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Mentorship: A More Generous Approach to Those Needing Guidance on Their Professional Journeys

Posted By Deborah Taylor, Thursday, December 19, 2013
"A lot of people have gone further than they thought they could because someone else thought they could.” – author unknown

To me, this is the foundation of the best mentoring experiences for which I am grateful to have received. How many of you would agree?

Another favorite guiding quote says that:

"There will always be a reason why you meet people. Either you need to change your life or you’re the one who will change theirs.” - author unknown

Dr. Jeri Hepworth, Vice Chair at the U. of Connecticut Dept of Family Medicine, and I recently co-presented a workshop entitled "Intentional Mentoring: Paying It Forward as a Family Medicine Behavioral Science Educator” at The Forum on Behavioral Science in Family Medicine conference. Using a modified World Café technique, we captured great wisdom from engaged attendees worth sharing with a larger audience….that would be you!

One theme that strongly emerged was that Family Medicine educators are much more comfortable in the role of mentee vs mentor, especially those early in their academic career. The more senior faculty were helpful in convincing the more junior faculty of their value as mentors. Mentoring areas identified by senior faculty included use of technology, innovations in information delivery methods and social media as a communication and teaching tool.

Another embraced thread was that "forced mentoring” – being "required” to participate in a mentor-mentee relationship that is imposed upon you with little room for autonomy or choice - was not perceived as being particularly helpful from either side of the mentoring relationship. Even when someone in authority defines a need for "forced mentoring”, mentee being afforded some control over the choice of mentor yields a stronger and more helpful outcome according to both mentee and mentor.

The last wisdom from our audience that struck us was how many barriers seem to be in their way around devoting time and energy to a mentoring relationship. Time was obviously #1, but others barriers emerged including lack of allotted resources available for identified mentee needs, dyadic power issues that prevent the mentee from being authentic/honest, and a lack of structure affecting the clarity of roles, goals and expectations.

I am sure you will agree that our students inspire us. I would encourage you to consider ways to gather the wisdom of your learners (who are often identifying you as a mentor) and in turn transform the bidirectional influence of your professional connections.

The best mentors are those who show you where to look but do not tell you what to see.
- Alexandra Trentor

In closing, please take a moment to reflect on the following questions to help you be more intentional in your mentoring efforts:

  • How can you increase your mentoring activity in your professional home?
  • Who or what people/groups can you identify that would benefit from what you have to offer?
  • How will you make yourself available (addressing issues of time and resources)?
  • What is your intention (i.e., what do you think you have to offer/share)?
  • What are potential challenges that will need to be addressed in order to be successful as a mentor?

Happy intentional mentoring!

Dr. Deborah Taylor has been a Behavioral Science Educator and Associate Program Director at Central Maine Medical Center FMR (a community based program with a rural training emphasis) for the past 21 years. She received her PhD in Clinical Psychology from the U. of Kansas and has worked in medical education for the past 25 years. Deborah recently "retired" as a Co-Director of the STFM Behavioral Science/Family Systems Educator fellowship.


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Randall Reitz says...
Posted Thursday, December 19, 2013
Thanks for this post Deb! Through your founding leadership of the STFM Fellowship and your intentional mentorship in myriad moments, you have touched the lives of dozens, if not hundreds, of the next generation of behavioral science faculty.
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