It’s quite clear that mentoring delivers lasting benefits to people and organisations. We know it increases talent retention, builds workplace satisfaction, and leads to personal and professional growth.
For people and organisations who have never formally experienced mentoring programs, it can be difficult to know where to start.
Developing a formal mentoring program.
While you could leave the mentoring process to develop naturally, it’s unlikely that many people will take it up. Instead, a formally designed and introduced program will be much more attractive to both mentors and mentees.
I have written on this topic and outlined the step-by-step process HR experts can follow to develop a mentoring program. You can read the post here. When you’re starting from scratch, it’s critical to invest time into developing the structure behind the program. How much of your program will be formal or informal and how will you track it?
The second important element is designing a marketing strategy for the program. It’s new and unknown. It will need solid messaging across the organisation to encourage people to consider joining it as a mentor or mentee.
Could you be a mentor?
Becoming a mentor is a personal choice and you can mentor someone even without a formal organisational program. But let me add a word of warning here. Don’t become a mentor unless you can commit to it. You are building a relationship and promising to guide someone towards their goal by sharing your experience, advice, and opinions. Can you do that?
There are a couple of ways to become a mentor if your organisation doesn’t have a formal program on offer.
Ask an inexperienced team member if they’d like to form a mentoring partnership with you. For this to work, approach someone you know reasonably well and whom you might already have offered some unofficial guidance. With the relationship already established, you can focus on developing a career vision and goals with your mentee. From there, you will be able to agree on some developmental milestones and plan how to achieve them.
If you want to gain experience as a mentor, you can also look outside your organisation. This role is likely to focus on personal development rather than professional, but the needs of each person will be different. There are a number of formal mentoring organisations you can join, and which will offer training to skill you up. Once you are confident in your mentoring skills, you might then be comfortable enough to offer yourself as a mentor in the workplace.
How might you find a mentor?
Approaching someone you admire and asking to be mentored is a daunting concept. Before you do that, you’ll need to be clear on what you want and why that person is right for the role. Or better still, I would encourage you to ask yourself these questions before setting your sights on a certain mentor! Your answers should inform your decision as to who should be your mentor.
- What are your goals?
- What do you want to learn from your mentor?
- Are you willing to work on personal and professional development?
- What experience does your chosen mentor have that you want to tap into?
- How comfortable will you feel with this person as a mentor?
- Have you considered others in your network when searching for possible mentors?
When you ask for the mentor relationship, you’re asking for quite a commitment from the person towards your development. It’s an unpaid role, so you’ll need to sell yourself to show you’re worth the investment of their time and energy.
- What is your intention?
- What are your goals?
- What do you need?
- What do you want from the person?
- Why have you chosen the person – what do you think they have that you need to tap into?
- What are you prepared to invest in the relationship? (Time, energy etc)
- How will you repay this investment? (e.g., mentoring others as you were mentored.)
While a formal mentoring program will bring outstanding rewards to the company, don’t overlook the power of informal mentoring, too. Start talking about mentoring and mentoring programs and help them become a natural part of your company conversations. Mentors and mentees will show themselves as they hear about the possibilities.
Which role are you best suited for? Mentor? Mentee? Or perhaps, a partner in developing and implementing a mentorship program in your workplace? Most likely, you’re a combination of all three roles.
If you want help to create and implement a mentorship program, contact Linda to coach you through it. If you’re a mentor or mentee, Athena’s online program will show you how to identify what’s important to you and how to align your career plans to match.