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Online Mastermind Groups: A Non-hierarchical Mentorship Model for Professional Development

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Abstract

Mentorship is an important driver of professional development and scholarship in academic medicine. Several mentorship models have been described in the medical education literature, with the majority featuring a hierarchical relationship between senior and junior members of an institution. 'Mastermind Groups', popularized in the business world, offer an alternative model of group mentorship that benefits from the combined intelligence and accumulated experience of the participants involved. We describe an online application of the Mastermind model, used as an opportunity for faculty development by a globally distributed team of health professions educators. The majority of our participants rated their experiences over two online Mastermind group mentoring sessions as 'very valuable', resulting in recommendations of specific developmental resources, professional referrals, and identifiable immediate 'next steps' for their careers. Our experience suggests that online Mastermind groups are an effective, feasible, zero-cost model for group mentorship and professional development in medicine.
Received 03/09/2018
Review began 03/11/2018
Review ended 07/11/2018
Published 07/20/2018
© Copyright 2018
Paetow et al. This is an open access
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Online Mastermind Groups: A Non-
hierarchical Mentorship Model for
Professional Development
Glenn Paetow , Fareen Zaver , Michael Gottlieb , Teresa M. Chan , Michelle Lin , Michael
A. Gisondi
1. Emergency Medicine, Hennepin County Medical Center 2. Emergency Medicine, University of Calgary,
Calgary, Alberta 3. Department of Emergency Medicine, Rush University Medical Center 4. Faculty of
Health Sciences, Department of Medicine, Division of Emergency Medicine, McMaster University,
Hamilton, CAN 5. Department of Emergency Medicine, UCSF School of Medicine 6. Emergency Medicine,
Stanford University School of Medicine
Corresponding author: Glenn Paetow, glennpaetow@gmail.com
Disclosures can be found in Additional Information at the end of the article
Abstract
Mentorship is an important driver of professional development and scholarship in academic
medicine. Several mentorship models have been described in the medical education literature,
with the majority featuring a hierarchical relationship between senior and junior members of
an institution. ‘Mastermind Groups’, popularized in the business world, offer an alternative
model of group mentorship that benefits from the combined intelligence and accumulated
experience of the participants involved. We describe an online application of the Mastermind
model, used as an opportunity for faculty development by a globally distributed team of health
professions educators. The majority of our participants rated their experiences over two online
Mastermind group mentoring sessions as ‘very valuable’, resulting in recommendations of
specific developmental resources, professional referrals, and identifiable immediate ‘next steps’
for their careers. Our experience suggests that online Mastermind groups are an effective,
feasible, zero-cost model for group mentorship and professional development in medicine.
Categories: Emergency Medicine, Medical Education
Keywords: mastermind group, mastermind, mentorship, online mentorship, non-heirarchical,
professional development, faculty development, mentor
Introduction
Mentorship is an essential component of professional development and its benefits are well
described in the medical, business, and education literature [1-10]. Mentorship relationships
are beneficial for both mentors and mentees, who experience increased career satisfaction,
scholarship, and efficiency of academic promotion [11-12]. Models include one-on-one
mentor-protege models [13], institutional group programs [14-15], and “speed-mentoring”
sessions with many mentors in serial succession [16].
Recently, a collaborative, network-based model for mentorship has gained popularity in the
business world: the Mastermind group [17-20]. Initially described by Napoleon Hill [21], the
Mastermind group is composed of multiple colleagues, including near-peers and those at
different stages of their academic careers, who provide mentorship and career advice for each
other through regularly scheduled meetings. The group benefits from the combined intelligence
and accumulated experience of the participants.
1 2 3 4 5
6
Open Access Original
Article DOI: 10.7759/cureus.3013
How to cite this article
Paetow G, Zaver F, Gottlieb M, et al. (July 20, 2018) Online Mastermind Groups: A Non-hierarchical
Mentorship Model for Professional Development. Cureus 10(7): e3013. DOI 10.7759/cureus.3013
Advances in technology now mean that the world can literally be right at our fingertips.
Geographic bounding of the mentor-mentee relationship is no longer necessary [22]. In fact, for
effective mentorship through Mastermind Groups, it may be advantageous to connect academic
physicians from different centers in mentorship opportunities, since these relationships may be
less influenced by personal gains and local politics.
