In response to requests from newly appointed practice managers we have created the FPM practice manager mentor scheme, through which we will endeavour to introduce newly appointed practice managers to experienced practice managers who are willing to act as mentors. In order to participate in the mentor scheme (either as an experienced manager offering to be a mentor, or as a newly appointed manager seeking a mentor) you must be a subscribing member of First Practice Management.
Mentoring has its origins in Greek mythology. When Odysseus, father of Telemachus, went off to the Trojan War he appointed Mentor to be his son's guardian, role model, adviser, confidante and friend. Mentor was responsible for the physical, intellectual, spiritual, moral and social development of Telemachus.
Mentoring is a "win, win" situation as the protégé, the mentor and the organisation (in this case the medical practice) all benefit from the potential that mentoring can realise in them all.
Definitions of mentoring vary. Generally speaking, mentoring occurs when an older, more experienced and respected person (the "mentor") takes an active and genuine personal interest in helping and counselling the career and personal development of a younger person (the "protégé”) - in a gesture which is outside of the ordinary scope of the mentor's job.
High levels of mutual respect, trust and emotional commitment characterise a mentor-protégé relationship. A mentor is someone who should ideally know the protégé, but certainly someone who will bring wise counsel, will encourage the protégé to reflect and help the protégé to select options which they will “own”. A mentor would rarely tell the protégé what they should do; but sometimes a mentor will need to be strong enough to say things about the protégé’s style or approach that are uncomfortable, or things that the protégé would rather not hear.
Being a practice manager can often be a lonely and challenging role. The manager has no peer within a small practice, no-one against whom to bounce ideas or to share frustrations or weaknesses; other practice managers can be a listening ear but it would be rare for one manager to expose vulnerabilities to a close colleague.
So far as the practice manager is concerned, generally it is better for the mentor to not also be the manager, partner or a close organisational colleague of the protégé. As such the roles of mentor and manager are distinctly different and need to be kept separate to avoid the relationship being clouded by competing objectives. Ideally, the mentor should be a person whose only motive is to help the protégé and with whom the protégé can enjoy the sort of confidentiality and trust required to test ideas, to gain an invaluable, different and independent perspective and to learn from the mentor's experience. While another practice manager can be a mentor it is generally better if that person is outside the (CCG) area.
Mentoring relationships are as varied as the people involved in them. They are dynamic and flexible relationships which often last over a period of years and respond to changing needs over that time. Mentors will perform various roles to varying degrees at various points in a protégé’s development; the relationship will go through different phases and eventually end, sometimes in conflict. In order for mentoring to be successful it is desirable that the parties have a clear understanding of what is expected of each other, what the rules and roles are and importantly, when the time has come to let go.
It is not always easy for a new manager – or even a more experienced manager - to find a mentor. A neighbouring CCG may help, or the local practice manager group may know someone, or even the local “chamber of commerce” or equivalent. Or try us here at First Practice Management.