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Mentoring Strategy for Dental Professionals

18 May 2017

I am often asked if mentoring is just another name for coaching. The answer is that although there is significant crossover in these interactions, essentially mentors must have actual hands-on experience and expertise in the work role of their mentee. Whereas, in coaching the expertise is coaching rather than demonstrating skills. In this way many business coaches have not ‘walked in the shoes’ of their clients. Because the dental team mentor’s skills are in the delivery of dental care, to support their work the practice needs to create a mentoring strategy and provide training and support. In this way, all parties are able to secure measurable benefits through mentoring. 

Mentoring success depends upon numerous factors, not least finding a best-fit mentor and mentee match. A structured mentoring process must be managed in exactly the same way as all other practice activities. This begins with a clear vision to create the design, implementation, support and evaluation processes for your mentoring scheme.

Successful mentoring is dependent upon the participation of senior colleagues as mentors and also as mentees. This is a prime example of leading from the top. The best mentoring schemes start small and grow gradually, stimulated by enthusiasm, positive examples and organisational support. Here is some guidance for the creation of an effective mentoring scheme at your practice:

Establish the purpose of the scheme – define who will be involved, what they will do and the expected results. Begin by finding out what mentoring is already happening on an informal basis and assess how valued this format of learning and development is at present.

Appoint a mentoring lead – someone with responsibility for managing and helping to sort out difficulties within the mentoring scheme and its relationships. This person will need to be able to measure and assess personality types and learning styles to find mentor-mentee matches.

Define mentoring activities – mentoring to introduce new employees to practice routines is the relatively brief phase 1 of the mentoring process. On completion of this phase, the more enduring phase 2 begins. This ongoing stage is where mentors help colleagues focus on their challenges, choices, causes and effects to help them to find creative solutions, learn from experience and decide how to apply learning to their working practices. 

Consider what factors will help and hinder mentoring in your team – do you have top management support, are people willing to participate, do they have time? Once people start to see tangible benefits from mentoring it becomes easier and the relationships built will endure during challenging times.

Ensure you have support in place for mentors – training and skills development are the mentor’s initial needs. But who mentors the mentor? It is important that every mentor has the chance to reflect on their mentoring practice with a mentoring supervisor, who will enable them to focus on their mentoring challenges, choices, causes and effects and help them to find creative solutions, learn from experience and decide how to apply learning to their working practice. 

Set the ground rules – ground rules provide the working framework needed to develop a safe mentoring environment. Ground rules should determine: 

After the Initial stages 

As with all relationships, mentoring relationships grow and develop. New employees will inevitably look to established colleagues for practical information to help them find their way around in their new workplace. Once those pragmatic needs have been met, innate learning styles will take over and the input of a particular mentor may not be appreciated. In such cases, this should not be viewed negatively, simply as recognition of a progression of needs and the way forward to building the next level of mentoring relationship.

Specific training in mentoring skills for dental professionals is becoming increasingly widely available. Details of our blended learning mentoring skills programmes can be found on my website www. glenys-bridges.co.uk/course.aspx?id=10120


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