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Mentoring: Remind me – why are we doing this?


I just returned from a great few days in San Jose. While there I had an opportunity to work with some people who wanted to refresh a mentoring programme that wasn't getting the results. The more we looked at it, the clearer it became that the reason the programme wasn't 'getting the results' was because the mentoring programme had no clear goals to start with!

It's hard to 'get results' if no-one knows what the results should be...(As my mother used to say: 'If you aim at nothing, you'll hit it.' Typically Irish - it's not really meant to make sense, but it does...).

How do you make sure your programme 'gets results'?

  1. Make Sure You Know Your Mentoring Or Coaching Programme's primary function. There are 16 potential primary functions your programme could have - choose which one (or two, at most) applies to your programme:

    1. Setting objectives for a recruitment-based programme
    2. Retention
    3. Learning curve
    4. Dealing with major organisational change
    5. Bridging competency gaps
    6. Converting training to results
    7. To encourage personal individual growth
    8. To facilitate internal hiring and transfers
    9. To accelerate the development of high performers
    10. To increase the representation of minority interests
    11. To help low performers improve
    12. The development of management
    13. To provide succession and for the development of emerging leaders
    14. For new employees
    15. To help re-vitalize mid-career executives
    16. To assist employees obtain formal qualifications

  2. Set Clear, Quantifiable Objective For Your Programme

    By setting quantifiable objectives, you will end up with very clear, identifiable and above all, realistically achievable goals for your programme. Relate all of your objectives to the programme's primary function and to a realistic time frame. Added bonus: by doing this, you will be able to prove the validity of your mentoring or coaching programme should one of the 'powers-that-be' threaten to pull your programme and its budget.

  3. Tell The Mentor And The Proteges

    One of the 'Duh...!' moments we had in San Jose was working out how best to communicate the programme's goals to the mentors and the protégés. Many companies don't even consider this step - the programme is designed and implemented without sitting down with the mentors and protégés and clearly explaining:

    'This programme is aimed at increasing employee retention from x% to y% over a three year period - we're doing this to keep you here.' Or:

    'This programme is designed to increase the percentage of jobs we can fill by internal hiring from c% to d% over 18 months. We're doing this to broaden your skill set, so we can offer you a broader range of career options within the company.'

    (Or whatever specific objective you've set.)

    Think about can the programme participants help you achieve your programme goals - if they don't know what they are?

  4. Ask The Line Managers

    The people best placed to tell you if your mentoring or coaching programme is working are the line managers of those involved in the programme...not the mentors, or the protégés (although their views are invaluable in other respects), and not, you'll be pleased to know, you (the programme co-ordinator is too close to the programme to give a wholly independent assessment). Give your line managers the written objectives of your programme (as arrived at above), and agree a simple mechanism by which THEY will monitor and report on the programme's success in achieving its objectives. Make it simple to ensure their involvement.

The author of this article is J. Leslie McKeown, President & CEO of Yellowbrick, who provide employee development solutions for organisations of all sizes, particularly in the areas of retention, induction and mentoring and coaching. In addition to being the author of 'The Complete Guide to Induction and Re-Induction', 'The Complete Guide to Mentoring and Coaching', and the 'Deliver The Promise Retention MasterClass', Les travels widely, speaking and consulting on issues of employee development and corporate strategy.

Previous articles: Mentoring - Your managers don't buy it?
Mentoring and coaching: What about the person being mentored?
Mentoring: Steering or drowning?


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