By Sharon A. Cusanza, MSN, RN, NEA-BC
NKC Consultant and Educator
In the Magnet® Manual, Transformational Leadership (TL) has sources of evidence related to mentoring and succession planning associated with specific levels of nursing: clinical nurse, nurse manager, nurse leader (see the specific definition in the manual) and chief nursing officer (even the CNO should have a mentor and a succession plan for his/her replacement). There seems to be a great deal of confusion between these two concepts and the types of programs that organizations should have in place.
Mentorship: In my experience, a mentor is a wise, trusted, influential counselor, teacher or supporter. A mentor may be a peer (rather than a manager) and may or may not be an employee of the same organization. A mentored relationship is a one-to-one relationship that spans over many years (usually at least two). A mentor assists a less experienced nurse to develop and meet his or her career goals by providing resources, learning opportunities, and ideas to improve performance, as well as helping to identify strengths and weaknesses, and evaluating successes and failures. Mentoring is essential for the career development and establishment of new nurses and the transfer of years of wisdom and expertise of mature, experienced nurses.
Succession Planning: In contrast, succession planning does not involve a long-term, one-to-one relationship. It is the process of identifying and developing key internal personnel to fill leadership positions when leaders are promoted or leave the organization. A leader is usually working with a few key candidates for succession planning in various states of readiness (from advanced beginner to expert). Succession planning activities may include coaching, providing resources and learning opportunities specifically related to preparation for promotion. It could also involve shadowing in various areas or transfers to different departments.
Confusion between the two activities arises because some of the processes are similar. Both are assisting a protégé to advance their career, providing resources and learning opportunities, and providing feedback to improve performance. The differences arise in the goals for the outcome and the relationship between the two. Mentoring involves a long-term relationship that is usually viewed as informal for the goal of career progression from novice to expert despite the position or organization. The goal of succession planning is promotion to a higher-level position within a specific organization. The process is usually considered to be formal but the relationship is not dependent on the timing or closeness.
With these similarities and differences in mind, one of the most cited deficiencies for these standards is lack of evidence for these activities. Here are some suggestions to overcome the lack of documentation:
Effective mentoring and succession planning programs can be a source of great stories. For assistance with these types of programs or with other Magnet related components, please contact the ANA NKC consultants.
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