Develop a mentorship program to help associates and team members grow - Veterinary Economics
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Develop a mentorship program to help associates and team members grow
In this season of change, planting the seeds of career growth with a mentoring program may help you reap the rewards: happier associates and team members who embrace your practice.


Getting started

In a typical mentoring relationship, the mentee takes the initiative since he or she benefits most. Mentees normally establish the guidelines for the relationship, set the goals, do the work, and monitor their own progress. They're also responsible for concluding the formal mentoring relationship when they've learned as much as they can and feel it's time to find a new mentor.

To create a mentoring program in your practice, start by bringing potential mentees and mentors together for a set period of time. At the end of that period, participants can choose to continue the mentoring relationship or to end it. Present the purpose and benefits of the practice's mentoring program to your team, and clarify who's responsible for what.

Inform team members that participation is optional and based on a desire to learn or teach—if a team member feels pressured, the mentoring relationship will fail. Likewise, if mentors or mentees are interested only in exploiting the relationship for their own purposes, such as upward mobility, improved office status, bragging rights, and so on, they've missed the purpose of mentoring. The focus should be on learning and developing talents. Networking is simply an added benefit.

You can get your potential mentees excited by explaining how they'll benefit from the program. Their mentors will answer questions, provide a friendly listening ear, offer advice, and share their own experiences. The key is for team members to identify their goals and areas were they'd like to grow, and then to choose a mentor with the right knowledge and influence. Some employees will need a mentor with skills different from their own, and others will need one with similar skills but more experience. Plus, the mentorship relationship will change over time, depending on the mentee's needs.

Engage your team

To create a stable of potential mentors, approach doctors and team members who could provide a valuable mentoring experience and ask if they would consider participating. But keep in mind that a stellar team member may not necessarily be a great mentor. You'll want to look for volunteers who demonstrate a focus on others, good listening skills, and motivation to help develop their coworkers' abilities.

Don't forget to mention the benefits a mentoring relationship provides for mentors. It offers them the chance to learn from the mentee's experiences, helps them expand their people and team-training skills, and allows them to give back to the profession.

"Strong mentor candidates must be good teachers, not necessarily the best performers," Dr. Caylor says. "Good mentors don't have to be the team members first out of the gate, but they're always there at the end of the race. They're the ones who are willing and able to stop and smell the roses along the way."

Although you might employ many great potential mentors in your practice, it's important for a team member to have just one mentor. At Kingsbrook Animal Hospital, Clark recently took on a mentoring role with two new team members. "Our new employees can learn from our five experienced technicians, but it helps to have one designated mentor to communicate with," Clark says. "I'm the one who works through their checklists and goals with them."

Training ideas to adopt or ditch
Once your staff understands how a mentoring relationship works, offer an enrollment period. During this time, potential mentees complete a questionnaire indicating what they hope to learn through the mentoring process, as well as any personality traits that might be helpful in matching them with an effective mentor. (See "Training ideas to adopt or ditch".)

Mentees should provide specific, measurable goals in areas that include developing skills and competencies, understanding concepts, or accomplishing a goal from their most recent performance evaluation. Potential mentees may also request a specific person as a mentor.

Ask potential mentors to complete a similar questionnaire indicating areas of expertise, what they hope to learn, and personality traits that might be helpful when you're matching them with a mentee.



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