Mentorship is a mutual effort to realize a mentees goals. I have been the beneficiary of immense mentorship throughout my career. From these experiences I have met my own goals and developed the tools necessary to help others achieve theirs. I have provided mentorship to trainees and peers throughout my career. For me, mentorship is a fluid and personal experience. A rote formula for addressing the myriad complexities of any individual person ignores the significant social currency needed for this process. Instead, I strive to apply three tenants to all interpersonal relationships, including the important responsibility of mentoring others.
Mutual development of expectations is the cornerstone of any relationship. As a mentor I strive to mutually establish a set of expectations and priorities with mentees. I then work to revise and update these expectations on a regular basis. Clearly stated expectations head off disappointment, confusion, and miscommunication – issues that can degrade the trust between two people working toward a common goal.
Interpersonal relationships cannot be healthfully maintained without clear and open lines of communication. When supporting a mentee toward their goals I have found that obstacles are most easily hurdled through asking questions and listening. This view is often met with skepticism, as the demands placed on leaders seemingly requires authoritarian communication. However, I have found this is rarely necessary when communicating openly in an environment with established expectations. Strained communication leads to fear, doubt, and apprehension – emotions that only serve to slow a mentees progress and motivation. Maintaining professional and ethical conduct at all times keeps mentorship relationships safe and productive.
In any interpersonal relationship trust and honesty are an essential fabric. This fabric is disrupted when we attempt to hide or obfuscate failures. Failure is embarrassing, frustrating, and an unavoidable aspect of life. In academic research settings the emotions surrounding failure are often amplified. For this reason, I strive to always acknowledge failures for what they are, teachable moments that provide insight on how best to guide mentees toward their goals. In addition, I seek to lead by example, admitting to my own failures and disclosing my motivations. In this way I strive to foster a mentoring environment where honesty and integrity are not just ideals but realities achieved through practiced effort.