Here’s How Doctors Can Be Better Mentors

By Harvard Business Review
November 29, 2018

These four guiding principles can help physicians lead others in more productive ways.

Being a good doctor is a lot like being a good mentor. Just as clinicians have an ethical duty to act in the best interest of their patients, mentors have a similar duty toward their mentees.

Here are some guiding principles doctors should follow when undertaking mentoring:

Be available: People in health care are busy. Being attentive to a mentee during these engagements is challenging but critical. Appreciate that some is better than none. Prefer shorter meetings to no meetings. You can also find alternatives to the face-to-face meeting. A brief after-hours call, text message or email can help your mentee stay on track.

Know your role: Ask yourself, “What role does my mentee need me to play?” There are other three key archetypes to consider: coach, sponsor and connector. The “coach” teaches the junior person how to improve in a particular skill; the “sponsor” helps boost mentees by promoting them for specific awards or positions; and the “connector” serves as a master networker.

Try to be objective: Mentees can at times disappoint by not showing up or underdelivering on their promises. Rather than react reflexively, try to distance yourselves from your emotions and focus on remaining objective during the interaction. Often a mentee is late for a good reason, one he or she can’t control.

Put yourself in their shoes: Before meetings with mentees, try to put yourselves in their shoes. Making it as a junior physician or budding academician is hard. Established leaders lose sight of this and forget the struggles mentees face. By putting yourselves in the role of the mentees, you will learn to take the edge off the sometimes-difficult advice you have to provide.

Copyright 2018 Harvard Business School Publishing Corp. Distributed by The New York Times Syndicate.

Topics: Leadership

Provider Burnout and Patient Engagement: The Quadruple and Quintuple Aims
Transform your organization - Get leadership training from the experts!

Popular Articles


About Physician Leadership News

Now more than ever, physicians are leaders in their organizations and communities.

The American Association for Physician Leadership maximizes and supports physician leadership through education, community, and influence. We promote thought leadership in health care through our Physician Leadership News website, bimonthly Physician Leadership Journal and other channels.

We focus on industry leadership issues such as patient care, finance, professional development, law, and technology. Association announcements and news of association events can be found.

Send us your feedback at

Journal Submission Guidelines

AAPL's award-winning print publication, the Physician Leadership Journal, welcomes originally authored manuscripts for peer review that meet competency, formatting and preparation criteria. To review these guidelines and other information regarding submissions, click here.