Archive | January, 2012

New Year’s resolutions for mentoring program managers

10 Jan


As the world struggles with recession and uncertainty, mentoring has a major role to play in helping people focus on personal and business priorities and to maintain confidence in their ability to face the future. The start of a new year is a good time for program managers to step back and reflect; and perhaps to make some resolutions. Here, for good measure, are some suggested reflections to set the process going:

No. 1: Reflect on your role

  • What do you bring (uniquely) to your role as program manager? Are you leveraging your strengths as well as you might?
  • How are you developing in the role? Could you gain an accreditation, or widen your subject reading around mentoring, for example?
  • How much of a role model for mentoring are you?
  • How could you improve communication with program stakeholders?
  • Are you sufficiently linked into social networks of people involved in mentoring program management?

No. 2: Reflect on your program

  • What were the common problems mentors and mentees in your program encountered in 2011, in the context of making their relationships work? What more could you do to resolve those problems?
  • What are you going to do to make sure your program continues? What or who comes after you?
  • How can you give participants more support, perhaps at less cost?
  • How do you know good your program is? Who can you benchmark it against? Is it time to seek accreditation under the International Standards for Mentoring Programmes in Employment?

No. 3: Give a pat on the back

  • What would you like to congratulate program participants, sponsors and supporters for?
  • What do you want to congratulate yourself for?

All in all, mentoring program managers have potential to be great agents of change in 2012. All it takes is the vision and confidence to enthuse and support others in making mentoring work!

Have a fulfilling New Year!


How to be a mentor to mentors

10 Jan

One of the key supports for mentoring programmes is having a cadre of highly experienced mentors, who new mentors can lean on and learn from. In some programmes, these mentors take on much of the burden of new mentor development, shifting the balance from classroom learning towards ad hoc, situationally based learning.

So what makes an effective mentor to mentors? It’s not the length of time someone has been a mentor – even if they are a “natural” in the role, they may not have sufficient insight into what they do to provide the necessary depth of support to a new mentor. Some of the qualities, which I have observed, are:

  • A continuing interest in developing their skills in mentoring and other complementary areas, such as coaching, or career counselling  – through reading, attending development events such as webinars, and/or through undertaking further training
  • A deep-seated enjoyment of being challenged, emotionally and intellectually
  • An ability to reflect upon their mentoring practice – what works well and less well and why
  • Effective use of mentor supervision, if available, to build on those reflections
  • A sense that mentoring is never far away from their personal agenda – it has become part of their mindset, rather than an occasional activity

Mentor to mentors is a role that increasingly appeals to programme managers, because it both strengthens the programme and offers cost savings, in terms of continued training and support for mentors. Yet there is, to my knowledge, no significant literature, and no research at all into the role. I’d be very interested to hear other people’s experiences and opinions!



Group mentoring

10 Jan

Group mentoring is a relatively recent innovation. It is typically used in situations, where the demand for mentors outstrips the supply. In a typical group mentoring programme, the mentees might meet on their own once a month, acting as peer mentors and agreeing topics they want to bring collectively for discussion with their mentor. They also support each other in developing networks within the organisation and wider afield. A group might be anything from two people to ten (the absolute maximum). .

In the group mentoring, the mentor and mentees agree how they want the sessions to run.  Some of the common options include:

  • A general discussion around the topic, with the mentees drawing out the mentor’s experience and perspectives
  • A conversation between the mentor and one member of the group, on an issue particularly relevant to that person but also to some or all of the others
  • The mentor encourages one group member to present an issue and facilitates the others in coaching them

Typically, some members of the group will want one-to-one sessions with the mentor. These may be one-off, or develop into a standard one-to-one mentoring relationship.

Evaluating the group mentoring relationship can be challenging, because each member may have different expectations and requirements. So it’s important to capture these at the beginning and build them into the evaluation process.

An alternative model of group mentoring occurs when an individual has need of a range of different experience sets, in tackling a complex issue. In this case, he or she may assemble (usually with help) a panel of mentors, who help develop a range of responses and perspectives. It’s a bit like having a personalised Delphi Group! Managing this kind of interaction is quite demanding on the mentee, who typically needs to be relatively mature to ensure that they remain in charge of the dialogue.  This kind of group mentoring may consist of a series of one-to-one meetings with two or three (or more) mentors; or a meeting with all of them together. The problem with one-to-one meetings is that it’s often hard not to be swayed first one way then the other. The advantage is built in reflection time.   Meetings with several mentors at a time can be a bit overwhelming. Good practice is for one mentor to chair the conversation – or even better, for the mentee to do so, if they have the confidence! It’s important also to contract around behaviours, not least because the issue of peer differential is multiplied in this environment. It’s also important for the mentee to set out very clearly at the beginning what he or she wants to achieve from the mentoring session – and to give the mentors honest and direct feedback about the process!