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Mentoring Guidelines for newly appointed Academic Staff

The School has in place two approaches to structuring career development conversations between academics:

  • A Mentoring Scheme for new academics, particularly those appointed pre-Interim / Major Review. This provision is for new career track posts, temporary lecturers and LSE Fellows. For more senior academics joining the LSE (from Senior Lecturer and above), departments may wish to make similar arrangements initially in order that the new member of staff has a quick source of advice on acclimatising to the organisation. However, this is likely to be a much less intensive mentoring arrangement, and more short-lived than that expected for less experienced newcomers.
  • An Academic Career Development Scheme which is designed for all academic staff throughout their LSE career. This involves regular meetings with a senior colleague (annual meetings for the period from arrival to five years post-Major Review or to promotion, whichever happens soonest; every two years thereafter for staff below the professorial level and every three years for the professoriate). Full details of the Academic Career Development scheme can be found here on the Human Resources website.

Both aim to give academic staff guidance on how to make most effective use of their career within LSE both for their own development and to ensure their contribution to the School as a whole. There is separate provision for staff on research contracts for both mentoring and career development support (see: Research Staff Career and Professional Development Support section on the TLC website|).


The Promotions Committee expects that all academics (and particularly those in the early stages of an academic career at the School), should receive constructive advice on career development from senior academic colleagues. In this context, for those staff appointed subject to Interim and/or Major Review, the role of the Mentor is considered to be of vital significance. New lecturers are also offered a programme of induction activities run by the Teaching and Learning Centre. Heads of Department are reminded that newly-appointed Readers and Professors from outside the School might also benefit from having a Mentor.

All career-track lecturers (and temporary lecturers, regardless of the length of contract) should be assigned a mentor by their Head of Department. The mentor will normally be a senior member of academic staff within the mentee's Department. Exceptionally a colleague from outside the Department may act as a mentor (for example if they are closest to the mentee’s research interests), by approval of the VCAC. The mentor will assume responsibility for regularly discussing the lecturer's progress towards satisfying School requirements for a successful Interim/Major Review. Lecturers are advised to consult the School's criteria for Interim/Major Review, which are available for information on the Human Resources website.

No later than September of each year the Head of Department will allocate a mentor for each new lecturer appointed and due to take up post in the School that session. Each Head of Department will supply a list of allocated mentors to Human Resources for report to the Promotions Committee at its first meeting of each session. Heads of Department should consult with the Mentor and the “mentee” prior to supplying their details to Human Resources. The allocation of mentors in no way lessens the Head of Department's responsibility for informing lecturers about any problems likely to be encountered at Interim/Major Review.

NB: Staff on any form of academic leave should not be appointed as mentors.

The substance of the mentoring relationship

The mentoring relationship is one that should be maintained over a number of years, certainly up to Major Review, as the new member of staff becomes established in the department. Mentors are expected to arrange at least one meeting per term with the new member of staff.

The role of the mentor is three-fold:

  •  to assist the new member of staff in developing a good understanding of the expectations placed upon them as academics within the department and the School;
  •  to provide a listening ear and informal guidance to the new member of staff, such that they can work out how to address any challenges they face in their work situation;
  •  to act as an advocate for the new member of staff (e.g. if their workload allocation appears over-extended, or if they face difficulties with other colleagues in the department).

In terms of developing an understanding of departmental expectations, likely areas to be addressed may include:

  •  Research performance, with particular consideration of the individual's research trajectory, publication record and guidance on where to publish, contribution to the Research Excellence Framework, involvement in grant funding applications and engagement more broadly in the research community in the School, as well as nationally and internationally in the discipline.
  •  Teaching contribution, teaching quality and teaching innovation (be that curricular or teaching process innovation), and feedback from teaching surveys.
  •  PhD supervision (note: new staff pre-Major review should not be expected to take on a primary supervisor role for research students, but should have the opportunity to develop their supervisory skills as second supervisor).
  •  Research and teaching administrative arrangements and contributions.
  •  Wider contribution to the academic community life of the School, collegiality and good citizenship.
  •  Potential for contribution to the School’s external activities (e.g. Enterprise LSE, Summer School, international institutional links).
  •  Training and development needs.

When the mentor is providing a listening ear/acting as advocate, possible issues that may arise could include:

  •  Achieving appropriate balance between the different elements of the academic role.
  •  Issues arising from writing/research approach/analysis/dealing with journals and publishers etc.
  •  Reading and commenting on draft papers/chapters and offering guidance on publication outlets
  •  Challenges from teaching.
  •  Upset arising from and ideas on constructive response to challenging feedback from students or colleagues.
  •  Addressing issues related to diversity of all kinds with students and colleagues.
  •  Managing administrative load.
  •  Work/life balance.
  •  Adapting to LSE/London/UK.

