by Kristin Boman, MPH & Paula Carney, PhD
The NORDP Mentoring Program continues to be an important member benefit, first matching Mentor-Mentee pairs in 2011, and growing to support the professional development of NORDP member Mentors and Mentees through effective programs, resources and tools. Mentors support a collaborative relationship designed to engage the Mentee in personal and professional growth and development. This practice helps acquire essential competencies needed for career success. One important component of the mentoring relationship identifies a mentor network that can serve Mentees. A second component identifies roles Mentors can fill as part of the relationship. Specifically, Mentors may serve as Coaches, and/or Sponsors/Champion at different times in a research development professional’s mentored career development.
The NORDP Mentoring Committee designed the My MESHH Network (Mentorship, Expertise, Support, HelpingHands) which is part of the Mentor Program Onboarding Packet. Mentors and Mentees report that the tool is especially useful, and enables the Mentee to identify a mentor network as well as mentor roles that can serve the Mentee’s professional development. My MESHH Network is designed to be a dynamic tool that can help a Mentee identify and connect existing and prospective relationships to meet evolving professional goals, including the roles that may be needed to support the mentoring relationship.
A Mentee can identify the role(s) needed from a Mentor. For example, a career guidance Mentor may use coaching skills so the Mentee can identify values to inform career direction. A Mentee may then seek out a Mentor who can serve as a Sponsor for professional development related to these values.
Although the NORDP Mentoring Program is designed for Mentors and Mentees who are at different institutions, the tools and mentoring roles could also be used in mentoring programs within an institution or in situations when a supervisor also has a mentoring role.
Definitions of Coach and Sponsor/Champion roles as well as scenarios of how each role may contribute to the mentoring relationship follow:
Definition: Coaching is a method that enables the Mentee to develop and succeed in their jobs and lives. One definition of coaching is “…partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential”. Two main tools used in coaching are asking powerful questions and exploring values, so the Mentee identifies goals and strengths, overcomes limiting beliefs, emotions, and obstacles, and improves well-being, life satisfaction and performance.
Example Scenario: A Mentee expresses interest in changing their career – from grant writing within a PI-led small research institute to a broader office of research role. They accept a school-level research administration position with an opportunity to build research development services within the school. The hiring manager soon left and so did the research development opportunity; the Mentee is now unhappy in the role. As their Mentor, asking powerful questions (open-ended questions that send Mentees in search of discovery, such as “Look ahead one year; standing there, what decisions would you make today?”) and supporting the Mentee’s identification of values (What is important to you? What do you want?) are two coaching skills that can support the Mentee’s journey.
Definition: A Mentor can sponsor a Mentee by putting them in the “right place at the right time” for a specific opportunity by serving as an advocate and using their network and influence. A Mentor can also champion a Mentee for broader career advancement in an organization or profession.
Example Scenario: A Research Development Professional identifies that they want to develop expertise in the Science of Team Science (SciTS) and seek a professional role that provides an opportunity to attain a leadership role in this area. The primary Mentor and Mentee together identify a NORDP member for their My MESHH Network who can be an advocate and guide and who also has a voice at the SciTS table to serve in the Sponsor/Champion role. The Mentor, who is active in SciTS organizations, introduces the Mentee to members in the organization’s special interest group to champion their involvement. Several years later, the Mentor identifies a team science position and serves as a Sponsor for the Mentee as they apply for the job opportunity.
Awareness of approaches that support Mentor/Mentee interactions can lead to meaningful relationships. Learn more about the NORDP Mentor Program and its resources here.
Hewlett, S.A. (2014, January 21). Are you ready for a sponsor? Harvard Business Review. https://hbr.org/2014/01/are-you-ready-for-a-sponsor
ICF. (2021). ICF, the gold standard in coaching: Read about ICF. https://coaching federation.org/about
Yacobucci, M. (2021, June 22). How to be a strong sponsor and advocate for faculty. National Center for Faculty Development [webinar]. https://www.facultydiversity.org/webinars/facultysponsor