Defining Your Mentoring Program

Part 2 of a who-knows-how-long series of my working through the process of creating a peer mentoring program at my company. This started off from a brainstorm I had with the leadership skills group I facilitate where the lack of support for new managers came up as a rather large stumbling block we’d all encountered. I started off with the idea and a basic process flow before deciding to take a step back and more thoroughly research what is needed and what we have prior to jumping in and creating a formal proposal. These are the four questions I feel are key to answer and fully understand before you continue on.  

How do you go about providing a baseline of how the company wants manager’s to act or more importantly – What is our culture? What are our expectations?

I started with the base competencies we use in our review system for all employees, commitment, community, flexibility, inclusivity, innovative, integrity and results driven. I then added in a block of competencies related directly to managers; people management, planning, leadership and developing people. That gives you a pretty clear picture of the minimum requirements of your position based on something concrete – the expectations of performance.

Then I thought of all of the initiatives we have either in progress or being discussed, things like managing meetings and projects better, Agile, change management, product development, emotional intelligence. If we’re already stretching folks to learn/meet those then we should also have them on the list.

Once that was out there I began looking at matching those competencies and initiatives up with available training courses and our self-study program. Which leads me right into the next question.

Are there tools already in place that the company can leverage? What training are we providing?

To me two fold – tools and monitoring. We have a couple of different training options available here including an online self-study program that contains classes on a wide variety of topics.  We could, relative easily, set up a succession of training requirements or stages that every individual in the program should complete.

Another tool at our disposal is our review system which includes a nice development plan module where you can set goals and include all of the pieces needed to reach a goal and track progress.

Who should be involved? Is everyone at the same level automatically included? Do we set criteria for mentors and mentees?

This is more complicated and I’ve been around and around on this one. I think from a pilot perspective a mentee should be someone who has been in a management/leadership position for less than a year and the mentors should be at least at the mid-manager level and in their position for more than five. We should start small with some handpicked mentees and mentors who are able to provide feedback and can commit to 6-9 months of monitoring. From there I’m open to seeing what works best.

What obstacles exist that prevent these things from existing now?

The biggest obstacle may turn out to be that our +5 year manager pool may not have the abilities/skills we’d expect them to develop in their mentees, that they may in fact need to be trained pretty extensively on the differences between coaching and mentoring.

There isn’t a formal group that we could logically assign the responsibility for running the program, provide training and oversight. The biggest complication with organic leadership is you have to be willing to assume some level of ownership at least through the pilot stages.

When I think of proposing this formally I naturally go to the 5 Why’s, there really isn’t a glaringly obvious issue (attrition) or bottom line impacting problem (cost of turnover) to address with a program like this. And along with that there is a lack of knowledge on the benefits beyond it’s a nice to have thing. We don’t have a program like this for those very reasons, we don’t have a compelling problem therefore it’s not a solution to anything directly – but indirectly is a different story.

Next Steps

I feel that I’m not knowledgeable enough to articulate the benefits here and certainly don’t want to be in the position of having my compelling argument be along the lines of making folks happier at work. To go deeper into that area I’ve signed up for two webinars on creating mentoring programs that are geared towards success criteria and monitoring to close that gap somewhat. I’m hoping those will give me some background or at least point me in the right direction.

Since I just recently finished facilitating a leadership skills series on Leading Change by John Kotter, I’ll use the eight stage process he outlines as my guide for creating a proposal. I’ll start with Establishing Urgency and Guiding Collations first.

I also need to check in with our parent company to see where they may have things on the horizon I could leverage. It’s been close to six months since my last conversation with them, it’s time.





Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: