Monday, October 11, 2010

To Mentor or Not? Developing & Participating in Mentorship Programs

Mentorship is a tricky subject as it relies on absolute buy-in from the mentee and the mentor. The best organizations out there have formalized mentorship programs as part of onboarding, talent management and employee engagement best practices. My advice is that not everyone is a natural mentor so some formalized training & a program kick off will likely set your program up for success!

Here are some of my thoughts on mentorship:

-         Planning out a program including your vision, training & assigning mentors is key. Plan your program versus just jumping in without a clear plan and vision
-         If someone doesn't want to participate in a mentorship program, forcing them is not going to inspire them to take advantage of this great opportunity. Focus on making the opportunities available, educating your employees on the benefits and then leaving it to be a personal choice if they would like to partake
-         Assigning the right mentee to mentor is very important. Ensure that mentees have a say in their mentor. Have parameters like level differences, geographical location & work focus in assigning mentors & mentees. Find out what’s important to your employees
-         Training your mentors on how to be a mentor is important. Not everyone is a natural coach!
-         Confidentiality is key. Mentorship programs are not to glean who is unhappy in an organization but is about providing confidential coaching and being a safe sounding board to have happier employees
-         Mentors need to prompt their mentees to come to the meeting with a list of topics or a situation they want to discuss. Mentors should actively listen & ask lots of probing questions. Don’t just tell your mentees what they ‘should’ have done but work through the situation together
-         Mentoring needs to be a priority for those involved in the program. It is very easy to cancel a mentor meeting in the face of a client deadline, but what kind of message is this to your mentee about the importance of their development? Time management and prioritization is key if you are involved in a mentorship relationship

I’m a big believe in being & having mentors. Providing guidance to others builds my management and coaching skills & I honestly learn from them just as, I hope, they learn from me!   I personally have a work mentor but I also have a couple of people in my life who are my informal mentors. When I meet someone who inspires me, I talk to them about potentially playing a mentorship role in my life. I like having different points of view, different sounding boards and choose people I respect, admire and have traits/skills I hope to learn from them.  In terms of your own mentorship, grab the bull by the horns as no one is going to drive your own development but YOU!

Do you have a fabulous mentor in your life? What makes them great? Please comment below to get the dialogue on this topic started!

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