As you develop an overall strategy for mentoring, consider a number of factors: your vision and how to sell it, language, purposes, possible champion(s),
types of organizational support needed, level of formality, possible roadblocks, and mentoring “delivery modes.”
1. Develop Your Vision
Think about and then write down the highlights of what you have in mind. Write in the present tense (as if it’s already happening). Rework your statement
until it’s as compelling as you’d like it to be.
Example of a Mentoring Vision
Mentoring is what we all do on a weekly basis. We help each other become all God created us to be through informal mentoring relationships with one another.
We also enthusiastically participate in a variety of structured mentoring meetings in which people with certain skills, knowledge, and attitudes help
others reach their personal, career and ministry goals.
Review your organization’s stated core values, purpose/mission, and its priorities for the coming year. How could mentoring not only tie in with but help
address these priorities?
Find out what kinds of mentoring are already occurring, even if they’re called something else such as coaching or tutoring. Talk to satisfied
participants and make a note of all the benefits they mention. Identify people who could be mentors in your new pilot effort or who could help you
sell the concept. Listen to the skeptics as well as those willing to be early adopters.
2. Consider Language
Like all disciplines, mentoring has buzz words. Terms familiar to mentoring experts can mean something different and even strange or contrived to newcomers.
Think through the words you’ll use, and explain them.
The term initiative may be more strategic than mentoring program. Another “program” can seem burdensome and undesirable. On the other hand, your organization
may like programs by that name. Choose and operationalize other words such as mentor, mentoring, mentee (mentoree? protege?), vision, and others.
Also take considerable care with naming the initiative itself. Many organizations call it the Mentor Program. Others prefer the Mentoring Program. Still
others have a mentoring component (no capital letters) within a larger initiative.
3. Identify Specific Purposes of the Initiative
Why are you’re doing this? What purposes will the initiative have? What will be better as a result of all the hard work you’ll have to do?
Planned mentoring is not appropriate for teaching basic skills, solving discrimination problems, overcoming inadequate hiring practices or understaffed
departments, or winning over employees or church members who are deeply upset by large issues. On the other hand, planned mentoring efforts can be
useful for: orienting new people; preparing leaders; assisting diversity populations with their careers or future; cross training; spiritual and character
development; leadership development; and other purposes. Be discerning with how and when you use mentoring.
Even if you’re a doer who likes to jump in and get things started, take time to think through your overall mentoring strategy as well as the “sub-strategies”
for each aspect of your effort. Doing so will help you feel more confident, answer the myriad questions you’ll hear later, and make wise use of your
time and resources.
4. Analyze Organizational Support
If your organization is financially in the black, at least some of the leadership is supportive, the target people for the efforts are eager, and the organization
isn’t overloaded with other “programs,” the timing and situation could be right for your mentoring program. On the other hand, if your organization
is experiencing financial problems, downsizing, layoffs, large-scale reorganization, major legal investigations, or other challenges likely to take
time and affect morale, the setting and timing probably won’t be right.
Perhaps more than any other organization development effort; planned mentoring needs support from the top down. If top-level leaders believe in, talk about,
and want to improve mentoring, you’ll have a far better chance of succeeding than if they don’t—or even if they’re neutral on the idea. Will
management’s verbal support be backed up with their own time investment, financial support to cover at least a part-time coordinator, training, learning
resources, and other costs? The mentoring program at Denver Seminary is successful because of the support of the president and provost, the formation
of a dedicated task force, as well as their having made it a requirement for graduation. The mentoring program of MDU Resources Group, Inc., is stronger
because their CEO, Martin White, not only supports the effort but serves as a formal mentor.
Assessing the answers to the following questions can give you insight as to potential road blocks to a new mentoring program:
Which change efforts seem to work in your organization, and which ones struggle or fail?
What happened to a recent effort to initiate a major change or improvement?
Which ideas were well received and carried out?
Why did they succeed, and what can you learn from those experiences?
5. Choose Appropriate Champion(s)
Are you the appropriate champion? Why or why not? If you’re not sure, ask people who’ll be frank with you. Who else can and should be on the planning team?
If some of you start the process, can others step in later as needed? Who else can you add? How are these individuals perceived in the organization?
Do you have sufficient mentoring expertise in-house or do you need to call in some experts? Can you afford this? What can you get for free or at very
little cost from the Internet, professional associations, and other sources?
6. Consider Positioning
Make your planned mentoring activities part of a larger scheme, for example, new employee orientation; ministry opportunities, employee, management,
leadership, or career development; or succession planning. Link the two efforts. For example, if your mentoring initiative is part of your career development
thrust, point to resources (people, websites, written forms, speakers) involved in other career development activities. Where will you “house” your
initiative? Some are part of formal HR departments. Others are purposely not in HR and are positioned in sales, manufacturing, or another function.
7. Decide Levels of Formality
A comprehensive mentoring effort will include several options:
Completely informal, leave-it-entirely-to-chance approach to mentoring is going on right now within your organization and will probably continue indefinitely
without your doing anything. The difficulty with this completely informal approach is that numerous outstanding individuals are left out. Because of
shyness, or a quiet style, or unawareness of how the new mentoring works, they don’t enter into partnerships. But pointing out that this is already happening will make adding more intentional mentoring easier (something
like that, Liz- like how Randy used the early mentoring of Dr. Grounds as a foundation to advance the cause of mentoring at Denver).
Consider adding enhanced informal mentoring, which is more intentional, planned, or formal. Using this approach, you encourage and prepare individuals
at all levels of the organization to consider and to develop mentoring partnerships on their own. They decide the level of formality they want to use.
You provide some learning resources and other assistance.
Then you might consider formal mentoring partnerships. Arrange a certain number of mentoring pairs or groups who will meet for a specified period of time.
Recruit, screen, select, match, train, and monitor/encourage participants as they work on agreed-upon contracts. Repeat the sequence for additional
pairs and groups as long as needs and benefits exist. Implement learning/networking events, and hold a celebration at the end of each cycle. Communicate
extensively with participants, leaders, and others throughout the organization, and evaluate all aspects of the initiative.
8. Choose Delivery Modes
Does it make sense for mentoring to occur in pairs or in mentoring groups? Both have advantages and disadvantages. Can you possibly offer pairs and groups?
(See our article on Benefits of the Mentoring Match)
9. Identify Roadblocks
Program roadblocks at the onset can include:
- having no appropriate sponsor,- views that planned mentoring (e.g. for diversity groups) only emphasize exclusion,- difficulty finding sufficient helpers,- time pressures.
Here are suggestions specifically for the nonprofit leader:
- Consider a low-key form of enhanced informal mentoring.- Take a year to introduce the idea of mentoring.- Prove yourself a caring, trustable leader,
a model mentor.- Craft your own vision of how mentoring could look and feel.- Talk about the topic and how mentoring has helped you.- Explain how you’d
like to use mentoring skills with all of them (without being anyone’s formal mentor) and also how you’d like to support their efforts to seek mentoring
from others IF they’re interested.- Provide reading materials on mentoring in the learning center.- See if anyone is interested in being on a team
to investigate mentoring and how it may (or may not) fit with the organization’s core values and mission.
Then see what happens!
Adapted by Dr. Liz Selzer from an article by Dr. Linda Phillips-Jones