Mentoring with Purpose
Not every role requires mentoring, but if the aptitude is there, the organization benefits
by Mike Saxton, PhD
Literature abounds with theories and studies on mentoring. This should come as no surprise, as numerous professions cite mentoring as a beneficial practice (Prouty, Helmeke, & Fischer, 2016). Academia often relies on mentoring, especially in graduate school when training emerging scientists (Hasan, 2019). While such relationships can develop organically, many organizations implement a wide variety of mentoring programs and pairings. This practice can produce mixed results, because not everyone is cut out to be a mentor — or a mentee.
Some might imagine that anyone can be a mentor with sufficient effort. This belief echoes the “leader versus manager” debate. People have used these two terms interchangeably, despite their being dramatically different: managers are not always leaders, and leaders are not always managers. Similarly, a person’s position in an organization, even an executive or supervisor role, is not a guarantee of an aptitude for mentoring. While following a mentoring “recipe” might help, individual mentoring relationships can, and should, be dynamic, and therefore require a unique, personal touch. After all, the benefits should be mutual between the mentor and the mentee (Lester, Goodloe, Johnson, & Deutsch, 2019).
What does this mean for the workplace? Hiring managers need to be mindful of the mentoring capability of applicants. To be clear, not every position should require such prerequisites. While it might be nice to think that everyone could be a mentor, there are plenty of positions where it is not necessary. Conversely, there are numerous roles where mentoring ability is important and even critical. Examples would be nursing (Jakubik, Eliades, & Weese. 2016), medicine (Speights, Figueroa, Figueroa, & Washington, 2017), clinical (Johnson, Skinner, & Kaslow, 2014), academia (DeAngelo, Mason, & Winters, 2016), and others.
During the hiring process, it can be helpful to keep a few questions in mind:
- Does this role require strong mentoring ability?
- If not, will it still benefit the organization if the candidate has strong mentoring capabilities (i.e. increased retention, customer/client satisfaction, etc.)?
- If the candidate is a less experienced professional, do they show aptitude toward being a mentor?
- Is the position likely to involve a mentor-mentee relationship?
It might also be worthwhile to consider some type of reward or incentive system for mentors, especially those in formal or assigned mentoring positions. While the reward itself does not always need to be financial, a system of recognition for successful mentoring goes a long way toward the success of mentoring programs (Johnson, Skinner, & Kaslow, 2014). Regardless, hiring practices should reflect the importance of mentoring in positions where such a role is integral to the success of the candidate and the organization.
DeAngelo, L., Mason, J., & Winters, D. (2016). Faculty Engagement in Mentoring Undergraduate Students: How Institutional Environments Regulate and Promote Extra-Role Behavior. Innovative Higher Education, 41(4), 317–332. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10755-015-9350-7
Hasan, G. (2019). Formal structures of mentorship in universities and research institutions will benefit both science and scientists. Neuromodulation, 116(10), 1615–1616. https://doi.org/10.1111/ner.12242
Jakubik, L. D., Eliades, A. B., & Weese, M. M. (2016). Part 1: An overview of mentoring practices and mentoring benefits. Journal of Pediatric Nursing, 42(1), 37–38. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pedn.2010.12.006
Johnson, W. B., Skinner, C. J., & Kaslow, N. J. (2014). Relational mentoring in clinical supervision: The transformational supervisor. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 70(11), 1073–1081. https://doi.org/10.1002/jclp.22128
Lester, A. M., Goodloe, C. L., Johnson, H. E., & Deutsch, N. L. (2019). Understanding mutuality: Unpacking relational processes in youth mentoring relationships. Journal of Community Psychology, 47(1), 147–162. https://doi.org/10.1002/jcop.22106
Prouty, A. M., Helmeke, K. B., & Fischer, J. (2016). Development of the “Mentorship in Clinical Training Scale” (MiCTS). Contemporary Family Therapy, 38(2), 140–158. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10591-015-9351-9
Speights, J. S. B., Figueroa, E., Figueroa, E., & Washington, J. (2017). Quality mentorship through STFM. Annals of Family Medicine, 15(6), 588–590.
Dr. Mike Saxton has been an adjunct faculty member at Goodwin for three years. He is passionate about working with adult learners and strives to develop a learning environment that fosters holistic growth for the student, not just academically. He uses his diverse professional, personal, and academic experience to offer guidance above and beyond just passing the test. Dr. Saxton encourages students to pass the test of life through both successes and learning from failures. As an instructor and mentor, he utilizes his diverse background that includes higher education, wireless technology services, information technology, and self-defense instruction. He has served in Student Affairs as an administrator, instructional faculty member, property management, business owner, database developer, network manager, and self-defense instructor. Dr. Saxton graduated Eastern Connecticut State University in 2001 and 2004 with a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science and a master’s degree in Organizational Management, respectively. He graduated with distinction from Capella University in 2016 with a PhD in Organization and Management. He holds CompTIA A+, CompTIA Network+, and CompTIA Project+ certifications.