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5 top mentoring tips

Keen to take on a mentoring role but feel daunted by the responsibility? Numark learning and development manager Yvonne Tuckley outlines the key points you need to know

Most pharmacists will act as a mentor at some point in their careers – whether it's helping a pre-reg take their first steps in pharmacy employment or guiding a junior colleague. The role often has mutual benefits. Becoming a mentor can show you are happy to take on responsibility and establish you as a senior member of the team. So how can you ensure you're doing the job effectively? Yvonne Tuckley, Numark's learning and development manager, explains what makes an effective mentor.

1. Be a listener

It may sound obvious, but listening to your mentee is crucial. In fact, Ms Tuckley names "being able to listen and question effectively" as one of the most important qualities a mentor should possess. This means gaining an understanding of their situation and aiding their development, rather than putting your own spin on it. A common mistake mentors make is thinking "they should have all the answers", says Ms Tuckley.

2. Appreciate differences

Once you've found an effective way of working, it's tempting to encourage others to follow in your footsteps. But mentors should not expect everyone to work in exactly the same way, Ms Tuckley warns. "Respect their ways of working are perhaps different to yours but they could come out with the desired results," she advises.

3. Treat them as an adult

Your mentee will probably be junior to you, but you should still treat them as an equal. Ms Tuckley says mentoring is all about having "an adult relationship". If you treat them as a child, you are likely to drive childish behaviour. This means you should avoid solving all their problems for them. Ms Tuckley believes mentors should adhere to the "give people the fishing rods and not the fish" philosophy.

4. Understand the impact of your relationship

Ms Tuckley says many mentees, especially pre-reg students, will put a high value on the relationship with their mentor. She still has fond memories of her first mentor and line manager, who helped her get to grips with the pharmacy working environment. "That was 25-odd years ago and I'm still grateful to her for that," she says. Mentors should therefore be aware of the impact they can have and use their influence in a positive way.

5. Be honest

Not all conversations you have with your mentee will be positive. You will have to point out where they are going wrong to help them develop. "If they're capable of the role but perhaps approaching it in a way that isn't working for them, you can come into your own and help them work through that," Ms Tuckley points out. If they're not capable of the job, it could be the right time to have a tough conversation. "It's perhaps helping people think about what they want and how they might apply their strengths to another role," she suggests.

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