The Perils of Skipping Mentoring Training

April 03, 2014
mentoring training in progress

Mentoring Training and Your Program Participants

If you were to put all of your mentoring program candidates into one room to discuss the mentoring journey that is ahead of them without giving them mentoring training or some type of direction beforehand, the following is a likely progression of events:

  • A discussion will spring up about what exactly they’re meant to do and accomplish during the program.
  • This will evolve into wondering when and how they’re supposed to do what they’re supposed to be doing.
  • They will then veer into a discussion of what they believe mentoring actually is based on their personal experiences and perceptions.
  • This discussion will then spiral into a lack of understanding regarding why the organization even wants a mentoring program at all, leaving everyone confused and frustrated before the program has even started.
  • And finally they will begin to voice problems and issues they perceive they will experience as well as obstacles they aren’t sure how to overcome.

Without some guidance ahead of time, here is an example of what can happen during these discussions. There are two ways it can go.

No Mentoring Training: The Way You Don't Want It to Go

Without guidance, all of this discussion will be led by one or two people who happened to have been part of a mentoring program in the past. If you’re really unlucky, both of them will have been in informal programs that had little to no structure or format.

The conclusion will be that the group should do whatever those one or two people did before, even if it didn’t work or go well for them – because at least that’s some kind of guidance. As an example, let’s say the advice was just to meet casually for 1-2 hours per quarter. Because the majority of the group has never been in a mentoring program and they don’t have any other guidance to follow, they will trust this advice and adopt it.

We’ve seen it happen and it doesn’t work. This quasi-structure never lasts long – if at all. What happens instead is that the mentor-mentee pairs will meet somewhere between irregularly and never, managers likely won’t be aware of the mentoring program’s existence, and when the program admin first checks on the progress of the program, they’ll wonder what went so wrong – and when.

Mentoring Training: The Way You Do Want It to Go

This same discussion is directed and moderated by someone who understands both the subject of a structured organizational mentoring program and the specifics of how it will play out in the organization. This individual is a trained and trusted facilitator and administrator that understands and will provide guidance on such things as:

  • the organization’s objectives for the program and why it feels mentoring is important
  • understanding of the mentors’, mentees’, and managers’ roles and how to carry out those roles
  • how the organizational objectives should relate to the goals set by the mentor-mentee pairs
  • how to create a Mentoring Learning Plan and a Mentoring Agreement to provide focus for the mentoring partnership
  • how to take responsibility for commitments – whether as a mentor or a mentee
  • how to deal with any issues that might arise during the mentoring partnership or any conflicting viewpoints and misconceptions that might exist

Because participants have been made aware of the overarching structure and purpose of the mentoring program, and have been given the tools and understanding to build and act on their own partnerships, there’s no overwhelming confusion about going forward. Any questions regarding particular issues or problems that might be encountered can then be handled on a one-to-one basis by this trusted individual.

While continued success is not guaranteed at this point – much of that depends on the program administrator’s diligence – but at least the program is not bound for imminent failure.

Don’t Make Mentoring Participants Figure It Out On Their Own

Allowing misconceptions to linger (and malinger) can prove not only detrimental, but fatal to your mentoring program. We’ve seen it happen far more than we’d like.

The fact is that mentoring is such a common concept that everyone has some kind of history around it or perception about it. Whether that perception matches up with the organization’s is important to figure out - preferably before it negatively impacts your mentoring program.

And when we say “everyone,” we truly mean everyone involved in the process, from mentors and mentees to managers and any other program administrators. There must be a single line of communication throughout the mentoring program – and it’s much easier to establish this from the very start. That communication will help to inform not only who does what, when, and how, but also help with not overstepping boundaries later on in the active partnership.

Mentoring training can take several different formats, or even a combination of formats, including but not limited to workshops and webinars. While booklets and the like are fine, they must be the supplement and reinforcement of the forum – not standalone materials.

Learn more about mentoring training.

or read our blog on mentoring training.

Learn more about Insala's
Free Webinars

Watch Webinars