Mentees: Cultivation Phase Resources

phases_stones_cultivation1In the cultivation phase, the mentor and mentee follow through on the expectations and timelines outlined in the Alignment Phase, modifying the specifics as the relationship plays out. The mentoring team becomes fully assembled with clearly defined roles relating to your scientific and career development needs and goals. For you, this phase means leveraging the strengths outlined in the Individual Development Plan (IDP), as well as cultivating your areas for growth, and communicating your needs as they change; it means seizing opportunities as they arise and following through with intentional action.

Mentee Responsibilities in the Cultivation phase:

  • Actively listen and contribute to conversations
  • Acknowledge your weaknesses and build from your strengths
  • Accept and reflect on constructive criticism
  • Don’t shy away from difficult conversations
  • Follow through on tasks and meet deadlines
  • Communicate your changing needs
  • Celebrate successes
  • Periodically evaluate progress and assess the relationship

Cultivation Resources

This is an accordion element with a series of buttons that open and close related content panels.

Maintaining effective communication

Virtually every aspect of successful mentoring boils down to effective communication. Four key skills for effective communication in mentoring relationships are:

  1. Increase your awareness of yourself and others.
    You are the instrument through which mentoring happens, both as mentor and mentee. The more you are clear about your own agenda and able to separate out your own thoughts, feelings, and wants from those of your mentor/mentee, the greater the potential for intentional partnership and mutual benefit.”In each moment you spend in another person’s presence, you are communicating that person’s importance to you. Are you doing this consciously or unconsciously?” – Denise Holmes
  2. Get curious about the other person’s story.
    Listening in order to learn something new (rather than to confirm what you already know) is essential to good mentoring. When you get curious about the other person’s story, you open up the possibility of greater connection and value for both parties.”In order to understand what another person is saying, you must assume that it is true, and try to imagine what it could be true of.” – George Miller
  3. Listen for passion and potential.
    Great mentoring means understanding what makes the other person tick, what has brought them to this moment in their career, and where they would like to go next.
    Read more about active listening.”Listening for potential means listening to people as if they have all the tools they need to be successful, and could simply benefit from exploring their thoughts and ideas out loud.” – David Rock
  4. Share your own crystallized experience.
    One of the pleasures of mentoring is the chance to share one’s own hard-earned experience so that it might be helpful to others coming along a similar path.
    Read more about receiving feedback as a mentee

    “Ecologists tell us that a tree planted in a clearing of an old forest will grow more successfully than one planted in an open field. The reason, it seems, is that the roots of the forest tree are able to follow the intricate pathways created by former trees and thus imbed themselves more deeply. This literally enables stronger trees to share resources with the weaker so that the whole forest becomes healthier. Similarly, human beings thrive best when we grow in the presence of those who have gone before.” – Parks Daloz



Mentoring across differences

Individuals bring a wide range of different life experiences to their mentoring relationships. Three key principles can help mentors and mentees bridge the potential differences to create satisfying mentoring relationships.

  1. Be aware of your own assumptions.
    In the same way that others may have different points of view because of differences in their life experiences, you likely have been shaped by your gender, race, social class, education, generation, geography, and a multitude of other cultural influences. Increasing your awareness of the ways you are a product of your past can help you avoid assuming that others see the world in the same way.
  2. Get curious about the experience of colleagues who have different life experiences.
    Putting yourself in other people’s shoes and seeking to understand how they may have come to their different points of view is a critical step in building a mentoring relationship.
  3. Address differences openly.
    Relationships in which it becomes comfortable to talk about and acknowledge differences have much greater potential value for both mentor and mentee. While it may initially feel uncomfortable to talk about topics such as race, gender, and/or socioeconomic background, the potential for increased understanding and connection makes it worth the risk.

Managing mentoring challenges

Whenever people work together, there are bound to be times when the relationships are challenged. Disagreements occur in even the best working relationships.

Read more about common challenges and strategies for addressing them

In healthy situations, the issues are discussed objectively. Each individual is empowered to state his or her position and feel confident that the other is genuinely listening and wanting to understand. Possible solutions are explored with open minds, and the potential effects of the solutions are considered and weighed. It’s an easy process to understand, but more often than not it’s incredibly difficult to do. People want what they want, believe what they believe, and value what they value. In this section, our goal is to identify some problems that mentors and mentees have encountered and to suggest potential strategies for resolving each problem.

