When it comes to setting mentoring objectives, you should remember two important points. First, your mentoring program will have an overall objective (e.g. develop leaders). Second, each individual mentoring relationship between a mentor and mentoree will have its own set of objectives (e.g. develop more confidence speaking/presenting in front of groups, learn how to balance life/work better, create and launch a 3-year plan for growth).
For the purpose of this post, we’re going to discuss the latter: tips for setting mentoring objectives within individual mentor/mentoree relationships.
1. Make a "tackle" list.
Before the first meeting, the mentoree should develop his or her "tackle" list—those potential areas he or she is hoping to work on during the course of the mentoring relationship.
The tackle list can (and should) be long. Think of it like a wish list. In other words, the mentoree should include everything.
2. Discuss the tackle list during the first and possibly second meeting.
During the first couple of meetings, the mentor and mentoree will get to know one another on a personal and professional level. They'll discuss backgrounds, family, and other areas to help break the ice.
During these initial meetings, the mentoree should also share the tackle list—the potential items to focus on during the course of the relationship. From there, the mentor and mentoree can whittle down the tackle list to a set of reasonable mentoring objectives.
What do we mean by reasonable? Well, depending on the size of the mentoree's tackle list, the mentor and mentoree won't be able to focus on everything over the course of 9-12 months. Even if the list is seemingly small, one topic might be broad enough to become the main focus.
The goal is to prioritize the list while keeping the mentor's experience in mind. For example, if the mentor is an effective manager, and one of the items on the mentoree's tackle list is to learn how to better evaluate her own management skills, then you would move this particular item ahead of something else, since the mentor has deep experience in this area
3. Share the objectives with your mentoring program manager (MPM).
Keep the MPM apprised of your mentoring objectives. This will help the MPM on a micro and macro level.
On a micro level, the MPM will have a solid grasp of what you’re trying to get out of your mentoring relationship (and how to help if you get off track).
On a macro level, the MPM can make sure that the larger program's overall objectives are being met based on the objectives each mentoring pair is setting. Plus, the MPM will be able to analyze the effectiveness of different programs over the long-term based on different mentoring objectives.
4. Understand that the objectives are fluid.
Let's face it: priorities change. Or sometimes meeting an objective happens faster than you expected (and vice versa).
Our point: understand that mentoring objectives are fluid. If you need to change them, do so (just make sure you alert the MPM).
5. Don't get discouraged if you don't meet all of your objectives.
Sure, you've whittled down the tackle list to a set of reasonable objectives to focus on for 9-12 months. But just as life happens and objectives can change, it's also possible that you won't be able to meet all the objectives on your list. And that's OK.
The measure of a partnership's success isn't how many objectives you were able to cross off the list, but rather how well you met each objective. It's better to meet three objectives to the best of your ability than it is to whiz through six objectives just so you can say you did.
Do you have any other tips for setting mentoring objectives? We want to hear them! Share in the comments.