We describe the curriculum design, implementation, and program evaluation of a Mastermind
group for the purpose of professional development of academic emergency physicians. Our
outcome measures reflect participant experience, impact, and feasibility of the program.
Materials And Methods
Participants
Academic Life in Emergency Medicine (ALiEM; www.aliem.com) conducted two Mastermind
group sessions in 2017 for volunteer faculty within the organization. ALiEM is a digital health
professions education organization with a globally distributed team of faculty who lead various
online educational initiatives. The Mastermind group was intended as a career development
exercise for the volunteer faculty in the organization. Participants were recruited from within
ALiEM via the organizational Slack Channel (Slack Technologies Inc, San Francisco, CA)
through a general message to all volunteer faculty at ALiEM, asking for voluntary participation
in this faculty development session. Only voluntary faculty within the ALiEM organization were
included and there were no exclusion criteria. Groups were limited to 6-8 participants to
facilitate small group discussion. Based on the number of recruited participants, two separate
groups were formed. One group held its meetings in January of 2017 and the second group met
in October of 2017. Because of the innate geographic diversity of volunteer faculty within the
ALiEM team, each group was formed of physicians from varying locations across the United
States and Canada. While the volunteer faculty at ALiEM come from different specialties and
health professions, all of the volunteers for this faculty development program were Emergency
Medicine physicians. Demographics of the group are described in Table 1.
Participant Demographics
Sex Female 57% (n=8) Male 43% (n=6)
Academic Rank Instructor 14%
(n=2)
Assistant Professor
65% (n=9)
Associate Professor
7% (n=1)
Full Professor 14%
(n=2)
Geographic
Location
US West Coast
29% (n=4) US Midwest 36% (n=5) US East Coast 14%
(n=2) Canada 21% (n=3)
TABLE 1: Participant Demographics
Procedures of the Mastermind group
Each Mastermind group completed two homework assignments and two 90-minute
videoconference meetings, using a structured, moderator-facilitated format. Meetings were
conducted using participants’ personal computers on Google Hangouts on Air© (Google Inc.,
Mountain View, CA). As pre-work, participants completed selected questions from a free self-
2018 Paetow et al. Cureus 10(7): e3013. DOI 10.7759/cureus.3013 2 of 8
assessment tool created as supplementary, online material for "Stand Out", a book authored by
Dorie Clark, adjunct professor at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business and proponent of
the Mastermind group model [23-24]. The self-assessment survey summarized participants
professional strengths, weaknesses and current career trajectory. Example questions can be
found in Figure 1. Given 6-8 participants per group and the selected questions for each
participant to discuss, 90 minutes was thought to be the optimal length of time per session.
FIGURE 1: Self-assessment Survey
In the initial group meeting, the moderator encouraged participants to discuss their self-
assessments, current projects, and career challenges. The moderator then facilitated comments
from all of the other participants and kept track of time so that all participants could discuss
their self-assessments during the 90-minute session. Prior to the second meeting, participants
each contributed to a shared, digital document (Google Docs©, Google Inc.) with their
suggestions for professional development resources personalized for each of the other
participants in the group. The second meeting allowed discussion of these suggested resources,
actionable ‘next steps’, and an accountability timeline for each participant. The free, cloud-
based platforms and voluntary basis for the Mastermind groups resulted in a zero-cost
innovation.
2018 Paetow et al. Cureus 10(7): e3013. DOI 10.7759/cureus.3013 3 of 8
FIGURE 2: Mastermind Procedures Flowchart
1. Before the first meeting, pre-work self-assessment survey is assigned to all participants.
2. During the first 90-minute of the Mastermind meeting, the participants discuss self-
assessments and comment on each other's strengths, weaknesses, and career trajectories.
3. Before the second meeting, each participant contributes to the shared, online document,
suggesting resources, connections, and 'next-steps' personalized for each other.
4. The second 90-minute Mastermind meeting is used to discuss action plans for each
participant proposed by the group members.
Data collection
In addition to collecting the Mastermind group session notes compiled by the facilitator and
participants through the shared, digital document, we also surveyed the participants via
anonymous online survey software (SurveyMonkey, San Mateo, CA) to understand participant
reactions and obtain program evaluation information.
