7 Rules for Mentoring Success

October 10, 2013

At one of our recent webinars, 40% of attendees reported they don’t know how successful their mentoring program was because they didn’t measure the results.

This statistic is really quite alarming when you recognize the time, effort, and money that goes into creating and supporting a mentoring program. If you don’t measure the results of your program, you can’t measure mentoring program success; and if you can’t measure mentoring program success, chances are you’re going to lose the support of management and leadership, and possibly lose your budget as well.

How can you prevent this from happening? Here are our seven rules of mentoring program success.

1. Provide structure and guidance.

When I give my mentoring workshop, the most common questions I get are “What steps do I take in this mentoring initiative?” and “What exactly is it I’m supposed to do?” Mentors, mentees, and program administrators need to understand their roles and be given the guidance to achieve that understanding.

2. Agree on the organizational objectives of the program.

Have you noticed that everyone around you seems to be incredibly busy these days? We all have so much on our plates that if mentoring program participants don’t know or understand the goal of the mentoring program, or how it’s good for the organization or themselves, chances are they aren’t going to devote time and effort to it. Mentoring is a business strategy. Focusing on mentoring is focusing on business. Communicate the business objectives tied into your mentoring program to help participants see it that way.

3. Identify success measurements.

What will success look like? How will it be measured? Do your mentoring program participants understand either of the above? If not, you’ll see the same pattern we’ve seen a hundred times: the program is kicked off with a big bang, interest wanes, and confusion rises. If you don’t identify success measurements, your participants won’t know what to record – and once again won’t understand the business objective the mentoring program is trying to accomplish – and ultimately, you won’t be able to prove your mentoring program's success. Alternatively (and this can be just as important), you won’t be able to identify why your mentoring program was not a success.

4. Gain interest and support from management.

And when we’re talking about management here, we’re talking about all levels. Of course you want senior levels to buy-in and support the initiative, but you also need the support of your mentors’ and mentees’ managers.

5. Clarify roles and provide mentoring training.

When you ask people to take on a new role at an organization, you never do it without providing a description of the role, detailing responsibilities and required skills, and providing training to ensure they are able to do their role. If you want your program to be successful, why would you pull people into becoming mentors and mentees without providing them mentoring training? But it goes beyond mentors and mentees, too – make sure you train the managers involved as well so that they’re clear on their role in the mentoring partnership, and know how to support it, rather than hinder it.

6. Have a program administrator for guidance.

Many times it happens that when a mentor or mentee has a problem they can’t resolve on their own, and have no central authority to turn to, their interest in the partnership drops to the point that it becomes completely unproductive. The importance of having a program administrator to whom participants can turn cannot be overstated.

7. Use mentoring software to manage the program and ensure sustainability.

Depending on the breadth and depth of your mentoring program, you should really be using something other than a spreadsheet to manage it. Without a technology solution to manage the program, tracking and reporting on all the objectives and measurements you set up at the beginning through only a spreadsheet becomes an administration nightmare.

A parting note: all of these steps can and should be taken pre-implementation. If you’re going to be able to report on your program’s success, you will need to build that ability into your program from day one - whether you end up using mentoring software or not.

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