Effective mentors show up healed

Mentoring is hard work, but it can also be challenging to be mentored.

Being mentored requires vulnerability and trust that your mentor is committed to supporting you in YOUR stated goals and aspirations – personal and professional. As recently described in collaborative work with Dr. Stephani Page, this requires that the mentee is actively engaged and provides the mentor with space to grow, openness, active participation, among other things.

Unfortunately, it can be difficult for mentors themselves to enter into mentoring relationships prepared to meet the core needs of mentees, which include personalization, guidance, correction, affirmation, and agency (Figure 1; also see Montgomery and Page, 2018).

Figure 1. Core Needs of Mentees from Montgomery and Page, 2018, https://www.nap.edu/resource/25568/Montgomery%20and%20Page%20-%20Mentoring.pdf

Part of this difficulty arises from the knowledge that mentoring too often takes the form of “imprinting”, or mentors training someone to pattern their behavior and actions after the mentors’ or the norm(s) of a group (Montgomery, 2019). This type of imprinting as mentoring often takes the the form of mentors promoting acculturation or assimilation in STEM and the larger academy (Montgomery, 2019). Unfortunately, this is often enacted as an “assimilate or fail mode” (Paris, 2019, p. 219). Too frequently mentors operating in these frameworks are individuals seeking personal affirmation themselves – confirmation for choices they have made including the paths that they have traversed and the goals that they have set.

Effective mentoring must start from a place of mentors being “healed”, i.e., understanding that their own affirmation and self worth cannot become a “group project” requiring specific personal efforts and actions or affirmation of those that they mentor.

Effective mentors SHOW UP healed and are able to mentor from affirmation not for affirmation.

To be clear, poor or negative mentoring can arise from both GOOD and BAD intention. We too frequently assume such mentoring comes only from bad mentors with bad intent. Certainly bad intention can lead to obviously poor mentoring outcomes such as bullying or exploitation (Figure 2). However, even good intent on the part of mentors can lead to negative mentoring experiences such as taking on mentoring when one is not well positioned or not available to offer meaningful guidance or inputs, or other such outcomes (Figure 2).

typology chart
Figure 2. From “The Science of Effective Mentorship in STEMM”, National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. The Science of Effective Mentorship in STEMM. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. https://doi.org/10.17226/25568.
Image from https://www.nap.edu/resource/25568/interactive/mentorship-defined.html#section5

Fortunately, there are many (and continually emerging) options for ensuring that mentors can improve their mentoring skills. One of the latest of these resources is the recent report of the NASEM Committee on the Science of Effective Mentorship – full report now available here.

Fortunately, there is also this summarized advice:


Montgomery, BL (2019). Mentoring as Environmental Stewardship. CSWEP News, 2019(1): 10–12

Montgomery, BL, and Page, SC (2018). Mentoring beyond Hierarchies: Multi-Mentor Systems and Models. Commissioned Paper for National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine Committee on Effective Mentoring in STEMM.

Paris, Django (2019). Naming beyond the white settler colonial gaze in educational research. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 32(3), 217-224.

As always, if you have thoughts on this or other posts, find me on Twitter at @BerondaM

Giving to others….and self

I do a lot of work with minoritized or underrepresented scholars in the academy. Many of the scholars are deeply committed to helping others, especially scholars from similar backgrounds and with fewer years experience in the academy.

As is the national trend for disproportionately higher engagement in service by minoritized faculty, many of the underrepresented scholars with whom I engage give selflessly and, often, beyond sustainable measures to support other marginalized scholars – especially students.

Image of Sankofa Bird which is based on an Ghanaian principle and frequently used to represent connecting the past with the present through intentional engagement and sense of responsibility to community.

In this giving, one of the targets often overlooked is self. It’s critical that scholars of the ‘giving to others’ persuasion also prioritize giving to SELF to ensure their own health and longevity. These individuals need to be intentional about scheduling self-care and maintaining an excellent routine of caring for self, in addition to caring for others.

Prioritizing self-care can be a challenge to marginalized scholars – who sometimes suffer from survivor’s guilt, imposter syndrome, unreasonably high & unforgiving (both often self-inflicted) expectations for success, or other counterproductive perspectives. Yet, the commitment to self-care has to be held as non-negotiable to promote long-term presence in, contribution to, and (sometimes) challenging of academic environments.

So I encourage each of you that have set a HIGH bar for task-related goals, such as writing and scholarship, for the summer to also set some summer self-care goals. For good measure, also set up a system of accountability to ensure that you give attaining your self-care goals your very best effort.

You DESERVE it, you NEED it….also the communities and individuals to whom you seek to give need your BEST effort and “cared for” self in the giving process. Giving to self frequently, well, and consistently is one way to ensure that you have access to your BEST self when you prepare to give to others.

As always, if you have thoughts on this or other posts, find me on Twitter discussing #mentoring, leading, and sometimes #selfcare at @BerondaM