The post-intervention survey of this program was administered to participants. This survey
consisted of three phases: demographic data, participant reactions to the experience, and
perceived value. Respondents were asked to rate their Mastermind Group experiences using a
Likert Scale ranging from 1 (not valuable, would not recommend to others) to 10 (very valuable,
would highly recommend this to others). They were also asked to compare these sessions to
prior mentorship experiences using a comparison scale (better than, same as, worse than other
mentorship experiences). Finally, qualitative data was gathered about the participants’
experiences via a required free-text box. See Appendix 1 for a listing of all the questions.
Analysis
We describe the demographic composition of the groups, themes discovered in the Mastermind
shared digital document notes compiled by the facilitator and participants, and we perform
descriptive statistics on our program evaluation survey data.
2018 Paetow et al. Cureus 10(7): e3013. DOI 10.7759/cureus.3013 4 of 8
Results
Participant demographics
The two groups included two full professors, one associate professor, nine assistant professors,
and two instructors, representing 14 different academic medical centers across North America.
57% of participants were female (n=8), and 43% were male (n=6). Compiled summary data of the
groups is provided in Table 1.
Description of themes from the Mastermind session notes
A majority of participants received specific resource recommendations during the sessions,
including readings (e.g., books, journal articles, blog posts), training courses, or conferences.
Many also received introductory email referrals to specific individuals for additional
mentorship. This was made possible given the breadth of networks among the participants. All
participants had at least one identifiable ‘next step’ related to their reason for participating in
the Mastermind group with the goal of being accountable to the group.
Survey results
A post-intervention survey was sent to a convenience sample comprised of the 14 participants,
with a final response rate of 100%. The participants rated the Mastermind group experience as
9.4/10 on the Likert scale. When asked to compare Mastermind groups with prior mentorship
experiences, 3/14 (21.4%) respondents noted that this was not applicable as this was their first
formal mentorship experience, while the remainder of the participants, 11/14 (78.6%) rated
these sessions as “much better than prior experiences”, 10/10 on a Likert scale. Participants
cited one of two reasons for participating in the Mastermind groups: need for career advice or
assistance with a project. Overall, the participants described a synergy of energy, commitment
to one another’s longitudinal success, and benefit from the diverse range of talent and
expertise in the group as reasons for preferring this model to other models of mentorship.
Many of the members discussed plans to replicate this mentorship model in other settings.
Associated costs
Program organizers noted that they used commonly available, free services (Google Hangouts
on Air), which allowed them to run this for free. Each individual spent a total of three hours in
online discussion forums, as well as the time needed for pre-work completion. The participants
and moderators were all uncompensated, volunteer faculty in the ALiEM organization.
Discussion
Gottlieb and colleagues have previously described the opportunities and barriers to digital
mentorship in a recent paper [22]. This application of digital technologies displays that it is
acceptable, feasible, and economical to establish digitally-based Mastermind groups between
geographically disparate individuals.
Interestingly, the participants did not mention any specific barriers to the Mastermind group,
though we acknowledge that at a minimum there is an opportunity cost and minor scheduling
challenges inherent in our design. Traditional barriers in mentorship have been previously
reported in the literature as: time required for mentorship, lack of academic recognition, lack of
financial incentives, “authoritative boss-employee relationship”, lack of availability, and a lack
of a good selection of mentors [25]. Our faculty development program overcomes several of
these barriers by connecting like-minded individuals across institutions through real-time
meetings and connecting a globally distributed team. It also makes it less likely for those at a
higher professoriate rank to have any authority or boss-employee relationship with the junior
2018 Paetow et al. Cureus 10(7): e3013. DOI 10.7759/cureus.3013 5 of 8
members. By reaching outside of geographic restrictions, the catchment of available mentors
was also widened, increasing the number of candidates for whom this program would be
relevant.
Limitations
There may be an inherently biased sample of individuals who agreed to participate in our pilot
Mastermind program. Many of the individuals that volunteer within the ALiEM organization
have a high fluency and affinity for digital technologies. Their experiences, therefore, may not
generalize to a population that finds the aforementioned online platforms difficult to navigate.
