There is an infinite number of possibilities and potentialities in mentoring. Which is great. It’s what keeps things interesting.
However, just like in all walks of life, there are also a few guidelines – or commandments – which we should always at the very least try to adhere to if we want to maximise our chances of success.
So here are the 10 guidelines of business mentoring. Avoid them at your own peril…
FOR MENTORING PROGRAM COORDINATORS
Thou must get management buy-in
Mentoring programs are long journeys. It starts with getting people excited about your program; pivots to keeping them engaged; and ends with figuring out how things went. One constant throughout the journey, it helps to have managers on your side – from the psychological perspective of mentors and mentees, and for your own welfare.
Make sure you assemble the right fellowship and support network from the start.
Thou must make people aware of the mentoring program
Broadcasting an initiative to an entire organisation is scary, but you owe it to yourself and to your people to at least make them aware of the program. The rest is up to them.
Start with an email and pretty one-sheet/infographic, or run a more refined ‘campaign’. But get marketing.
Thou must make suitable mentor mentee matches
One of the most important elements of any mentoring program: matching. Make sure you take your time (or use great software) and ask all of the right survey questions (15 mentoring survey questions you must ask) to ensure you give your mentors and mentees great matches, and a stable foundation for progress.
Thou must empower mentees to develop
While mentoring will always be about the human connection, humans benefit from structure and direction. Provide your mentees with the resources and content they need to be successful. Blog posts, books, podcasts, and courses all supplement the learning aspect of mentoring extremely well.
Thou must track mentoring program success
We live in an age where we can measure almost everything, including mentoring program success. Make sure you have all of the infrastructure in place to track your mentoring program – and report on how successful it is.
Need some help abiding by the 5 program coordinator commandments? Here is a helpful to-do-list for you:
FOR MENTORS & MENTEES
Thou must set expectations
A sure fire way to get off on the wrong foot is to start without setting expectations (and realistic ones). Have you ever sat and waited for an email? Or even a train?
Behavioural scientists have long known that it is uncertainty which causes waiting anxiety and stress; whether that be waiting for a mentor or mentee to respond, or waiting for a plane to take-off.
Just knowing what’s going on is half the battle; then we can settle in, plan, and act accordingly.
Thou must set some type of goal or objective
Humans are pretty poor at staying motivated and disciplined; but we are terribly poor at staying motivated and disciplined if we have nothing holding us accountable or giving us direction.
How can you hit the target if you don’t know where it is?
To get the most out of any mentoring relationship, you should set some objectives and/or goals at the outset. Would you like to expand your network? Or create a 5-year career plan? Setting these goals and objectives grounds the mentorship with direction, and gives a mentor a way to help you move forward.
Thou must engage in chat
Mentoring relationships with no communication don’t work typically well. Set those early communication expectations with your mentor or mentee, and stick to them.
At Mentorloop, we recommend that chat frequency should be at least once per month, with some more active mentorships following a more fortnightly (every two weeks) cadence. It is critical to chat more frequently at the very beginning, when you are learning about one another, setting those goals and objectives – and creating the foundation of a good mentorship.
Thou must report for duty
If you are in the same physical location as your mentee or mentor, make sure that you show up and are mentally present for in-face meetings. It’s easy to push a mentoring meeting back a week or two because it isn’t a ‘priority’. But don’t. Make the effort, and you will see the dividends.
Thou must continue to find new mentors and mentees
Most successful mentoring case studies have proven that it really does pay to have a number of mentors or mentees.
We find that the most successful mentees are those which create personal advisory boards: a group of mentors who the mentee can turn to for specific advice or domain experience. Mentorship is a lifelong journey for mentor and mentee, and just like friendships come, go and evolve – so do mentorships.
So stay on the hunt for great mentors and mentees and build those personal advisory boards.
While I don’t like to create too many concrete rules in life – because life is inherently fluid and dynamic – there are some eternal truths that mitigate our own poor habits and increase the likelihood of success.
And these guidelines or commandments are those truths. Stick to them, and your mentoring experiences will be better for it.