Mentoring is increasingly being seen as a way of helping and supporting the development of people and in our case, dental professionals. The word mentor has come to mean trusted adviser, friend, teacher and wise person. In dentistry we are beginning to appreciate the benefits of mentoring and more and more dental professionals have undertaken training to become successful mentors.
Mentoring focuses on the present and on the mentees future, desired outcomes. The mentor supports their mentee to achieve those outcomes or goals, through a reflective, conversational process. Your mentor will be able to offer fresh insights to issues you are grappling with, perhaps because they have dealt with similar situations themselves in the past. Importantly a mentor can help you to foresee difficulties and work through your approach to overcome barriers and obstacles.
“Mentoring is a developmental relationship where one person, typically older, or more experienced, or with more expert technical knowledge, willingly and freely shares their knowledge, skills, information and perspective to support the personal and professional growth of someone else. In some cases the mentor may also share their contacts or networks.” (The Forton Group 2013)
Mentoring is about a relationship rather than a process. This means the crucial element of successful mentoring is the rapport between a mentor and their mentee. It’s not traditional teaching or the simple transfer of knowledge from one person to another, it’s about supporting, helping and gentle guiding .
‘Mentoring means helping people to become better at helping themselves, helping them develop their opportunities and manage their problems, helping them become more effective, more functional, more empowered members of the workforce.’
Nancy Redfern, Specialty Dean, Northern Deanery
Mentoring has slowly been gaining a position of acceptance and value within dentistry since the 1990s and gradually dental professionals are becoming familiar with the term and the concept and benefits of mentoring. However, there is still considerable confusion over what mentoring is and is not. It can often be confused with other methods of professional support. Counsellors tend to work with clinical issues and go back to the past before going forward. It’s often a one- way relationship. The key difference between the teacher and the mentor is that the teacher gives information, they know what needs to be taught and they tell their students what they need to know. A mentor has experience and will share that with the mentee, they are experts in their field. By contrast the coach is often not an expert or specialist in the field their coachee operates in. They ask probing questions to draw out solutions and clarity from the coachee.
Forton Group (2013) Foundations in Mentoring: A Model and Resources for Mentoring. www.thefortongroup.com