Additionally, volunteers recruited from the ALiEM organization were all from North America
and all fluent English speakers. This group of participants may not be a typical cross-section of
junior, mid-career, or senior faculty members in terms of their values and preferences around
remuneration or academic merit. Finally, volunteers participated in only two, ninety-minute
sessions, from which it is difficult to discern any long-term outcome measures or follow-
through on proposed ‘next steps’.
Conclusions
Our experiences suggest that the Mastermind conceptual framework is a feasible, zero-cost,
and effective model for professional development for faculty who volunteer their time. This
model was easily and cost-effectively replicated from the business literature to a cohort of
physicians. Though the model was originally proposed as a method for in-person discussions,
we report a more modern, online experience for professional development in our diverse,
globally-distributed team.
Appendices
Survey Questions
1. Which best describes your current professional stage?
A. In residency or fellowship training
B. 1-5 years out of training
C. 5-10 years out of training
D. 10+ years out of training
2. What is your academic rank?
A. Resident
B. Instructor
C. Assistant Professor
D. Associate Professor
E. Full Professor
3. What is your gender?
A. Female
B. Male
C. Prefer not to say
4. What is your age?
A. 20-29
B. 30-39
C. 40-49
D. 50-59
E. 60+
2018 Paetow et al. Cureus 10(7): e3013. DOI 10.7759/cureus.3013 6 of 8
5. If you have participated in formal mentorship programs prior to this Mastermind Group,
please describe (e.g., mandatory departmental mentorship pairing; "speed-dating" mentorship
at a local conference; etc.) (Free Response)
6. Please rate your experience with the Mastermind Group.
(1 = NOT Valuable; Would NOT Recommend This To Others; 10 = Very Valuable; Would HIGHLY
Recommend This To Others)
7. Please compare this with prior mentorship experiences.
A. This program was MUCH WORSE than prior mentorship experiences
B. This program was SLIGHTLY WORSE than prior mentorship experiences
C. This program was SIMILAR to prior mentorship experiences
D. This program was SLIGHTLY BETTER than prior mentorship experiences
E. This program was MUCH BETTER than prior mentorship experiences
F. Not Applicable
8. When comparing the Mastermind group with prior mentorship experiences (Question #3),
why did you feel this way? (Free Response)
9. After this Mastermind Group experience, what is one thing you will do differently? (This may
include career, goals, professional development, personal development, or any other aspects
you deem important). (Free Response)
10. Did you obtain any resources recommended for you during the discussion (eg. books,
articles, online resources)? If so, please describe what you obtained. (Free Response)
11. Have you contacted any of the individuals who were suggested to you? If so, please describe
your experience with them. (Free Response)
12. Please describe any other actions that you took as a result of your MasterMind group
experience. (Free Response)
Additional Information
Disclosures
Human subjects: Consent was obtained by all participants in this study. Minneapolis Medical
Research Foundation issued approval 18-2235X. Exempt from IRB Review. Animal subjects:
All authors have confirmed that this study did not involve animal subjects or tissue. Conflicts
of interest: In compliance with the ICMJE uniform disclosure form, all authors declare the
following: Payment/services info: All authors have declared that no financial support was
received from any organization for the submitted work. Financial relationships: All authors
have declared that they have no financial relationships at present or within the previous three
years with any organizations that might have an interest in the submitted work. Other
relationships: All authors have declared that there are no other relationships or activities that
could appear to have influenced the submitted work.
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Introduction The Academic Life in Emergency Medicine (ALiEM) Faculty Incubator program is a longitudinal, one‐year, virtual faculty development program for early‐ and mid‐career faculty members that crosses specialties and institutions. This study sought to evaluate the outcomes among three years of participants. Methods This cross‐sectional survey study evaluated post‐course and one‐year outcomes from three graduated classes of the ALiEM Faculty Incubator program. The program evaluation survey was designed to collect outcomes across multiple Kirkpatrick levels using pre/post‐surveys and tracking of abstracts, publications, speaking opportunities, new leadership positions, and new curricula. Results Over three years, 89 clinician educators participated in the program. Of those, 59 (66%) completed the initial survey and 33 (37%) completed the one‐year survey. Participants reported a significant increase in knowledge (4.1/9.0 vs 7.0/9.0). The number of abstracts, publications, and invited presentations significantly increased after course completion and continued post‐course. 37/59 (62.7%) developed a new curriculum during the course and 19/33 (57.6%) developed another new curriculum after the course. 29/59 (49.2%) began a new leadership position upon course completion with 15/33 (45.5%) beginning another new leadership position one year later. Discussion The ALiEM Faculty Incubator program demonstrated an increase in perceived knowledge and documented academic productivity among early‐ and mid‐career medical educators.
