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Mentoring Matters

September 1, 2010

(Part 1 of 2)

Whether you’re a private sector human resources professional attempting to develop young talent or a non-profit executive looking to increase member engagement, the bottom line is that mentoring matters. Research shows that those being taught by the standard teaching methods of theory, demonstration, practice & feedback will actively put what they learn into practice 25% of the time; however, when coaching and mentoring are added to that mix the implementation increases to 90% (Joyce and Showers 1987). Mentoring is the key to incorporating “lessons learned” into daily practice.

Where to start? Program Planning.

As you begin to develop the frame-work for your organization’s mentor program there are several key factors you should keep in mind.

1 – Commitment. Do you have buy-in and a commitment from highest levels of your organization? The President, CEO, board members, etc., need to share the vision and participate where practical. Similar responsibility falls with both the mentor and mentee who need to pledge to be available for each other and respect the time and effort that each has invested in the program.

2 – Program goals and objectives. What specific goals do you have for: a) your organization; b) the mentors; and, c) the mentees? All three aspects need to be addressed.

3 – Measure success. How will you measure you success? The number of participants? The number of those that complete the program? The number of interactions between mentors and mentees? These and other factors should be evaluated.

4 – Training. Once objectives and measures are clearly defined you can begin to establish your training framework. Your program will not be successful if you opt to skip this step. The training need not be elaborate, but at a minimum you will need to cover some of the basics (see part 2).

5 – Timeline/duration. Nothing will scare off potential mentors more than an open-ended time commitment. We’re all time starved, so for the sake of your mentors, look at your goals for the program and set a realistic timetable for the mentoring relationship. While many mentoring relationships informally last a lifetime, a period of one to two years is realistic for most formal programs.

6 – Recruitment Strategy (mentors and mentees). An organization’s leadership is the natural bench for your mentor program. Board members, committee chairs (and members), and the like not only have expertise but are proven to be dedicated to the organization. Mentee recruitment is a little more tricky. Examine your member recruitment and retention plans and identify the best time to solicit those that may be in need of a mentor.

7 – Mentor-Mentee matching. This can be one of the toughest parts of program. Some of the key factors are geography (proximity); demographics (race, gender, ethnicity); areas of expertise/practice type; etc. Be willing to accept that some of your matches may not work and have a list of backups should you need to reassign a mentee.

8 – Recognition. Your mentors have willingly made one more commitment to their already busy calendars. Establish methods to recognize your volunteer mentors. Similarly, consider a certificate or some type of recognition for mentees, as they are your organization’s future leaders.

9 – Schedule “Meet Up” events for mentors and mentees. Since many associations have members that are scattered around a state, region or nation, much of the mentoring relationship will occur over the phone. Consider providing networking opportunities at your events. A small investment in a “coffee corner” or some other function will pay big dividends in the long run.

(The next installment will address some of the factors to be considered when training mentors as well as some links to mentoring resources.)

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. September 3, 2010 9:13 am

    Welcome John to the association blogger community! This is a good topic to start with. Many of the local associations at my old federation tried to get mentoring off the ground but never could get it rolling. Looking back, I think they didn’t use the right “What’s In It for Me” marketing for both mentors and mentees. I’m sure there would have been a lot of interest, but both sides need to be pushed over the edge into action. Also, there wasn’t an exciting and enticing launch. I wonder if a well-marketed hosted reception (sponsored) for both prospective mentors and mentees would have helped in breaking the ice and developing partnerships.

  2. tony carvajal permalink
    September 3, 2010 9:15 am

    Good start. Onward! Looking forward to more from your cortex

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