3 ingredients for successful mentoring

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Effective mentoring isn't only for young physicians but also for leadership.

According to a study in Academic Medicine, a strong mentoring relationship is "vital to career success and satisfaction," study author Sharon Straus, director of geriatric medicine at the University of Toronto Faculty of Medicine, said in a statement Friday.

In looking at two large academic health centers--the University of California, San Francisco, School of Medicine, and the University of Toronto Faculty of Medicine--Straus found that being able to dedicate time to the relationship and an openness to giving and receiving advice led to a strong mentorship.

Set clear expectations
Although the mentor and mentee may not be able to meet in person regularly, effective mentors use email and phone contact to ensure accessibility, even if they are far away from the mentee, Straus said.

In addition, the mentee must be open to advice--from how to jumpstart careers to explanations on how the system works--even if they don't follow every word.

Make a personal connection
Although focused on teaching hospitals, Straus said the ingredients for a successful mentorship can cross other types of relationships. One of the core strategies is to build personal connections.

"A mentor is a unique, trusting, close relationship, someone you can turn to for advice that you know will be kept in confidence," Gary Mecklenburg, retired CEO of Northwestern Memorial Hospital and Northwestern Memorial Healthcare in Chicago, said about being a mentor.

"It's difficult to assign or choose a mentor; it's a relationship that goes beyond a relationship as a teacher or as a superior," he said in a Becker's Hospital Review article.

Mecklenburg mentors Larry Goldberg, CEO of Loyola University Health System in Maywood, Ill., and said offering that support at the CEO level can help the leader from feeling isolated.

"Even as a CEO, having a mentor helps deal with the loneliness at the top," he said.

Institute a 'no-fault divorce' rule
If for some reason, the relationship isn't working, Straus encourages a "no-fault divorce" rule, where either side can end the relationship without any hard feelings.

For more information:
- see the study announcement
- here's the Becker's Hospital Review interview

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