|In the words of the CIPD “Coaching and mentoring are development techniques based on the use of one-to-one discussions to enhance an individual’s skills, knowledge or work performance.
“Mentoring and coaching programmes often go hand in hand and they are indeed complementary. The difference however is that a mentoring relationship is usually longer term and often, by its very nature is an unequal one. The mentor provides industry or sector experience, advice, contacts and support to the mentee.
Internally facing as they are, mentorships are a smart decision because they are a learning and growth opportunity for all participants. As a manager or departmental head, your own participation in a development programme is also important. It is one thing to encourage the programme, but it’s quite another to set an example and participate in it. Participation is of course, acknowledgement that the learning process never ends, it is long term and always on-going.
To get the mentorship motor whirring, start with some research. Ask yourself a few things and then ask around:
- What direction is your organisation going in the months and years ahead? Read research and white papers pertaining to your particular sector as well as gauging the thoughts of other leaders and managers in your organisation.
- What are the skills that your team needs to develop in order to arrive at that goal? Professional growth is on-going and there are probably a number of areas that can be built up and bolstered. Evaluate customer/user feedback about what you can do better and go from there. Look at similar organisations and departments to see how they develop their teams.
- How do your team members feel about their individual strengths and weaknesses? Where do they think they need to build skills? This should help you determine who would benefit from mentoring. Consider the partnerships you’ll need to create from the pool of prospective mentors and mentees. External organisations are also available to offer services of volunteer mentors should you not have all the mentors you need internally and of course it would add an external dimension to the programme.
Mentoring works best when there is a clear outcome in mind – such as promotion, mastering a new business skill or developing leadership skills. Once you’ve agreed who will be mentored and identified a mentor pool, implement a few of these ideas to get you started:
- Share the news. Tell your team what’s on the up-and-up – they are! Give them time to ask questions and answer them thoroughly.
- Build relationships. The mentor-mentee partnership is a chance for each to turn to the other for feedback and support. This kind of team building helps bring the team closer together.
- Reflect on it. Distribute executive gifts to show your commitment to the programme; Parker Pens and a smart notebook or conference folder should instill a sense of purpose in mentors and mentees. Ask each person to take notes and track their progress over time to help determine whether the programme is making a positive impact. Ask each person/pair to share their weekly ‘wins’ with the other participants.
- Encourage idea sharing. Establish an online digital pin board or set up a Facebook group. Alternatively, you could always go back to basics with a noticeboard in a communal area; encourage participants to attach relevant articles to the board… or even to just pin up a positive thought for the day!
- Remember it. Celebrate the mentorship by taking a photo of the group at the offset to serve as a lasting reminder of shared commitment. Get copies made and give them to the team in a frame on the first anniversary of the programme.
Mentoring is a smart investment of resources. Your team will develop their skills and as their capabilities grow so in turn will your service delivery. Ultimately, jobs will be completed quicker and more effectively and customers, clients, suppliers and colleagues will be more satisfied.