A major new scholarly report has just been published on mentoring called “Characteristics of Successful and Failed Mentoring Relationships: A Qualitative Study Across Two Academic Health Centers” by Sharon E. Straus, Mallory O. Johnson, Christine Marquez, and Mitchell D. Feldman, January 2013, Academic Medicine, Volume 88, No. 1.
While this report is in the context of the medical profession, there is much we can all learn from the new findings. The authors completed a qualitative study through the Departments of Medicine at the University of Toronto Faculty of Medicine and the University of California, San Francisco, School of Medicine between March 2010 and January 2011.
The authors completed interviews with 54 faculty members and identified a number of themes, including the characteristics of effective mentors and mentees, actions of effective mentors, characteristics of successful and failed mentoring relationships, and tactics for successful mentoring relationships. Successful mentoring relationships were characterized by reciprocity, mutual respect, clear expectations, personal connection, and shared values. Failed mentoring relationships were characterized by poor communication, lack of commitment, personality differences, perceived (or real) competition, conflicts of interest, and the mentor’s lack of experience.
“In most cases, when a mentoring relationship did not work, participants reported finding someone else to provide mentorship instead and stated that the failed relationship ‘was a good life lesson.’ However, the experience led them to be more cautious in approaching potential mentors in the future…”
Successful mentorship is vital to career success and satisfaction for both mentors and mentees. Yet challenges continue to inhibit faculty members from receiving effective mentorship. Given the importance of mentorship on faculty members’ careers, future studies must address the association between a failed mentoring relationship and a faculty member’s career success, how to assess different approaches to mediating failed mentoring relationships, and how to evaluate strategies for effective mentorship throughout a faculty member’s career.
This recent report is a follow-up to the “Mentoring in Academic Medicine: A Systemic Review” by Dario Sambunjak, Sharon E. Straus, and Ana Marušic ́, Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), September 6, 2006, Volume 296, No. 9, pp.1103-1115.
Image Copyright 2011 by Katy Dickinson