Spring Training Your Way to Mentoring Success

For baseball fans, April marks a new season and revived pennant dreams. But the hard work doesn't begin when the players take to the field and fans fill the stands on opening day. That happens in the weeks and months leading up to the first pitch. That's right-we're talking about spring training.

So what does this have to do with mentoring? Well, mastery of anything--be it sport or art, business or personal--doesn't occur without hard work. The same holds true for your company's mentoring program.

How Your Mentoring Program Is Like a Baseball Team

To expand the analogy further, consider this. Effective training up front ensures a solid "opening day," while special "mini-camps" throughout the year keeps your program focused on having a winning season. You are the owner of the team. Your program manager is, in essence, the skipper. Your players--the mentors and mentorees--look to the program manager for guidance, encouragement, and a game plan.

Other businesses are the competing teams, and the strength of your team could be the deciding factor in who wins the revenue race in your particular "division." Strong mentoring programs produce strong, loyal players while fostering and nurturing their talents. By investing in them, you invest in your team-or company-which spells championship to us.

So how should the mentoring training play out? Here are some guidelines.

Training "Skippers"--Program Managers

Remember, the program manager is not unlike a baseball team's manager. Think Terry Francona, Lou Torre, Tony LaRussa. So it makes sense that you'd invest the most hours into training someone for this critical role.

We typically train program managers for 100 hours over 15 months. Each program manager is certified and goes through a pilot program that teaches (among other things) mentoring concepts, such as how mentoring differs from coaching and other professional relationships.

Training Players--Mentors and Mentorees

Ideally, mentors should be trained in a half-day session, and mentorees should be trained in a separate half-day session. Topics covered will include the following items:

  • Partners' expectations
  • How mentoring differs from other professional development relationships
  • Relationship ground rules
  • Negotiating the mentoring agreement

Why should you keep mentors and mentorees separate at first? If you bring them together too soon, individuals may not be honest and open with the partner who's in the room.

After these separate half-day sessions, mentors and mentorees come together for one combined half-day session where the program manager goes over the game plan and eases everyone into their roles. The combined session starts with an icebreaker (think batting practice, warm-up pitches) so participants feel comfortable. This eventually leads into a complete communication instrument that helps determine how each person prefers to mentor or be mentored. Finally, the pairs negotiate their mentoring agreements, and then they are on their way.

Quarterly "Mini-Camps"

Each quarter, we recommend sessions with the mentoring program manager (and outside consultant, if there is one) to meet with mentorees and mentors separately for an hour. The goal of this meeting is to assess what's going on, see if further training is needed, and address any issues that have come up.

Playbooks

We provide a resource manual focused on developing mentor relationships. The manual includes myriad techniques and exercises. This, combined with a well-trained program manager, helps support team players throughout the year.

Remember, no team wins a World Series without practice and tons of hard work. If your company invests the necessary hours and resources into its mentoring program, it can look forward to an exciting and rewarding season. Play ball!

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