I received this email the other day from a mentoring program manager (MPM) and wanted to share my response with all of you as it illustrates some of the challenges that exist with new programs.
"A question we have been wrestling with has to do with how to pair up mentors/mentees. We have 5 executives on our Senior Leadership Team, all of whom are willing and understanding the importance of being a mentor (though their skill levels as a mentor or coach are varied, and one is the CEO). We have roughly 32 top talent employees (this is our top 2%) that we want to ensure are being mentored. Each executive would like to start by mentoring 1-3 people based on their interest and time availability. Then once they’ve mentored a few key employees, those employees can turn around and mentor other employees, and so on until we’ve got that top group covered."
There are several issues that need to be highlighted:
1. The MPM indicates that the CEO will be mentoring. This is usually not a good idea. Why? Because of the power inherent in a CEO or COO. This puts a lot of pressure on the part of the mentoree not to fail. In addition, can a mentoree be truly honest about his/her deficiencies when the CEO makes all decisions for promotions and raises? I had this experience once where a CEO insisted upon mentoring and after his first meeting, came to the MPM and told him that we needed to reconsider who we have as mentorees because his mentoree was not "listening to what he had to say!" This person's career was over with this CEO.
2. Having a mentor take on up to 3 mentorees is not the best way to move forward. The golden rule in mentoring is for a mentor and mentoree to meet 2x a month for 1-1.5 hours. If I have 3 mentorees, that's about 6 to 9 hours per month. This is not counting any preparation or follow-up activities I may need to do as each person's mentor. If you are going to have 3 mentorees it makes more sense to go to a group mentoring model in the interest of not overwhelming the mentor.
3. The MPM does not mention whether any training is involved for mentors and mentorees. This is usually an overlooked area because people at the very top often think that they already are excellent mentors so they don't need any training. Interestingly enough, whenever I go into an organization to create a mentoring program for people at the top, the MPM will often ask, "How do we get those in senior management that really aren't good mentors to get better or can we avoid making a match for them?" Training in a mentoring program is critical! E-learning is convenient and makes it really inexcusable not to provide this training to both mentors and mentorees. If you are interested, you can preview our elearning courses here for free (click "Buy Now" and then select "preview of Maximizing Success").
In conclusion, in doing matching at the very top, consider some of the ramifications of any decision to who should mentor or be mentored and how the boundaries in those relationships are defined to ensure that mentorees are in an environment that is safe in terms of taking risks with senior management.
For further information on different mentoring models (one on one vs. group mentoring vs. executive mentoring), check out our free white paper:
To learn more about how Business Mentoring Fosters Career Advancement:
For those of you that are already on board with a corporate mentoring program and are interested in learning more about matching mentoring pairs, you may be interested in checking out Precision Matching by Management Mentors:Flynt | Dreamstime.com