Mentoring has been around for a very long time. Many people have benefited from a mentor. Steve Jobs mentored Mark Zuckerberg, Christian Dior mentored Yves Saint-Laurent, Warren Buffett mentored Bill Gates, Steven Spielberg mentored J.J. Abrams, Socrates mentored Plato who mentored Aristotle, Audrey Hepburn mentored Elizabeth Taylor… The list is long! A quick look at the mentees is enough to prove the benefit of such a relationship.
In our world, in order to thrive, it is crucial to be constantly learning not only through training but also with new experiences and interactions. Having a mentor is therefore one of the solutions that comes up. It is cheap, does not require a lot of logistics and organisations have the resources available. However, the impact can be bigger if a structured mentoring program is launched on a larger scale with specific goals (e.g. accelerate the development of women leaders).
In this article, I explain what a mentoring program is, the different roles in the process, the benefits and the different steps to launch it.
What is mentoring?
Mentoring is a two-way learning process through which a mentor will assist and guide a mentee in achieving professional and personal growth. Typically, the duration of a mentor-mentee relationship is around 12 months but it can be extended with new goals. On the other hand, it makes sense to end it earlier if it doesn’t work.
Ask the best leaders in any organisation how they learned to be successful, and you often hear the same answer: they had a MENTOR. In our career development, very often, we need someone to speak to for advice and guidance on the important things helping us to move forward.
A mentoring program helps build the connections between those who are willing to help others to grow and those who need help on their growth. It is often one of the most personally rewarding and satisfying experiences in one’s career.
Mentors and mentees can both achieve new levels of self-discovery, shift of paradigm, professional and personal learning and growth.
What are the roles of the mentor and the mentee?
Mentor is a unique combination of coaching, training and counselling / consulting to help the mentee learn and grow both personally and professionally. He/she can act as a trainer meaning transferring knowledge. Sometimes a mentor will be like a consultant or a counsellor helping mentee in job transitions and providing guidance to achieve career goals. He/she will highlight what skills or knowledge are needed for the next step. Mentor shares own experiences and expertise and may advise different options for mentee to choose. Sometimes he/she will be like a coach, asking open-ended questions to help mentee explore different possibilities and new perspectives.
Mentee, on the other side, owns the mentoring relationship, leads the mentoring process. He/she defines development needs, sets development goals and engages mentor.
Who can benefit from a mentoring program?
First of all, and the most obvious, having a mentor is beneficial for the mentees. It helps build relationships and networking with leaders from other parts of the organisation and better understand the behaviours demonstrated by successful leaders. They broaden their knowledge and skills, and shape their thoughts from different perspectives. They gain insights into their professional and personal learning and development that can potentially lead to career advancement.
As it is a two-way learning process, mentors get to develop key leadership skills: ability to motivate, encourage and develop others, role model positive attitude, communication, emotional intelligence…
Last but not least, the organisation can also benefit from a mentoring program by enhancing employee engagement: better attraction and retention of talent, develop the workforce, reduced learning curve / quicker assimilation of employees newly appointed to a role or newly hired, enhance Diversity & Inclusion initiatives.
How can I help you?
It is basically possible to simply take a group of people seeking to be mentored and a group of people who volunteered to share their knowledge and experience. You just need to match them right? There is a better way. A more organised way that will provide mentees and mentors with tools and tips to build foundations of a strong and efficient relationship. I can help you to set up a successful mentoring program.
Once you identify participants to the program, we will ask them to fill in a card with their details and motivation. This is a first step for them to reflect on their achievements and goals.
Then I deliver a webinar for all mentees, typically one hour. The goal here is to clarify their role and what is expected from them. The key message is that mentees own this relationship.
In the meantime we gather all mentors in a 3-hour workshop to discuss, reflect on their goals and style.
Then comes the matching event where you will create the pairs. It can take many different forms depending mainly on the size of the group. If you have 10 mentees and 10 mentors, you might consider doing a manual matching yourself. If the number of participants is much higher that could be a nightmare. From my experience, what works well is speed dating. You might need to pre-match the participants to a smaller group if needed. The mentees will have a short discussion with different mentors (around 5 minutes). It is a great exercise because they need to introduce themselves in a short time, no boring introduction but they have to master their elevator pitch. I could see that, although people are pushed out of their comfort zone, they usually enjoy the exercise. After the session, they will send you their preference (top 3 or top 5) so that you can create the pairs.
Check-in sessions can be scheduled on a quarterly basis to allow participants to share their experience and challenges.
By launching a structured mentoring program, you are not only pairing people, you make sure that they have the tools to be successful, you are pushing them to reflect on their goals and you make them owners of their development.