Archive for September, 2014

Mentoring Training: Keep Your Mentoring On Track

Posted on: September 24th, 2014 by Mentoring Matters Blog presented by How To Mentor Toolkit No Comments

People often ask us questions about mentoring or seek mentoring advice. We decided to answer a few of these questions on the blog this month. Hopefully their questions (and our answers) will shed some light on your own mentoring questions.

Note: These questions are compiled from several questions we receive, and do not necessarily reflect any one person’s submission.

Q: Six months ago, our mentoring program was announced. Everyone, and I mean everyone, was buzzing about it and our people were eager to get started. At first, there was a flurry of activity and everyone was meeting with their mentee and really pretty excited. But all that energy was short-lived. About six weeks in, our mentors started telling us they had run out of things to talk about. As it turns out, most of them were just having coffee and catching up. It seems like we’ve missed the boat somehow. What would you suggest?

A: What you are describing is the Three Cups of Coffee Syndrome. The mentor/mentee relationship has been established, but it lacks direction, focus or goals to move mentoring forward. This is what often happens when organizations launch a mentoring program without providing sufficient and consistent training for their mentors.

Good mentoring requires specific skill sets. Even leaders who engage in informal mentoring throughout their entire careers struggle with creating successful mentoring partnerships.

Mentoring training builds more confident and competent mentors. It promotes mentor readiness, creates a standard of mentoring practice, provides guidelines for ensuring mentoring success and offers a safe climate of support. Mentor training offers a roadmap and a benchmark for mentors to measure their success as well as strategies to address stumbling blocks quickly.

Good mentoring training saves time. It keeps mentoring interesting, productive and on track from the get-go.

Best Practices for Corporate Mentoring Programs

Posted on: September 17th, 2014 by Management Mentors presented by How To Mentor Toolkit No Comments

Best Practices for Corporate Mentoring Programs

70% of Learning Occurs On-the-Job


According to Lombardo and Eichinger’s 70-20-10 training model (1996), 70% of learning is due to self-directed, on-the-job experience, while 20% is due to feedback, and only 10% is due to courses and reading. This means that formal mentoring – that is, mentoring where objectives are set from the beginning and development is tracked according to them – covers 90% of employee learning needs.

That being said, best practices for starting your corporate mentoring program will only get you so far – specifically, the beginning of your mentoring program. Don’t forget that after program launch, no matter how well you’ve set up your corporate mentoring program for success, you must continue to follow best practices to help your program grow and develop, and prevent it from running into problems that lead to program failure.

Want to know more about what best practices for corporate mentoring programs at all stages of the mentoring program cycle look like? Keep reading for a brief overview.

Best Practices for Corporate Mentoring Programs


STAGE 1: Recognizing the Need and Setting Objectives

This need can range from anything from supporting onboarding, training, or a transition into a new culture, to leadership development and/or succession planning. Identify the need as specifically as possible, as this is fundamentally necessary to setting objectives and developing metrics to obtain buy-in and support from leadership.

STAGE 2: Determining Program Structure

Structure your program according to three things: the metrics that follow from your established objectives, which participants you’ll need to recruit to fulfill those objectives, and how the program will practically function according to organizational culture and participants’ day-to-day activities.

STAGE 3: Planning for Program Launch

Once your program is a go, there are a few steps to take before launch. Start by recruiting and qualifying your mentors and mentees, and then obtain buy-in from the mentees’ managers to ensure their cooperation with setting goals and planning projects as necessary. Then match your mentors to mentees, and train both mentors and mentees to know what to expect and what will be expected of them. Finally, plan ahead how you’ll keep participants engaged down the line after the excitement of the launch has worn off.

STAGE 4: Supporting the Program

All participants will need support from program admins to ensure that objectives are still being met, communication lines are open, and that any potential problems are resolved as soon as possible. Check in with your mentors and mentees to resolve any partnership-specific problems as soon as possible, but report on the progress of the program regularly as well to target and resolve problems that are common to all mentors and mentees.

STAGE 5: Ending the Program

End the program strong, especially if it’s your goal to instill a mentoring culture in your organization. This can mean encouraging informal mentoring partnerships, or having another cycle of your mentoring program. This means reporting on ROI quantitatively and qualitatively, and assisting mentor-mentee pairs with the process of ending their partnership and determining what their new informal relationship to each other will be after this particular mentoring cycle ends.

Caution: If your mentoring program has had little communication and low participation, you will probably not want to cycle the program again until you have pinpointed the problem(s) and have worked through them and resolved them with all stakeholders. It’s not only leadership’s and management’s buy-in to be concerned about: at the most basic level, if your mentors and mentees don’t believe in the program, you need to look at winning back their hearts and minds.

The Perils of Skipping Mentoring Training

Posted on: September 10th, 2014 by Mentoring Talent presented by How To Mentor Toolkit No Comments

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 discussion sessions. There are two ways it can go.

#1: 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.

#2: 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.

How to get mentorees to open up during a mentoring session

Posted on: September 3rd, 2014 by Management Mentors presented by How To Mentor Toolkit No Comments

business mentoring relationshipIn speaking with several mentors recently, they expressed concern about wanting their mentoree to be more open on a given issue but afraid to push too hard and turn the mentoree off to the idea.

This is not an uncommon concern in understanding that it's the mentoree that drives the relationship and not the mentor. However, this does not mean a mentor should be hesitant or afraid to approach an issue that they perceive as critical to a mentoree's success. In fact, it is an obligation of a mentor to engage in these types of dialogues so that the mentoree receives honest and helpful feedback.

My advice to every mentor engaged in a mentoring relationship is to broach a touchy subject by inviting the mentoree to engage. Here are a couple of different approaches I would recommend: 

The "open door" approach

"I would like to open a door on an issue we haven't discussed before or not very much.  Would you be willing to open that door with me?" Most people will say yes, even if it's a tentative yes. You could make this specific by stating the issue. You could also ease their concerns by adding "I'd like to explore with you and if you prefer not to go there after that, then that's ok by me.” 

Seeking "permission" approach

"I have some perceptions on x issue that I would like to share with you and explore, but I am seeking your permission to see if you're ready or willing to hear my perceptions. If not, that's ok, we can move on to another topic." If they answer yes, then you can discuss. If the answer is no, then you can reply: "I respect your decision but could you share with me why you would prefer not to discuss this issue so I have a better understanding of your decision." 

Each of the above techniques allow for a mentor to explore sensitive issues with the permission of the mentoree. As in everything else in mentoring, you cannot and should not force any mentoree to discuss issues they are not ready to discuss—but that doesn't mean you should not encourage and support them in trying to do so. It is the difficult discussions that deepen the relationship and have the power to transform a mentoree.