Read more about practical communication tips for resolving conflict

This section adapted with permission from the Institute for Clinical Research Education Mentoring Resources, University of Pittsburgh

Assessing the mentoring relationship

Formally evaluating the mentoring relationship is a relatively new effort, with little consensus on which instrument to use and how to feed the information back to mentors. However, if an explicit plan and expectations have been laid out at the beginning of the relationship, assessing progress and checking in on the health of the relationship is not only possible but necessary if maximal benefit is to be gained.

As you negotiate your expectations at the beginning of the relationship, be sure to lay the ground work for ongoing assessment:

  1. What do you want to measure?
  2. What are your criteria for success?
  3. How will you go about measuring success?

Be sure to include measures for each domain of the mentoring relationship:

  1. Meetings and Communication
  2. Expectations and Feedback
  3. Career Development
  4. Research Support
  5. Psychosocial Support

As always, the instruments you use need to be tailored to your individual relationship; effective assessment relies upon both parties feeling free to be honest and forthright. Leverage these existing evaluation templates as you negotiate how you will evaluate your relationship success with your mentor.

Resources & Suggested Readings

Downloadable Resources

A collection of example mentor evaluation templates

Relevant Readings

Topics include: evaluation of mentorship, working relationship

  • Burnham E, Schiro S, Fleming M. (2011). Mentoring K scholars: Strategies to Support Research Mentors. Journal of Clinical and Translational Science, 4(3):204-209.
  • Meagher et al. (2011). Evaluating Research Mentors Working in the Area of Clinical Translational Science: A Review of the Literature. Journal of Clinical and Translational Science. In press.
  • Taylor et al. (2011). Evaluating and Giving Feedback to Research Mentors Working in Clinical Translational Science: New Evidence-based Approaches. Journal of Clinical and Translational Science. In press.
  • Bickel, J., & Rosenthal, S. L. (2011). Difficult issues in mentoring: Recommendations on making the “undiscussable” discussable. Academic Medicine : Journal of the Association of American Medical Colleges, 86(10): 1229-1234.
  • Allen, T., & Eby, L. (2003). Relationship effectiveness for mentors: Factors associated with learning and quality. Journal of Management, 29(4), 469-486.
  • Berk, R., et al. (2005). Measuring the effectiveness of faculty mentoring relationships. Academic Medicine.Featured Topic: Patient-Centered Care, 80(1), 66-71.
  • Balmer, D., D’Alessandro, D., Risko, W., & Gusic, M. E. (2011). How mentoring relationships evolve: A longitudinal study of academic pediatricians in a physician educator faculty development program. The Journal of Continuing Education in the Health Professions, 31(2), 81-86.
  • Anderson, L., Silet, K., & Fleming, M. (2012). Evaluating and giving feedback to mentors: New evidence-based approaches. Clinical and Translational Science, 5(1), 71-77.
  • Bickel, J., & Brown, A. J. (2005). Generation X: Implications for faculty recruitment and development in academic health centers. Academic Medicine : Journal of the Association of American Medical Colleges, 80(3), 205-210.
  • Carr, P. L., Palepu, A., Szalacha, L., Caswell, C., & Inui, T. (2007). “Flying below the radar”: A qualitative study of minority experience and management of discrimination in academic medicine. Medical Education, 41(6), 601-609.
  • Ende, Jack. (2010). Feedback in Medical Education. Journal of American Medical Association, 250, 777-781.
  • Feldman, D. C. (1999). Toxic mentors or toxic protégés? A critical re-examination of dysfunctional mentoring. Human Resource Management Review, 9(3), 247.
  • Mahoney, M. R., Wilson, E., Odom, K. L., Flowers, L., & Adler, S. R. (2008). Minority faculty voices on diversity in academic medicine: Perspectives from one school. Academic Medicine, 83(8), 781-786.
  • Rogers, J. (2008). Toward measuring the domains of mentoring. Family Medicine, 40(4), 259.
  • Zerzan, J. T., Hess, R., Schur, E., Phillips, R. S., & Rigotti, N. (2009). Making the most of mentors: A guide for mentees. Academic Medicine, 84(1), 140-144.