In some cases, it may be appropriate for the mentor to advise the new colleague to discuss detailed matters with other colleagues in the department (e.g. Head of Department, REF coordinator; Chair of the Departmental Research Committee, Departmental Tutor, Doctoral Programme Director, MSc programme directors, Departmental Manager etc) and/or to contact colleagues elsewhere in the School (e.g. Teaching and Learning Centre, Research Division, External Relations Division, Enterprise LSE).

To some extent, the mentor relationship has similarities to coaching. It is important that the relationship is kept professional. It is also important for both parties to ensure that they do not over-reach reasonable bounds in terms of professional expertise and for the mentor where necessary to seek guidance/advice from others (e.g. if concerned about the new staff member's health/well-being). Note that there is a staff counselling service|, that all departments have HR Partners| from whom staff can seek advice should it be necessary (e.g. for guidance related to disability, flexible working, caring responsibilities), and that many academic staff are members of the Universities and Colleges Union (UCU)|. The TLC Director can also assist both/either mentor/mentee as appropriate (email: l.barnett@lse.ac.uk|).

Selecting a mentor

To gain from mentoring, new staff should be receptive to the advice and encouragement that the mentor can offer. Therefore the relationship must be a positive and trusting one. Studies of mentoring have indicated the following as some of the key characteristics of good mentors: interested; good listeners; supportive; perceptive; self-aware; credible; authoritative; patient; supportive; able to be detached. Heads of Departments will need to be mindful of these characteristics when allocating new mentors.

Any matters discussed between the mentor and mentee should remain confidential unless by mutual agreement third parties are consulted. However, the new lecturer may, without reference to the mentor, consult with the Head of Department if s/he feels the relationship is not a productive one. In this case, the Head of Department must seek to assign a different mentor if possible, although it is not expected that for any one individual this change will be necessary more than once.

What the mentor is NOT responsible for

The mentor is very much a ‘guide on the side’. It is not his/her role to ‘line manage’ the new member of staff, and the mentor is not responsible for the new member of staff's career success within the School. In particular, mentors cannot make commitments to the mentee on behalf of the Department regarding the mentee’s career progression i.e. they cannot say, for example, if you publish this by this time you will pass Major Review/be put forward for a Promotion by the Department. Equally, it is up to the new member of staff to decide what s/he does with any advice proffered.

The role of documentary materials in the mentoring relationship

There are no written requirements related to mentoring, or any necessity for the mentor or new staff member to share documents. However, if both are agreeable and have time, there may be benefits from sharing:

  •  Research papers (including reviewer feedback and how this is handled)
  •  A brief email log of matters discussed.

This can productively be a two-way exchange rather than simply one from the new member of staff to the mentor.

Mentoring skills

Effective mentoring is about building a supportive relationship based on listening, mutual respect and trust. It requires skills and sensitivity on both sides. The mentor can build this relationship through:

  •  Establishing initial expectations on both sides.
  •  Being available at times agreed.
  •  Listening.
  •  Being open to answering questions.
  •  Drawing on experience and offering models – be it in research or teaching (e.g. encourage the new member of staff to come to observe you teach, see your materials, read your articles, share your reviewer feedback etc before asking to see theirs).
  •  Offering insight.
  •  Being willing to question and challenge the mentee to reflect on their work.
  •  Sharing networks/contacts.
  •  Being willing to give both positive encouragement and critical constructive feedback.
  •  Seeking/giving feedback on the mentoring relationship – and agreeing when this relationship comes to an end.

The new member of staff also needs to work at this relationship through:

  •  Indicating what you expect from the mentoring relationship.
  •  Being available at times agreed.
  •  Coming with questions/ideas/things to explore and discuss.
  •  Having ideas on objectives and ways forward.
  •  Listening.
  •  Being ready to adapt – both yourself and the ideas you gain from your mentor.
  •  Being willing to accept both positive encouragement and critical constructive feedback.
  •  Giving/seeking feedback on the mentoring relationship – and agreeing when this relationship comes to an end.

If any mentor is interested in training in mentoring/coaching or if any new staff would like further ideas about how to make the best of the mentoring relationship, it is recommended first that you take a look at the on-line People Management Toolkit available via the HR website (note that you will need to log in, using your usual LSE login and may need to click several times to access the site). See in particular the sub-section on Managing People and Teams which includes a section on coaching and mentoring. The audio by Clutterbuck and model of personal reflective space may be of interest, and there are examples of a checklist for an initial meeting, as well as a framework for reviewing how the mentoring relationship is working.

If you are interested in further guidance/training/support on how to improve your mentoring relationship, you are welcome to contact Liz Barnett (Director, TLC) in the first instance (l.barnett@lse.ac.uk|).

Teaching and Learning Centre

28 February 2013