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The concept of mentorship dates back to 800 BCE. There are several definitions of what a mentoring relationship is, but most involve an element of support and guidance. The mentor–mentee relationship is often unique and can last from a few days to a lifetime. Studies have shown such a relationship can be beneficial to both mentor and mentee and can have positive effects such as increased job satisfaction and an increased likelihood of success in the workplace. Finding a suitable mentor may be challenging, but networks can be helpful when searching for appropriate individuals.
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Résumé Les nouveaux outils de transmission des connaissances et des compétences chirurgicales tels que la simulation, la retransmission d’intervention, la réalité virtuelle ou la réalité augmentée offrent un renouveau du compagnonnage. Le réseau de pairs s’élargit, la diffusion des savoirs est accélérée. Chaque facette du métier de chirurgien bénéficie de ces nouvelles modalités d’enseignement : le raisonnement clinique, la réalisation des procédures techniques, la gestion du stress, la communication ou la gestion des évènements indésirables graves ou exceptionnels. Autrefois confiné au sein de l’équipe chirurgicale, le compagnonnage s’étend dans les centres de simulation qui deviennent des hôpitaux virtuels et sur internet via les réseaux sociaux. Au sein de ce compagnonnage numérique, les objectifs sont plus structurés, l’évaluation des compétences est plus standardisée, les phases d’apprentissage sont redéfinies, des contrats de formation personnalisés sont formalisés.
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Mentorship is a valuable component of the career development of junior faculty. The digital era has allowed for greater access to mentors spanning geographic barriers and time zones. This article discusses the concept of digital mentorship, as well as strategies and techniques for developing and supporting a digital mentoring relationship in the modern era.
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Background: To further evolve in an evidence-based fashion, medical education needs to develop and evaluate new practices for teaching, learning, and assessment. However, educators face barriers in designing, conducting, and publishing education research. Objective: To explore the barriers medical educators face in formulating, conducting, and publishing high-quality medical education research, and to identify strategies for overcoming them. Methods: A consensus workshop was held November 5, 2013, at the Association of American Medical Colleges annual meeting. A working group of education research experts and educators completed a preconference literature review focusing on barriers to education research. During the workshop, consensus-based and small group techniques were used to refine the broad themes into content categories. Attendees then ranked the most important barriers and strategies for overcoming them with the highest potential impact. Results: Barriers participants faced in conducting quality education research included lack of (1) expertise, (2) time, (3) funding, (4) mentorship, and (5) reward. The strategy considered most effective in overcoming these barriers involved building communities of education researchers for collaboration and networking, and advocating for education researchers' interests. Other suggestions included trying to secure increased funding opportunities, developing mentoring programs, and encouraging mechanisms to ensure protected time. Conclusions: Barriers to education research productivity clearly exist. Many appear to result from feelings of isolation that may be overcome with systemic efforts to develop and enable communities of practice across institutions. Finally, the theme of "reward" is novel and complex and may have implications for education research productivity.
