Don’t Make These Mistakes When Designing Your Mentoring Program
As a leader in a small company, I wear many different hats, which is pretty common for somebody in my position. One of the hats that I wear fairly often, and one that I very much enjoy wearing, is that of salesperson. I welcome the many opportunities I have to engage prospective clients in conversations around the impact mentoring can have in their organizations, and more specifically, how River’s full-service mentoring solution can play an integral role in their future mentoring landscape.
Given the literally thousands of meetings and conversations that I have been a part of over the years, I have an observation I would like to share: There is a clear difference between those prospects who are actively looking to implement mentoring and those who are simply playing with the idea. The problem is that many of those who are playing with the idea think they are actually acting, when in fact they are not.
This it not unique to the implementation of a mentoring program, by the way. In my professional career, I have seen many initiatives start with good intentions and then fail due to the lack of actual action. Why does this happen? There may be numerous reasons, but my experience points to three root causes.
1. Partially baked or ill-defined need.
When I first engage with a prospective client, I get excited when they are able to tell me why we are talking and how they anticipate using mentoring, especially when they do so in a detailed way. These are folks who know what they want and we can move much more quickly to discussing how River can help. On the other hand, when the explanation is one of, “Well, our employee engagement survey tells us people want mentoring…” or some similarly worded, nebulous message, I get concerned. I can tell these people why I think mentoring is good and can help them understand how our other clients are using mentoring, but without being able to tangibly understand why they want to do mentoring, they will more often than not end up doing nothing.
2. Paralysis by analysis.
When considering the possibility of something new, it is common to begin with a research phase. The problem is that sometimes people get caught up in the research and either continue to search for more and more information, and/or become paralyzed by the pure volume of what they’ve found, unsure how to move forward. This paralysis by analysis can stall well-meaning endeavors in their tracks.
3. Lack of accountability.
Oftentimes, when I first meet with a prospective client, I will talk with someone who is engaged in the aforementioned research phase of the initiative, but who is not the ultimate sponsor of the program. Sometimes the person I’m talking to has already had good internal conversations with a sponsor, which has resulted in the decision to move forward with research (and the subsequent call with me). However, there are times when I am speaking with someone who is doing research as part of a grass-roots initiative, with no specific accountability or decided next steps in place for when they complete the research. The person interested in a mentoring program often has great intentions and a passion for mentoring, but they don’t necessarily have any executive support for their idea yet. This can also contribute to the researcher getting stuck in the “paralysis by analysis” cycle. This lack of accountability can make it extremely difficult to move forward from intention to tangible action.
Want to know what’s interesting? The same exact thing can happen in mentoring relationships themselves. When people connect in mentoring relationships and the mentee can’t really define what they need help with (ill-defined need), spend too much time hashing and re-hashing the issue (paralysis by analysis), and/or aren’t willing to talk about how they will work to attain outcomes (lack of accountability), the mentoring relationship is also doomed for failure.
In both instances, the solution is the same: put together a plan. In the case of a mentoring relationship, the plan (also sometimes referred to as a Mentoring Agreement) should contain a few core elements: REAL goals, a commitment to timeframes, and a commitment to how the parties will hold each other accountable for following through. (Check out our Mentoring Health Assessment eBook to evaluate your relationship.)
Likewise, when implementing a mentoring program, a phased plan should be put together that includes activities like: research, analyzing options, engaging additional stakeholders, conducting demo/solution calls with providers, securing funding, making a decision, contracting, and eventual implementation of the solution itself. By putting together a plan that includes those (or similar) phases, along with who will be responsible for each (accountability) and specific timeframes/milestone dates for completion, the likelihood that a solution will be implemented increases exponentially.
This process can feel daunting, but that is exactly why River is here—so we can help! I’m not trying to suggest that when you first talk to us, you need to have your plan fully flushed out. In fact, we have done this so many times that we would be more than happy to help you put your plan together. You don’t have to do this alone. Reach out today to find out how we can assist you.