Every organisation is different, from the megalith of the NHS to the small independent dental practice, thus the capacity to deliver and receive effective mentoring will vary with the environment. Such variation may not directly relate to the size of the organisation, but more importantly to the dynamics within it. The concept of mentoring may be well accepted, as generally within the NHS. The corporate environment demonstrates a much wider variation in acceptance of the concept. In a very controlling organisation the use of external mentors may be frowned upon, internal mentors may then be influencing rather than mentoring.
Of course many get it right, but business drivers may mean that others don’t. What does mentoring mean to them? Do they understand the concept or purely see it as a threat to the business or alternatively an opportunity for indoctrination? The uses of mentoring are many and varied.
For the individual the same variations apply. Individuals within the dental profession don’t always appreciate the benefits of mentoring. Their professional training leads them to be problem solvers in their own right. In my view mentors can have a tremendous impact on career development by providing the space and support to think things through, encouraging consideration of both stretching one’s aspirations, but also on occasion relaxing them. The safe and supportive relationship with a good mentor can provide the opportunity to consider in depth the challenges that may be impacting on an individual. An organisation is only as effective as its component parts, thus it is important that those working within it are supported to achieve their best. Mentoring can play a big part in this.
Sometimes mentors come from unexpected places, maybe when you are not actively looking for it. Nevertheless good mentoring is a distinct skill. So how do you recognise a good mentor when you see one? There are many mentoring courses available and one should always check the mentor’s cv for skills and experience, not just in specific mentoring but also professional and personal background and experience. Perhaps more importantly there should be empathy between you and the ability to listen to one another.