We all know that managers can make or break an organization. The same is true for your mentoring program. So what should you look for when identifying your Mentoring Program Manager (MPM)? Think the three C's: credibility, compassion and "confident" common sense.
Aristotle called it "ethos," and no doubt your MPM must have high credibility at all levels of the organization: senior management, mentors and mentorees. Remember, people need to feel comfortable going to the MPM to discuss issues and other confidential matters. Not only must the MPM be trustworthy and well respected, but also must be perceived as trustworthy and well respected by the people in your company. People's perceptions are just as important (if not more important) than reality.
Is a person born with credibility? Or is it something people can develop? While different schools of thought exist, a person can become more credible by taking on other leadership roles within the organization--i.e. becoming more visible--so that people are familiar with him or her.
MPMs must have the best interest of the company and the mentoring pairs at heart. You don't want mentors to bypass the MPM and go directly to a mentoree's manager or to the HR manager. All three relationships must be protected: mentoree/mentor, company/mentor and company/mentoree.
The MPM must also have the ability to understand people. If the MPM asks participants how things are going, he or she needs to interpret, based on things like nonverbal gestures, how things are really going. This requires a sensitivity and ability to read people.
While compassion is very much an innate quality, if people are willing to learn about communication techniques, such as active listening and the meaning of nonverbal gestures, people can increase their ability to show compassion toward others.
"Confident" Common Sense
We all know people with high IQs, yet their "street smarts" are lacking. Common sense goes a long way, especially in mentoring programs. The MPM needs wisdom to exercise good judgment on sensitive issues and to resolve them appropriately. For example, if a mentor is too aggressive or if mentors are not meeting with their mentorees, MPMs need to be comfortable with confronting people, but they also need to be diplomatic and tactful in how they go about it.
Confidence plays a huge role here. Confidence is often an innate quality, although an MPM can develop more confidence as he or she grows in the role.
Other Tips for MPM Success
It's critical for MPMs to have the necessary support from their own managers. The time commitment and roles need to be explained and understood by both parties. The MPM should never be in a position where he or she feels blindsided by an unsupportive boss.
The Mentoring Program Manager is not an administrative role (i.e. it's not just about making sure pairs are meeting). It's an HR role; therefore, the MPM needs a certain stature and respect in the organization so people will feel comfortable going to him or her.
Don't underestimate this extremely important role. We've seen good programs go bad because of weak managers. Likewise, we've seen so-so programs do well because of strong MPMs. When selecting yours, keep the three C's in mind: credibility, compassion, and confident common sense.
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