by Susan Bender Phelps, Featured Contributor
[su_dropcap style=”flat”]S[/su_dropcap]UCCESSFUL PROFESSIONAL MENTORING programs make your people more productive and more profitable. Recently I wrote about five key strategies you can use to strengthen your mentoring program:
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- Question – What do you want to accomplish with your mentoring program?
- Perform A Needs Assessment – What organizational and individual needs will it address?
- Teach Mentoring/Communication Skills – Mentoring skills don’t always come naturally. Teach them how so they can do it well.
- Match Your Mentoring Partners With Care – Interests, schedules, experience and the willingness to participate will help you put the right partners together.
- Support Your People & Your Program – Mentoring partners thrive best when they have a support structure to keep them on track.[/message]
My friend, Marcy Maslov, CEO/Inventor of e-Factor!® Role-Playing Business Ethics Simulator, loved the article and shared this, “One more strategy you might want to consider – build and maintain trust. One of the biggest reasons I’ve found that mentoring (and coaching, for that matter) fails is because there’s a lack of trust.”
I couldn’t agree more. If mentors and mentees don’t trust each other, we have a recipe for failure. Lack of trust occurs when mentoring partners don’t keep their agreements with each other: missing appointments to meet or talk on the phone, not reporting results, missing deadlines, sharing confidential information about your mentoring partner without their permission, and being unwilling to accept coaching or advice. Another factor that destroys trust is being matched with someone you simply can’t work with. Any or all of these conditions will break or chip away at the trust between mentoring partners, coaches and clients, even bosses and direct reports. Once trust is broken, it’s a long pot-hole filled road back to it. Solid training at the beginning will make a big difference in establishing trust.
The structure and intent of the program can also negatively or positively impact trust. For example, in quite a few programs I’ve seen, the mentees believe they were invited to participate because someone in management thinks mentoring is a good way to correct performance problems, or check-off that diversity initiative goal so you can say you have a mentoring program in place.
In both cases, there is little or no emphasis on developing people for promotion or tangible advancement in the company. When this is true mentees feel they are being pressured to accept mentoring and mentors feel as if they are being saddled with extra work. Whether it’s true or not, mentors believe that every word they speak to their mentor will be reported up the line, another recipe for failure.
That is why, when I work with a client organization to help them design a strong mentoring program or strengthen an existing one, the first five strategies are so important. Using them creates the framework for trust and tangible benefits for mentees, mentors, and your organization.
If your program has 100 or more participants, we recommend mentoring software you can use to facilitate matching, track how often mentoring partners meet, and give program managers a way to keep their pulse on things so he or she can intervene when support is needed. The software gives mentoring partners a private and separate environment in which to communicate, rather than the company email which is not confidential. This makes it easier to share sensitive information or a difficult problem. The software site becomes a one-stop for everything related to your mentoring program including articles of interest to your mentoring partners, easy reference to goals and objectives of the program, notices of any changes affecting the program, tools to assist in goal setting and evaluating progress and more.
These strategies and tools contribute to the overall trust your people will have in your mentoring program and your company.