Before you start the detailed planning and design for your programme there are some important good practice principles to consider, which underpin many successful mentoring schemes and which will help to make sure that mentoring partnerships are effective and productive:
1. They are voluntary
If people are compelled to participate in a mentoring partnership, where's the motivation? Where's the intrinsic desire to make the relationship work? Where's the goodwill?
The most effective mentoring partnerships and mentoring schemes happen when participants take part because they want to! This ensures the goodwill, the desire to make the partnership work.
2. They have a defined duration
Without a defined end date, mentoring partnerships can drift. Specifying the duration of the partnership, with an end date clearly defined at the outset, helps to ensure that the partnership is focused, productive and moves forward towards the agreed goals.
Outside of line management: a mentor who has the right background, the right knowledge and experience to help the mentee achieve his or her goals is critical, but someone who has some distance from the mentee (in terms of organisation or even geography) helps to provide a different perspective, removes barriers of potential vested interests and makes confidentiality, trust and an open exchange more possible.
That's not to say a line manager can't adopt a mentor approach with an employee, but to be truly effective a mentor should outside for the mentee's line management or immediate work group.
3. They are collaborative
Mentoring relationships are collaborative. Both partners are working together to move the mentee towards their goals.
Successful mentoring programmes are also underpinned by a set of reasonable expectations which the scheme organisers have of their participants and which partner have of each other.
The managers of mentoring programmes can clearly communicate the nature of these expectations to their scheme members and can embed these to ensure that scheme members are aware of and make a commitment to these expectation as part and parcel of their participation in the programme.
In effective partnerships, both partners need to understand these and each other's expectations. This is a conversation that can take place at the beginning of the partnership and any disagreement resolved before the partners continue.
Typical expectations that we have found to be common to successful schemes and to the partnerships they facilitate include:
4. They are mentee driven
An effective mentoring partnership is one that is mentee driven. This means that the focus of the partnership is on helping the mentee to achieve his or her goals, and the content of the meetings and the approach of the mentor therefore reflects the needs of the mentee, which may change as the partnership progresses.
Protected time: One of the huge benefits of mentoring is that it is conversation focused completely on the mentee and on their development. This kind of conversation almost never happens in the normal course of life/work. Even an appraisal-type conversation is about performance and development, largely in the context of current post. A mentoring conversation is about the individual.
5. There is trust and confidentiality
Effective mentoring partnerships require trust between the partners, so that experience and problems can be openly shared without worrying about confidences being broken.
Responsibility: In order for mentoring partnerships to make progress, both parties must take responsibility for their own role and for following through with agreements. The mentee, for example, must take responsibility for doing whatever they say they will do between one meeting and the next. Otherwise, at the next meeting, no progress has been made and the same conversation will happen again.
Want to find out more about how to run a successful mentorship programme at your company or institution? Contact the experts at SUMAC to find out how our platform could help you.