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2021 Workshop: Mentoring and Being Mentored - Presented by Patty Saponaro

By: Tammy McCausland

Patty Saponaro, Associate Chair for Administration at UNC Radiation Oncology, presented on mentoring and being mentored.

The leader’s role is to be curious, to keep learning, and to teach others, she said. You have to start with the work (what work needs to be done) and knowing what you have to offer and what the person wants. In doing so, you’re asking the person to be self-reflective about why they’re seeking mentorship.

Skills and traits can be seen and developed in a mentoring relationship. Mentorship can be task-specific, ongoing or for succession planning. The mentor is teaching while they’re doing, she said.

Saponaro said the person being mentored takes the lead: what do they need/want; and what is their worksite, role, and experience. She recommends creating a charter that includes how often to meet; setting aims/goals and how to know they’ve been met; and creating a confidential, safe space. The mentor should also ask for feedback from the mentee.

The mentor has the opportunity to draw the connections between the mentee and the organization. In radiation oncology, achieving a customer focus is key.

She suggested a good question to use: “What would it look like . . .?” (if you were happy as an employee, a leader, etc.). This question can help guide the mentoring relationship.

Saponaro highlighted the presence of informal mentorship opportunities within professional associations (e.g., SROA). Informal mentorships can benefit from an informal charter. We often need something specific, she said: HR, budgeting, strategic planning, linac replacement/construction project, staffing ratios, etc. Informal mentoring allows for more targeted help.

You have to know something well in order to teach it, Saponaro said. The better you know it, the more you can teach it.

Saponaro highlighted the benefits of mentoring to all parties:

  • Succession planning, which means influencing the future
  • Facilitating mindsets: ongoing improvement, learning, systems thinking, and good decision-making
  • Ongoing relationship, which means help for urgent/timely situations
  • Time to reflect: what I’ve learned from those I’ve mentored

She referenced several books:

How has mentorship helped you in your career?

We would love to hear your experiences.

Share your thoughts here, or login to SROA Connect and join the conversation. If you are not a member of SROA yet, learn more about joining the radiation oncology association serving the niche profession of Radiation Oncology Administrator.

Related Content:

Insights on Leadership: Service, Stewardship, Spirit and Servant Leadership
Fourth Generation Management: The New Business Consciousness
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
Why Decisions Fail
Crucial Conversations
Systems Thinking Basics


SROA Blogs
Society For Radiation Oncology Administrators (SROA)
2021 SROA Annual Meeting


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