Building a mentoring program is essential for growing a thriving team. If you haven’t already started one at your workplace, there’s no better time to start than now. It’s common to look at the benefits of mentoring from the perspective of the mentee, and there’s a reason for that. They are on the receiving end of knowledge, support and a sense that someone is looking out for their best interests.
It’s wise for you, as a leader, to ask, what do you hope to gain from a mentoring program? what is a mentor supposed to do? Without asking this question, you run the risk of your program becoming rudderless and losing focus. Remember that mentoring, as I’ve talked about in a previous post, isn’t “tutoring” or “teaching.” It’s about more than just telling a person what to do. After all, they were hired for possessing a certain skill set.
Rather, mentoring is about a relationship. Mentors don’t tell mentees what to do, they help them figure out how to become a vital part of the company culture and methodology. They also help them to bring their new perspective to bear on old problems.
So how do you do this? How do you foster a program which is about relationships and trust, but also knowledge and skill building? You start by assessing your own priorities. In this post, we’ll talk about ideas for you to build on to set your focus and priorities for your mentoring program.
Greater Sense of Community
A workplace is full of human beings. They are all skilled in their own way, and have their own sets of personalities, quirks and idiosyncratic ways of getting things done. This is a natural part of bringing different people together to accomplish tasks. Without a sense of community and shared purpose, people tend to resort to their own pure sense of self interest and cooperation will wane.
Good mentors will foster a sense of appreciation for all the individuals who make up your team. This is why identifying good mentors is essential! The best mentors can take a mentee aside and prepare them for the challenges, but teach lessons of appreciation.
For example, imagine that a mentee ran into problems on a project. Their supervisor scolded them a bit harshly. This is a mentor’s time to come and say: “I know that person was a little hard on you. They are really intense sometimes, but beneath that exterior, they are extremely knowledgeable in this particular area.” Ideally they could help their mentee see this other individual more as a human. Perhaps point out if they are going through a rough time personally, or maybe it might help just to share something with the mentee about their hobbies and interests.
There’s no reason that a trusted mentor can’t take the supervisor on the example project aside and say, “I know this is a really important project. My mentee was trying really hard and didn’t quite get it right. Maybe we can all grab coffee and sort it out.”
You’ll be amazed at how many lingering conflicts can be avoided when a 3rd party like a mentor can show everyone how valuable they are to the team. Mentors are best positioned to listen and observe mentees and give guidance on working with everyone.
Developing Key Areas of Competency
What sets your company apart? You should have a good sense of your strengths and how those best position you for success in a competitive marketplace. This is another area of potential gain when you start a mentoring program.
New hires and less experienced workers certainly have the basic skills to perform their jobs. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t have gotten hired in the first place. Simply having the skills isn’t always enough. To set yourself apart, you’ll need to show how you can do these tasks better than your competitors.
Identify mentors who possess those best qualities. These are the people that are getting tasks done faster, more accurately and more in-line with your signature brand of service. Then pair these mentors with your newest mentees. Working together, you’ll take these new hires to high levels of competency faster than you’d be able to without a mentoring program.
Be Open to Alternative Ideas
Your newest employees aren’t just sponges ready to soak up knowledge that you give them. They have a wealth of experience and new perspectives that you need to incorporate into your business. Without this process, you’ll remain stuck in one period of time as the world marches by into new eras.
Mentors are listeners. They are in a great position to work alongside employees and find out how they work and think. This is more important than ever as Gen-X’ers give way to Gen-Y’ers, then millennials and so on. It’s essential to be aware of how these younger people think and work and adapt.
By listening and processing, mentors can suggest incremental changes. By spending time with mentees and incorporating some changes, they are acting as an workplace innovation laboratory. The adaptations you make can help you thrive and survive as we go further into the 21st century.
Self Assessment is key
What do you hope to gain from your mentoring program? Take some time to really think about it. I’ve presented a lot of ideas here, but it’s up to you to decide the size, scope and focus of your program given your level of resources and staffing.
Trying to do more than you currently can set you up for failure. Be honest about how much time your more experienced workers have. You are free to set guidelines for your mentoring program in terms of the time and depth of interaction.
Once you have a good idea of what you hope to gain, you’ll be in a much better position to craft a program that’s set up for success from the start. Another idea you may want to consider is viewing your mentoring program as “versions” or “generations.” Assign a time limit for each cycle. Say, 6 weeks. After the conclusion of that cycle, reassess. In the next cycle make small changes to move you closer to your ideal mentoring program.
Living Pono is dedicated to communicating business management concepts with Hawaiian values. Founded by Kevin May, an established and successful leader and mentor, Living Pono is your destination to learn about how to live your life righteously and how that can have positive effects in your career. If you have any questions, please leave a comment below or contact us here. Also, join our mailing list below, so you can be alerted when a new article is released.
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