Opportunity for learning

A. L. Ravikanth
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The importance of mentoring, the various kinds of mentorship and the benefits that the mentees stand to gain from such a relationship formed the core of the article, How mentors can help retain company talent, last week. This week we will look at the programs of mentorship and how the framework can be developed.

Formal mentoring programs offer employees the opportunity to participate in an organised mentoring program. Participants join as a mentor, mentee or both by completing a mentoring profile. Mentoring profiles are completed as written forms. Mentees are matched with a mentor by a program administrator or a mentoring committee, or may self-select a mentor depending on the program format.

Informal mentoring takes places in organisations that develop a culture of mentoring but do not have formal mentoring in place. These companies may provide some tools and resources and encourage managers to accept mentoring requests from more junior members of the organisation.

Mentoring objectives

The objectives of mentoring can be summarised as the following — be an inspiring and competent mentor; understand the power and positive consequences of mentoring; develop mutually beneficial expectations and objectives; understand mentee needs and how to address them; determine responsibilities and guidelines; hold productive discussions with mentees; deal with mentoring challenges in the organisation; use effective communication and listening skills to build rapport; use questioning skill for uncovering needs and feedback skills for objective assessment; and instituting a mentoring process into the organisation.

If your organisation truly believes in using ‘mentoring’ as a strategic tool to harness available potential, here is a methodology that will enable you to get started. The process involves six key steps.

The first step involves developing the mentoring framework, which involves — defining purpose, what and why of mentoring; defining the benefits for the mentor and mentee; developing the mentoring process framework; identifying the role of a mentor/mentee and benefits for them; developing criteria for identifying mentors and mentees; developing timelines for review, monitoring and evaluation; developing formats to be adopted for the mentoring process; drafting the mentoring agreement; and designating one member of core team as the ‘mentoring program manager’ (MPM) — a one-point contact for all information dissemination.

The second step entails indentifying mentors and mentees keeping in mind the criteria laid down and after discussing and getting their consensus for participation in the mentoring process.

In my own experience, I have found that persons with a high EQ or Emotional Quotient tend to make better mentors. It is, therefore, strongly recommended that ‘Emotional Intelligence Appraisal’ is done to assess their EQ, as one of the pre-requisites for choosing mentors.

Pairing of mentors and mentees

Key to the program is ‘good chemistry’ in the mentoring pairs, and pairing them right is the third crucial step. Both the mentor or the mentee should be encouraged to speak to the ‘mentoring program manager’ as early as possible if they do not feel their pairing will work for them.

Mentees are matched with mentors by a designated mentoring committee or mentoring administrator usually consisting of senior members of the training, learning and development and human resources departments. The matching committee reviews the mentoring profiles and makes matches based on areas for development, mentor strengths, overall experience, skill set, location and objectives for the mentorship. Mentoring technology can be used to facilitate matches, allowing mentees to search and select a mentor based on their own development needs and interests. This mentee-driven methodology increases the speed with which matches are created and reduces the amount of administrative time required to manage the program. The quality of matches increases as well with self-match programs because the greater the involvement of the mentee in the selection of their mentor, the better the outcome of the mentorship. There are a variety of online mentoring technology programs available that can be utilised to facilitate this mentee-driven matching process.

Program designs for mentors and mentees forms the fourth step — designing the mentoring skills program: two days and designing the mentoring orientation program: one day. To ensure successful implementation of the mentoring process, it is imperative that mentors go through a skills program that enhances their communication, listening, questioning, trust building, understanding empathy, Motivation, feedback and facilitating insight.

It is also necessary that mentees go through an orientation program on the mentoring process of the company and the specific benefits for them. This enables a good understanding of the process to be followed between the mentor and the mentee.

Step five is the evaluation for mentors and mentees. Mentor-mentee pairs are encouraged to complete their ‘quarterly/mid-year partnership review’. Mentors make presentations on their mentees, while mentees provide feedback on their mentors to MPM. Further, year-end partnership evaluations and program evaluations, followed by certification of mentors will be done.

Mentoring process manual

Developing a ‘Mentoring Process Manual’ for all future use by mentors within the company is the last, and the sixth step.

Few bonds in life are more influential than those between a young person and an adult. This bond is amplified in the three words — trust, transform and transcend. As you begin your journey toward becoming a mentor, you will need to thoroughly understand the role of mentoring. Look at a role you are already familiar with. Most of us have had a supervisor, a boss or coach who has made a positive difference in our lives. Those people wore many hats. They acted as delegators, role models, cheerleaders, policy enforcers, advocates, and friends. As a mentor you will wear these same hats.

Mentors understand the need to assume a number of different roles during the course of a mentoring relationship, but successful mentors also share the same basic qualities — the passion to teach; a sincere desire to be involved with a young person; respect for young people; active listener; showing empathy; seek solutions and identify opportunities; motivate and inspire; give and receive feedback; and be flexible and open.

As you and your mentee begin your relationship — exploring values, interests and goals — you will find yourself making a difference and having a positive effect on their life. What you may also be surprised to see is that you will be learning more about yourself, too. Mentoring doesn’t just affect the young person. Mentoring is a shared opportunity for learning and growth. Many mentors say that the rewards they gain are as substantial as those for their mentees.

Being a mentor enables them to — celebrate success and have fun; achieve personal growth, learn more about themselves; improve their self-esteem and feel they are making a difference; gain a better understanding of other cultures and develop a greater appreciation for diversity; feel more productive and have a better attitude at work; enhance their relationships with their own children; and become more mature and wiser in the long-run.

Good mentors are willing to take time to get to know their mentees, to learn new things that are important to the young person, and even to be changed by their relationship. Accept the challenges and rewards of mentoring a young person and experience the benefits that will last each of you a lifetime.


(The author is a management consultant and corporate trainer.)

(This article was published on March 7, 2013)
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