Passing on the Mentoring Torch

Former proteges can make ideal mentors.

Paula Moscinski

If you have been a protege, that experience has undoubtedly been invaluable to your personal and professional development. Now that your role as a protege has come to end, it's time to pass on the mentoring torch. Those in the healthcare management field have a responsibility to mentor others entering the field as well as mid-careerists preparing to lead the healthcare system of tomorrow. As a former protege, you are an ideal person to become a mentor—or at least become an advocate for creating or sustaining a mentoring program in your organization. By sharing your wisdom, insights, and experiences, you can give back to the profession and at the same time derive the personal satisfaction that comes from helping others realize their potential.

Building on a Good Thing

Promoting mentoring is not relegated only to the human resources department nor is it the sole responsibility of past mentors. Given your learning experience as a protege, you are perhaps most influential in sustaining and strengthening the mentoring process in an organization. You have a new appreciation for what the organization stands for and the challenges it faces. Also, you understand the value of the mentoring experience, making it easier to persuade others to become part of a mentoring relationship.

Having been a protege, not only will you be effective in encouraging others to take part in a learning relationship but you can reap many benefits by becoming a mentor yourself. Being a mentor can help enhance such skills as coaching and leadership, making you more of an asset to your organization. Your role as a mentor can also contribute to the success of your organization by helping to develop and retain talent. Furthermore, through mentoring you can help carry on your organization’s legacy by passing on its values and mission to your protege.

Transitioning from Protege to Mentor

Before committing to a mentoring relationship, consider the kind of mentor you want to be. Think about what you can personally offer a protege in terms of your knowledge and insight, and what you believe is important for that person to learn about the organization and the healthcare field. Be cautious about mirroring your former mentor’s methods. While there may have been many effective tactics and techniques your mentor used when you were a protege, everyone has a different learning style and different developmental goals; what worked for you and your former mentor may not work for you and your new protege.

No matter your mentoring style and goals, there are some essential steps to getting the relationship off to the right start. When you meet with your protege for the first time:

  • Design the relationship by getting to know each other. Both you and your protege should share your motivation for entering into a mentoring relationship, your backgrounds, your greatest learnings, your communication styles, and your expectations of each other.
  • Create focus for your protege. Have your protege create specific professional development objectives. Once the objectives are in place, you have a better chance of creating learning experiences that have purpose. Next, commit to a duration for your mentoring relationship such as 6, 8, or 12 months. Also, set up the logistics of the relationship including the frequency of meetings and intermittent communications to check on progress toward your protege’s professional development objectives.

Finally, once you become a mentor, spread the word. Letting others know about your new role is a great way to promote mentoring in your organization. It may even pique the interest of colleagues who have considered becoming a mentor. Most important, you'll demonstrate to others your commitment to advancing learning in the healthcare management field.

Paula Moscinski is a senior consultant at Perrone-Ambrose Associates, Inc., an organizational development consulting firm that helps organizations create mentoring cultures.

Perrone-Ambrose Associates, Inc.
2 N. Riverside Plaza, Ste. 1433
Chicago, IL 60606
(800) 648-0543

From Healthcare Executive, November/December 2003