Have you spent a few minutes thinking about serving as a mentor? Perhaps you have tried once or twice and been successful.
The first mentor was described in mythology. Odysseus (Oh-dys-E-us) was the ruler of the island kingdom of Ithaca. When he reluctantly left his family to fight in the Trojan War, he enlisted Mentor a trusted family friend and counselor to watch over and advise his son Telemachus (Tell-em-akus).
Think about almost any story that transcends its time. Wasn’t there a character serving in the role of mentor? Carl Jung an early 20th century psychiatrist considered a mentor as a human archetype, or part of our collective unconscious. Obi-Wan Kenobi, Yoda, and of course Mr. Miyagi are Hollywood characters that many of us are familiar with. The Star Wars mentors are good examples as they acted in the interests of the protégé, were respected by peers, and were even part of a professional network- the Jedi. They also insisted there were no shortcuts to hard work. But Obi-Wan and Yoda tried to control what Luke was thinking, and there was only one right answer. The protégé remained dependent on the mentor. Look what happened to Darth Vader when he left Obi-Wan.
I think Mr. Miyagi is a better mentor example. He used excellent coaching and feedback methods and applied a unique teaching style. (Wax on/ Wax off) He stressed fundamentals and taught there was no shortcut to hard work. Priority was given to Daniel’s interests, yet Daniel was expected to make his own decisions and face their consequences. Mr. Miyagi’s door was always open, he had his priorities straight – fighting was always the last resort. He taught Daniel the importance of balance. And I liked the movie a lot more!!
Should you be a mentor? What are the advantages for you? Here are 4 that I think are important:
If on the other hand your goal is to tell people what to think maybe you should wait.
A mentor explains options rather than provides answers. A mentor is available at critical moments (protégé perspective) and takes a genuine and benevolent interest. She provides encouragement and advice about various options. It is important for a mentor to be frank during face to face discussion. Yet it is also critical to cover the protégés back rather than playing gotcha!
Experienced pharmacists should be open to opportunities to serve as a mentor. First make sure your door is always open and not just to members of the C-Suite. Next time a student, technician, or beginning pharmacist calls- take or return their call or ask them to have a seat. Your door should also be open while at state meetings; and at national meetings. Think of Garth Brooks and look for friends in low places. Don’t forget to network in both directions while at meetings and your opportunities to serve as a mentor will expand. Why not join me at the student or resident poster session at the next Mid-Year meeting?
Remember there is no room for selfish aims. A mentor should not attempt to control the protégé. If you have an ax to grind about an organization, college, employer, or person- keep it to yourself, or don’t serve. Do it for the right reasons – to help someone else without direct personal benefit. Give someone a boost, light their candle and send them off.
If you have any questions about mentoring, I promise I will return your call.
Presented as a part of the New Practitioners Network Session at the ICHP 2010 Annual Meeting, and published in Keeposted December 2010.
References from AJHP: