You only get out what you put in. The right mentoring process (input) is integral to the results you take away from a mentoring (the output). Mentoring is sneaky in the sense that it seems relatively soft; it appears that people would be able to figure it out on the fly or wing it, and that building an effective mentoring programs is pretty self-explanatory.
But this is not the case.
Good mentoring requires great mentoring process; process which dictates direction, cadence, and guides the mentorship to success.
Rather than focus on the what the right process looks like for just mentors, mentees, or mentoring program coordinators, we thought we’d address them all in some detail — as they are all intertwined and closely linked.
In fact, it’s interesting to see the synergies between the processes when they work in harmony, and create true mentoring magic.
Only interested in your own process? I’ll forgive you if you skip the others.
The mentoring program coordinator process
As a B2B mentoring software provider, I’ll cover the program coordinator process first — as they are the ones who are being paid to facilitate an effective mentoring program and can make or break an entire cohort of mentors and mentees by setting the right — or wrong — mentoring program process.
Step 1 — Promote, promote, promote
A critical part of building any people program is to promote it effectively, or it certainly won’t be successful. Promoting your mentoring program can take many forms including via your intranet, email, or an event.
Step 2 — Recruit
To have a mentoring program, part of your process must be recruiting or ‘onboarding’ mentors and mentees. This part of the process involves creating a survey questionnaire which your potential mentors and mentees will fill out. The answers to this questionnaire become their profiles; and their profiles are how you match them.
Step 3 — Match
The most talked about part of the mentoring process: matching. Matching is quite clearly a critical component in the mentoring process and requires a bit of strategy and a bit of execution.
The strategy component involves deciding on the why of your mentoring program — which is derived from the outcomes you want to achieve e.g you want to match juniors with same department seniors for leadership development, which means matching based on those criteria; while the execution piece centres on actually matching, whether that be by spreadsheet and email (not recommended), or by using dedicated matching software.
Step 4 — Guide
Many program coordinators let their mentoring programs down by thinking that matching is the final part of the process. It’s not. It’s the beginning of the mentorship.
The vast majority of your mentors and mentees are unseasoned: they don’t have mentorship experience. You need to supply them with the resources and content required to make their mentorship work. This can include agreements, checklists, and subject suggestion at the start and during the mentorship.
Make sure part of your process is equipping mentors and mentees with their process.
Step 5 — Measure
The final component of the mentoring coordination process is closing the loop on the program and measuring or reporting on success.
This involves surveying mentors and mentees, reporting on engagement statistics, and reporting back on initial goals — which dictate whether or not your program — and current process was successful.
The mentee process
Once a mentoring program has begun (or if a mentorship is taking place outside of work), it’s usually down to the mentee to ensure that their process is one that drives forward progress. The mentee is the stakeholder who is set to gain most, and hence should be the stakeholder who drives the process forward.
Step 1 — Say thanks, agree on expectations, and set up a first meeting
The first job as a mentee is to appreciate the fact your mentor is volunteering his or her time, thanking them for it, and respecting their time (and your own) by setting early expectations.
This can be done in a simple message or email, or in the first meeting or in-person interaction. Make sure you set a first meeting straight away, so that neither the mentee or mentor is left in the dark or in an awkward spot of having to rekindle a mentorship that never really began.
Step 2 — Meet (in-person or digitally) and set goals and direction
The first meeting really is the crux of the mentoring process for mentees.
It’s when the mentee must make their goals and intentions clear to the mentor, so that the mentor has a good first impression and understands where they can add value.
Depending on how you are set to be mentored, set a few different types of goals: habit forming goals, reach goals and stretch goals. During the mentorship, these goals will guide your discussions and the rest of the process.
Step 3 — Track against your goals
Between months 1 and 6, the success of the mentorship will be based on the mentee coming back to the mentor with progress updates, successes, and new obstacles.
It’s the mentees job to find the most suitable way (Along with the mentor) to accurately track and share their efforts. Only then can the mentor help overcome obstacles or re-shape the mentee’s strategy.
Step 4 — Receive feedback and iterate
Listening and receiving feedback is a more proactive part of the process than most people realise. When a mentor gives advice or insight, it’s critical that the mentee notes it down, remembers it, and applies it to their endeavours.
This helps create forward momentum, and helps give the mentor the satisfaction of helping (and not just wasting their time).
Step 5 — Find the right conclusion
Most mentorships (especially in the workplace, university etc.) taper off eventually, as a mentee’s career and life progresses. Part of the mentee process is to ensure you close this mentoring chapter effectively, and open as many new ones as possible.
This involves maintaining a good relationship and ensuring that your valued mentor becomes a part of your personal advisory board (most mentors are happy to be reached out to during decisive moments of careers etc.), and to leverage this new resource.
Can your mentor recommended another mentor to connect you to?
The mentor process
Lastly, we will address the 5 key steps in the mentoring process for mentors. Much has been made of the role the mentor should play in the process.
Should he or she be charged with initiating communication at any point during the mentorship? Should the mentor be responsible for any meeting prep?
The answer to this really does come down to the mentor. And the fact of the matter is that either way (more proactive work or less work), it’s worth it.
My best mentors have chosen to guide the mentee process; by sitting down on day 1 and helping me set goals for the next few months. Then they have actively held me accountable and tracked my goals — and setup follow-up meetings.
In some settings, it’s far more appropriate for the mentee to drive the engagements. I have a new mentor based out of San Francisco and we were matched relatively informally. He agreed to mentor me; now we connect when I run into an obstacle and he provides me with his insight and experience. This mentorship works best when I drive the engagement and bring my problems to him.
Factoring these thoughts into the equation, there are some fundamental steps to the mentor process which help both mentors and mentees get more from their time together.
Step 1 — Understand what your mentee is looking for from you
The first part of the mentor’s process is to try and understand where they can add value to the mentorship. Understanding this stems from getting a clear articulation from the mentee as to what their goals and objectives are — and then finding the gaps with which the mentor can help.
Step 2 — Help your mentee shape their goals
Mentors bring experience to the table; that experience can be in years, or in applicable experience. Either way, mentors can often add most value because they have navigated the mentee’s path before.
For this reason, a mentor should help shape a mentee’s goals. The mentor can look at their own experience in retrospect and understand where they could have been better, smarter, or faster.
These insights should help shape the mentee’s goals; making them more ambitious, less ambitious, or helping to help them understand exactly what they might be looking to do.
Step 3 — Keep your mentee accountable
Many mentors differ in their opinions of this element of the process: Should a mentor be charged with holding the mentee accountable? The answer in my mind is yes, to an extent.
The mentor doesn’t need to act like a parent, nor be strict about it, but checking in with the mentee and focusing on how they are moving forward is an essential part of being a good mentor. After all, that (and context) is what separates a mentor from plain information.
Step 4 — Provide feedback and suggestions for progress
At every stage of the mentorship, the mentor should be looking to provide feedback and suggestions. This is the part of the process that makes the mentee take stock and shift their goals and agenda, which is what creates better results than what the mentee could have achieved alone.
Step 5 — Conclude
Saying goodbye to a mentee can be hard (or easy depending on the mentee), but their life changes as does yours. Their comes a time in a mentorship when your experience, chat, and advice is mostly exhausted, for now.
When this time comes, offer to be there when you are needed; think about if there is another mentor who you could pass your mentee onto for even more progress; and make the mentee feel good about their efforts by saying how much they have grown and changed.
None of these steps are rocket science; in fact, most of them are pretty simple. It’s not the process which is hard — but understanding the process and implementing it at scale.
Mentoring process is the key to mentoring success — for mentoring program coordinators, for mentors, and for mentees.
Get your mentoring processes right and you’ll be well on your way to mentoring success.