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This study examined relationships between mentoring functions offered and transformational leadership as a mentor outcome and affective well-being and organizational commitment as mutual outcomes for both mentors and protégés. For this examination, we conducted a longitudinal field study by using 111 matched reports from both mentors and protégés collected at three different points in time over seven months in nine Korean companies that administered a standardized formal mentoring program. Study results showed that mentoring functions assessed at Time 2 were positively associated with mentors' and protégés' post-mentoring outcomes at Time 3 after controlling for pre-mentoring initial levels of those outcomes at Time 1. Study findings also revealed that relative effects of mentoring on the mentor and protégé outcomes differed by the types of mentoring functions. We discuss the theoretical, practical, and methodological implications from these results. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Conference Paper
Do you find it easier or more enjoyable to pursue your personal or professional goals in concert with other like-minded people? If so, a "mastermind group" might be just the resource you have been searching for. A mastermind group, as described by the renowned business author Napoleon Hill, is "The coordination of knowledge and effort of two or more people, who work toward a definite purpose, in the spirit of harmony." By gathering regularly with a like-minded set of people, one can find camaraderie, advice, differing points of view, and perhaps most importantly, accountability. The mastermind group stands in contrast to a mentor/mentee relationship because in the former, each participant stands to gain from the relationship equally. This paper will seek to explore the concept of the mastermind group through the experiences and success stories of one such group. Topics from initial formation of your group all the way through ensuring that everyone moves forward cohesively will be covered.
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Purpose: To evaluate the impact of a formal mentoring program on time to academic promotion and differences in gender-based outcomes. Methods: Comparisons of time to promotion (i) before and after implementation of a formal mentoring program and (ii) between mentored and non-mentored faculty matched for covariates. Using paired-samples t-testing and mixed repeated measures ANCOVA, we explored the effect of mentor assignment and influence of gender on time to promotion. Results: Promotional data from 1988 to 2010 for 382 faculty members appointed before 2003 were compared with 229 faculty members appointed in 2003 or later. Faculty appointed in 2003 or later were promoted 1.2 years (mean) sooner versus those appointed before 2003 (3.7 [SD = 1.7] vs. 2.5 [SD = 2], p < 0.0001). Regardless of year of appointment, mentor assignment appears to be significantly associated with a reduction in time to promotion versus non-mentored (3.4 [SD = 2.4] vs. 4.4 [SD = 2.6], p = 0.011). Gender effects were statistically insignificant. Post hoc analyses of time to promotion suggested that observed differences are not attributable to temporal effects, but rather assignment to a mentor. Conclusions: Mentoring was a powerful predictor of promotion, regardless of the year of appointment and likely benefited both genders equally. University resource allocation in support of mentoring appears to accelerate faculty advancement.
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The learning that ensued from the mentorship relationship on a mentorship program for doctoral students at a Swedish university was studied in three cases (two in social science and one in technology). The aim was: (a) to explore how doctoral students, their formal mentors and their supervisors describe their own learning, and how they perceive learning of the other individuals who are part of the developmental relationship; (b) to explore the doctoral students' learning outcomes. A total of nine semi-structured interviews were conducted. The results show variations in reciprocal learning among the participants, both within and across the cases. The students' perceived formal and/or personal aims at the outset of the mentorship program were partly achieved. However, doctoral students' task/role learning was generally emphasized, rather than personal learning. Finally, the students perceived a lack of role model learning.
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246 employees of a large company who received or did not receive mentoring completed a multi-item questionnaire investigating their work actions, personality profiles, experiences, and backgrounds. Other measures included scales for rating job satisfaction. Mentored Ss reported having more career mobility/opportunity, recognition, satisfaction, and promotions than did nonmentored Ss. Ss' organizational positions were also related to career/job experiences. High-level Ss reported having more career mobility and satisfaction than low-level Ss. In terms of sex and job level, mentoring was egalitarian in its positive effect on job/career outcomes. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
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The literature on mentorship is briefly reviewed, revealing that many studies have documented the functions that mentors provide to proteges, including vocational and psychosocial support. This study investigates the link between these functions and the career mobility outcomes of proteges. Results from a random sample of 244 manufacturing managers supports previous research on the dimensions of mentoring. Further, vocational (coaching) and psycho-social (social support) were found to be related to managers' salary level and promotions. Implications of these results for future studies of mentoring are discussed.
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This article focused on developing a conceptual framework for the mentoring process. The model is based on the premise that mentoring is not a single event in the life of a worker but rather several events with different levels of mentoring. Each level of mentoring requires a different type of mentor with different types of skills and knowledge, similar to Len Nadler's HRD training model. Therefore, people may need special training to assume the different mentor levels (i.e., Training, Education, and Development Mentors), and workers may need to be trained to recognize that such experiences and people exist to help in their career progression. Counselors can be in the forefront as far as accepting and advocating the use of the Multiple Mentor Model for this training