Mentors Can Change A Life

“Some people come into our lives and quickly go. Some stay for a while, leave footprints on our heart, and we are never, ever the same.” ~ Flavia Weedn

We are not born into this world with the knowledge and skills to achieve the goals, hopes and dreams that we will set for ourselves in life. Our first mentors were our own parents and family. After this came a wave of people from friends, teachers, professors and co-workers. All of these people had the potential to profoundly affect the way we look at, understand and proceed with life as time goes forward. These people changed our lives. As we move forward in our careers, we have the desire to meet other people who will make us be what we wish to become, people who will make us do our best and become the best version of ourselves.

We live in a complex world where it is difficult to acquire all the skills and understanding necessary to succeed without proper help and guidance from someone who knows more in a given area than we do. We must seek out those who know more about something to help us realize our dreams and goals. We need a supportive relationship that helps guide us through the maze of decisions that we face throughout our career or that helps complete our knowledge base as we make the transition from education to practice or “the real world”. We need a mentoring relationship.

A great mentor brings three things to a relationship: guidance, information and support. Guidance from the mentor’s perspective is not in the form of having a predetermined solution and guiding the mentee to it, but rather providing a process that guides the mentee to where the mentee wants to get to. Skilled mentors do this through skillful questioning and allowing the mentee to make decisions, create a plan and be committed to the goal.

In situations where gaps in knowledge or deficiencies in skills must be addressed, mentors help to fill those gaps without taking over the entire situation. The art of mentoring in these situations is to help the mentees gain knowledge without making them feel diminished for not having the knowledge in the first place. In times like these it is useful to think back to when we were learning and remember that we also went through this rather humbling learning process. 

This brings us to the third component that a great mentor brings to the process. Great mentors support mentees throughout the process and help them become confident in their knowledge and skills. Things that we have not yet achieved are frightening for us. Reassurance and support are the cure for fears of this kind. Great mentors not only help mentees learn and make difficult decisions, but they provide the support that gives mentees the confidence to reach a goal or accomplish a procedure.

Great mentors help mentees conquer their fears and replace them with confidence. They support mentees through difficult decisions and guide them to live their dreams and goals. Great mentors stay for a while. Great mentors change a life.


Mentorship is Applied Leadership

Becoming a mentor calls forth the very best of who we are as human beings. It causes us to stretch and apply principles of effective leadership in the ways we conduct ourselves and interact with others. Mentorship is not a switch that we turn on and off as situations arise. It is a way of being that continually reveals to others who we are and what we stand for.

It is not so much about doing things right as it is about doing the right things - by people.  Mentorship becomes the roadmap and the process through which we bring our leadership to our life's work and our relationships.

We are aware that mentorship results in change in the mentee, however, we often fail to realize that it also impacts the mentor. To be truly effective in carrying the mantle of leadership as we mentor others, we have to "walk the talk" of the principles we believe in.  We cannot say one thing and do another, or ask differently of those around us. Mentors must become congruent, authentic role models.

People’s awareness of the significant effects of their personal behavior on others increases as they grow as mentors. They build integrity into their daily lives and encourage commitment from the people around them by acting out both their personal and their professional values. The two in fact become one and the same.

The greatest challenge of becoming a mentor is not the time commitment and effort of meeting and interacting with the mentee. It is not the effort necessary in keeping track of each mentee’s progress and determining the next steps. The true challenge of mentorship is to live your message in all aspects of your being.


Mentorship Matters - How to Build Confidence Through Mentorship


Lack of Confidence Is A Concern For New Graduates

Two recent surveys revealed that lack of confidence is an issue with new graduates, especially those in large animal practice. My conversations with veterinarians confirms this and that the main reasons seem to be the low number of cases that allow experience to be gained, the absence of a safety net when they go out on calls on their own, and the added pressure of working in the presence of the client. Even seasoned veterinarians vividly recall how uncomfortable they felt during their first farm call.

While some things could probably be done to deal with the caseloads, safety nets and clients, the focus of this article is to present tools that you can put to use right now in your practice to help new veterinarians better transition from school to practice.

You Are Part of the Equation

How you interact with new vets directly impacts their level of confidence. Every clinic, or business for that matter, has a way of dealing with errors or shortcomings. How you deal with these in your clinic in turn influences the confidence you create in those around you.

In most situations, the knowledge is there, it is just held stifled by the overwhelming desire of not wanting to make a mistake. It is like watching a championship team unravel after a few errors are committed and the team falls behind on the scoreboard. Even basic skills of the game become challenging when confidence is lacking.


You can help build confidence

Mentorship, of course, plays a big role in building confidence. More specifically, how you communicate during a mentorship conversation impacts confidence. Mentorship is about asking questions that help people think, problem solve and commit to action.  Good mentors ask open-ended questions that get the mentees solve problems, gain confidence and become motivated. Great mentors do so in a way that grows confidence as well as knowledge.


Five questions that help build confidence

Here are five questions that you can ask your mentee to help boost their confidence as they work through a procedure or are dealing with a difficult decision.
1. What is similar in the situation?
2. What is already working?
3. What has worked for you before?
4. What are you proud of?
5. What challenging barriers have you overcome in the past?

The basis for these questions is to help the mentee see familiarity in the current situation. This helps them realize that they have experienced something like this before and have the capability and knowledge to see it through. It provides perspective and makes them anchor into the past successes.  Perhaps most importantly, it sends a clear signal that you are supportive of them and acknowledge their abilities.

Next time the occasion presents itself; try one of the questions above. You might be surprised how much impact a few well-chosen words can have.



Great idea! You have decided to enter into a mentoring relationship. So now what?

Here are a few things to consider before you start. It is much easier to do these things early on in the relationship, before your get into the actual mentoring conversations. Effort spent at this stage will ensure a solid and meaningful mentoring experience.

  1. Take the time to get to know each other.
  2. Don’t assume that your mentor or mentee is like another that you have dealt with in the past. Build trust and common ground by learning about each other. Ease into mentoring.

  3. Talk about what mentoring means to each other.
  4. We define mentoring based on our own experiences. These may be very different from those of our mentor or mentee. This is likely the case if you are a generation apart. Today’s approach to mentorship is probably different than it was. Make sure that you both share the same definition and are talking about the same mentorship.

  5. Discuss goals that you would both like to achieve.
  6. Successful mentoring relationships are goal oriented. Both the mentor and mentee have something that they want to achieve from the relationship. Make sure you know what that is. Find out before you start the mentorship journey.

  7. Discuss expectations that you have for one another.
  8. How do you want to be addressed? How do you like to learn? How do you like to be given criticism? How often do you want to meet? Addressing these early on in the relationship is much easier than doing it later.

  9. Agree on the length of the relationship.
  10. Mentorship relationships are not lifetime commitments! Try it for nine months or a year. After that time, revisit your goals and see if you would both like to go for a second term. If not, end the relationship and celebrate the time that you shared together. If both parties want, you can “re-contract” for another term and set up a new set of objectives and goals.

  11. Communicate when and where you will meet ahead of time.
  12. So how will you find out about the next meeting? Is an email okay or a phone message or a note left on your desk? Sounds trivial, but make sure you get it right so neither of you end up wasting time waiting for the meeting that doesn’t happen.

Congratulations on your decision to experience mentoring! Make the most of it. Remember, having a few key discussions at the onset greatly improves the quality of the entire mentorship journey.