking open-ended questions, active listening, reflective listening, self-disclosure, and summarizing. Negative, verbal communication techniques include moralizing, arguing, preaching, storytelling, blocking communication, and talking too much. Face-to-face meetings (including virtual meetings with video) can provide opportunities for nonverbal expression, which can help minimize miscommunication arising from solely verbal or written feedback.
Strategies for preparing for an effective mentoring meeting. It is helpful to ask mentees to email an agenda to mentors in advance of a meeting so that mentors can be prepared to discuss the issues. Mentors can be invited to contribute additional items to the agenda. Close the meeting by summarizing main points and action items for both the mentor and mentee. Follow-up with a written summary, and clarify who is responsible for preparing that summary.
Metrics to assess the mentee-mentor relationship. Mentor-mentee alignment is an important factor in effective mentoring relationships. One way to assess effectiveness of mentor-mentee relationships is by administering parallel mentor and mentee measures across relevant domains. Relevant domains include research, clinical, educational, interpersonal, psychosocial and career, cultural responsiveness and diversity, and sponsorship. Mentees and mentors provide ratings of whether the mentor is providing mentoring in these areas and quality of such mentoring, if present. Discrepancies can highlight areas requiring alignment of expectations or additional mentors.It can also be helpful for mentors and mentees to rate themselves and each other on their mentorship skills, behaviors and the overall quality of the mentoring relationship. While the power dynamic inherent in mentoring relationships can sometime make assessments such as these challenging, it is important to find ways for mentors and mentees to assess one another and provide each other with honest feedback.
Metrics to assess mentoring programs and mentoring climate. Organizational-level metrics indicative of the mentoring climate include presence of mentor and mentee training programs, faculty participation in such programs, acknowledging and valuing of mentorship efforts, mentoring awards, and proportion of faculty engaged in mentoring other faculty. Measures of mentoring climate are being tested and published that can be used at the department and institutional level. Downstream outcomes indicative of mentoring program effectiveness include retention rates (e.g., at the institution, in research), promotion rates, productivity (e.g.,
Faculty Mentoring Guide|Page17grants, publications, patients seen), and performance ratings (e.g., patient satisfaction scores, resident teaching ratings).
Utilize tools. Each mentor and mentee brings to a relationship different preferences for communication, thinking, and teaching and learning. Tools (e.g., Mentor-Mentee Alignment Toolkit) can be used to assess these preferences, serving as a basis for conversations in which these preferences are recognized and strategies are developed tocapitalize on these preferences. For example, various inventories canbe used to assess mentor and mentee communication styles or mentee-mentor alignment. Mentors and mentees may wish to complete a Myers-Briggs type inventory to provide insight to personality traits such as introversion/extroversion.
Addressing mentoring challenges. Challenges can arise for a variety of reasons: misalignment of expectations between mentee and mentor, poor communication, or misalignment of mentor expertise with mentee needs. Effective communication skills can enable honest conversations between mentors and mentees about areas of misalignment. Mentors and mentees can seek advice from third parties while maintaining confidentiality. Such individuals include, but are not limited to, senior colleagues, vice chairs for research or faculty affairs, division or department chairs, or the employee assistance program.
Fostering independence. With effective mentoring, mentees will gradually be able to conduct all aspects of their work independently. To promote independence, mentors should continuously assess mentees’ development and assign increasingly challenging tasks and projects, offering assistance with only the skills that are beyond the mentee’s proficiency level. Mentees should push themselves to increase responsibility and ownership of their work while still asking for support when needed. Mentors and mentees should engage in direct conversations about transitioning to independence and develop shared expectations about meeting frequency and extent of input from the mentor. As mentees developindependence, the quality and quantity of input from mentors decreases. For example, weekly meetings may transition to biweekly and then monthly. The extent of input on issues such as study design and execution and editing documents should decrease as well. Authorship positions should change as well, with mentors gradually appearing less often as senior author and not being included on all of the mentee’s publications. This is particularly salient for tenure-track faculty, who will need to demonstrate independence from the mentor to earn tenure.