- As we start this journey toward developing more effective leadership and mentorship programs for up and coming leaders it may help to keep in mind that the majority of Gen Y thrive off a strong personal support system. We desire growth and development and we seek out organizations that provide those opportunities. Most experts (BrazenCareerist.com, Carlie Kollath, Don Tapscott, Tamara Erickson) agree that we prosper with mentors, and I think this so-called "coddling" phenomenon has a lot to do with that.
However, in my experience as both a mentee and mentor, it’s become clear, that not all mentorship programs are created equal, and many just don't work. While some are spectacular at developing strong leaders and effective employees, others are disastrous. Here are some take-away points as we think about developing a successful mentorship program (we’ll call them the 6 Keys to Mentorship Success):
1. Clarity is Key: (esp. with GenYLs as we are excellent at following and meeting detailed expectations) Provide a clear outline of the expectations for the program, including who is responsible for what, length of the mentorship program, meeting schedule, deadlines, daily tasks, purpose behind each intended action, etc. Get rid of the guessing game. The first and most important component of a successful mentorship program is to be unmistakably clear about every aspect of it.
2. No Mediocre Mentors Allowed: Next, make sure each mentor is ready and willing to take on the responsibilities of being a dedicated mentor. Sometimes organizations make the mistake of assuming that top performers will automatically make excellent mentors. Not so. There is nothing worse than a star performer who is being forced to play the role of the mentor. She could potentially destroy the productive process of your mentorship program. Then there is the mentor who is a poor performer, trying to give advice to someone who thinks they are a joke. Why make everyone suffer just for the sake of having a “mentorshi* program?” It doesn’t do any good to have a program for the sake having one. Choose your mentors wisely.
3. Match Made in Mentor Heaven: Mentors/Mentees should be paired with people they can relate to. This doesn't mean they need to be paired with their twin, but it does mean the mentee should be paired with someone who is excelling in the position you want them to be in -- someone you could see the employee emulating, someone who shares similar qualities with the mentee. It is crucial to take the time to make sure the mentor/mentee pairing is as close to a match made in heaven as possible.
4. Follow up Regularly: Have a set meeting each week to follow up on the progress of the mentorship program. Meet with the mentor and mentee separately to assure openness and candor. Ask detailed questions about how the relationship is working. Is the anticipated growth occurring? What improvements are needed? At the same time, provide honest feedback to both parties about your observations.
5. Call an Audible (if needed): If the pairing is disastrous, and its creating active disengagement on either side, make a decisive change. Let both parties know why the change has occurred and follow through with it. Again, clarity is key in this situation.
6. Consistency: Keep the follow up and development going as time passes. The majority of mentorship programs I’ve been involved with start at a rapid pace and die out within a few weeks. Keep the momentum and growth going throughout the length of the program. If you have a set timeline for the program, it will be easier to end it with a band, rather than having it die a slow and miserable death.
Oh, and get rid of this idiotic phrase… ”mentee, you’ll get out of it what you put into it.” What? Ridiculous. Fire the next mentor who says that. Mentees are usually new to the organization (or the position) and don’t have the confidence to constantly initiate activities with the mentor. They also don’t know how much communication is overbearing or not enough. There need to be structured expectations for both parties, but the heart and drive of the program is the responsibility of the organization and the mentors.
Ok, so back to reality…Gen Y, we have to start preparing for the immense amount of leadership roles that will be flooding the streets in coming years. It’s time for us to take the passion and creativity we've been cultivating for years and release it for the good of the future world. This blog post is a shout out to the awesome support system we have leaned on for so long - our mentors. If having that backing means we are coddled, then heck yeah, I’m coddled…and proud of it. In the future, the coddled will be the ones on the front lines, building up collaborative, indestructible teams who will raise the standards of business and society…so count me in. I hope you’ll join us as we fight to build up the next generation of young leaders…together we will succeed!
Now that you’ve heard our Must Haves for a successful Mentorship Program...what are yours? Comment your ideas...