“Better than a thousand days of diligent study is one day with a great teacher.”
~ Japanese Proverb
Martin, a senior manager with a major financial services company, is facing a challenge. He knows he’s surrounded by talent. His younger, mid-level managers are performing well, and he knows some of them have the potential to be superstars. But lately they’ve been acting restless and he’s afraid some of them may be about to jump ship.
He’s tried talking to them one-on-one. He’s given them new, challenging assignments. But nothing seems to change the atmosphere. He knows they are focused on their own responsibilities and aren’t seeing the big company picture. An article about mentoring in one of his current business journals starts him thinking. He decides that corporate mentoring and training programs may give his managers a new perspective.
A conversation with his HR director gives Martin some helpful guidelines. She advises him that first of all mentoring programs need to be aligned with corporate goals and objectives. He needs to have a timeline and method for measuring results. And he needs to be sure he can get support and commitment from both potential mentors and mentees.
Martin comes up with three initial steps to take:
- Discover the talent pool
- Be a matchmaker
- Train for success
Discover the talent pool.
Good mentoring programs need to find talent among both mentors and mentees. Martin’s main goal is employee development and retention. He decides to test the mentoring waters with a pilot program. He puts out an email “Call to Mentors” to all the company’s C-level managers and gets a great response. However, he knows it’s not safe to assume that all executives have the skills or desire to be a good mentor. He must go in-depth with each executive to ensure that the pilot program recruits the best of the best. His interview process determines skills and competency along with the commitment level of potential mentors.
Be a matchmaker.
As mentees, Martin initially chooses five of his mid-level managers based on three main criteria: (1) their experience with the company; (2) their current workload and availability; (3) their initial willingness to participate. During the recruiting process Martin asks the potential mentees to identify their goals and areas of interest. Then he has them outline a three-month personal learning plan that both they and their mentors will use during the initial phase of the project. Finally, he matches each mentee with a mentor who he feels is most compatible.
Train for success.
Martin designed a one-day workshop to kick off the program. He coached his mentors in how to understand, communicate with and motivate mentees. And he made sure his mentees would take full advantage of the mentoring partnership in advancing their skills and careers. He asked several key questions during the workshop:
- Does everyone understand exactly what we mean by “mentoring” within the context of our organization?
- What expectations does each stakeholder (mentors, mentees, managers, and HR) have of the program?
- Do all stakeholders fully understand their roles?
- What program and partnership objectives will we follow going forward?
Martin kept in close touch with both mentors and mentees and at the end of the three-month pilot he held a debriefing that summarized the program’s results. Mentees felt excited and motivated by the “big picture” training and coaching provided by their mentors. They all agreed they had gained valuable business intelligence and had become more strategic thinkers. The mentors felt rewarded, both by the acknowledgment they received from their mentees and by the long-term positive benefits the company would enjoy. The corporate mentoring program was soon rolled out company-wide.