A Guide to Mentorship by and for Managers

By | 2022-02-03T17:33:30-05:00 February 25th, 2008|0 Comments

Moving up to a management role offers opportunities for growth and development of new skills. It shows the organization has faith in the new hire’s potential to lead, but toughing it out alone can result in frustration and unnecessary mistakes. A mentor can smooth the transition and bolster a new manager’s confidence and motivation and leadership skills.

“We all need mentoring — to receive it and to give it — but at particular stages in one’s career, it becomes critical,” says Connie Vance, RN, EdD, FAAN, a professor of nursing at The College of New Rochelle (New York) School of Nursing and coauthor (with R. Olson) of The Mentor Connection in Nursing.

Vance considers mentoring essential to professional development, success, and satisfaction. The relationships create a work environment where talent is valued and nurses want to practice.

“We want to promote excellence in patient care and have excellent managers in our organizations. Research and anecdotal information emphasize that the highest quality organizations and the most-effective leaders are developed through work environments characterized by the presence of collegial mentoring relationships,” Vance says.

A Relatively New Nursing Process

Mentors take a special interest in a new manager — listening, teaching, encouraging, coaching, and talking through problems. The mentor serves as a role model and cultivates new talent. He or she connects with the protégé and brings an element of human caring to daily activities.

“A good mentor is a professional guide,” Vance says.

Although mentoring has existed in other professions for centuries, it is rather new to nursing, dating back to the late 1970s. Vance believes every nurse needs mentoring — from students to new hires to nurses in the highest executive positions. A nurse manager may be mentoring a new nurse manager and at the same time receiving mentorship from someone up the corporate ladder or outside the organization. Mentorship should become a lifelong human and professional experience.

Nurses are educated and socialized to care for and nurture patients, so one might think this skill transfers to collegial relationships. That doesn’t always happen, Vance says. Hospitals are often characterized by bureaucratic, authoritarian methods, and mentoring may not come naturally in that type of setting. However, hospitals successful in retaining nurses and nurse managers foster caring relationships.

“We have a vacuum in our management and training programs,” Vance says.

“Hospitals have orientation programs, but their focus is often on traditional management skills. Those are important, but the most important foundation is the development of people skills, such as mentoring, networking, and team building.”

A Formal Mentoring Program

Leadership development programs should incorporate a formal mentoring component to ensure their success, Vance says. Every newly hired or promoted manager should receive a mentor. A commitment from top administration boosts the chances of a successful program.

Mentors must learn how to coach, support, and train upcoming novice managers. A formal program for mentors and protégés may include biweekly or monthly sessions, seminars, literature reviews, group discussions, mentor manuals, success stories, and tool kits.

Another portion of a formal program is matching the mentor and protégé. The team should meet for at least two hours each month, perhaps over coffee or lunch. A formal mentorship should last at least a year, Vance says. At the end, protégés and mentors should evaluate the experience to guide future development and refinement.

Organizations should reward mentor relationships through recognition ceremonies and by posting mentors’ names along with their expertise to show support of mentoring relationships. “The formal program, hopefully, jumpstarts informal, ongoing mentor relationships in the organization and beyond to others in the profession, which can be just as powerful,” Vance says.

What It Takes

Mentoring is a two-way street, a professional give and take. The mentor and protégé believe in each other and learn from one another.

“Mentors should be people others aspire to be like,” Vance says. “They create options and opportunities for growth and development. They should hold high expectations for their protégés and provide support resources to meet those standards.”

Before becoming mentors, nurses should conduct a self-appraisal of their effect on others and come to the relationship with realistic expectations. In addition, the mentor must feel confident in his or her abilities and be competent.

“They provide opportunities that a neophyte manager does not have,” Vance says.

At the same time, the mentor must remain humble and willing to learn from the protégé. The mentor should not attempt to boss the newer manager, create a clone of oneself, act competitively, or encourage dependence.

“You want them to fly on their own and make independent contributions,” Vance says.

The protégé must come to the relationship eager to gain new skills. The novice manager also should demonstrate commitment, establish goals, and respect the mentor.

“The goal of mentoring for managers is to cultivate strong and competent manager leaders who will make substantial contributions to excellent patient care,” Vance says. “This culture of mentorship will transform the organization and its nurses.”

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