It's the start of a new year and a great time to review your mentoring program, fix what doesn't work, and continue improving upon what does. Here are five "spruce up" strategies to help you do just that.
1. Review participants' feedback, but don't make changes unless they are in keeping with mentoring best practices. For example, you might get comments about the program being too formal and hindering the spontaneity of the relationship. But what's forgotten by those making the comment is that they wouldn't have had the relationship in the first place if a formal structure hadn't existed to support two strangers meeting and building a relationship. Negative feedback needs to be heard, but it doesn't always need to precipitate change.
2. Review struggling pairs and determine next steps. If the issue was a lack of commitment to time and program guidelines, then be clear about whether these people should participate again. This is especially true of mentors (usually mentorees participate only once in a program). It's important to have a discussion with the mentor in question if he or she decides to continue in the program. Let the mentor know that if he or she doesn't meet expectations, you will step in and end the pairing. This approach will ensure quality control of your program.
3. Use current participants to market your program to others. I'm often asked how to get buy-in from potential mentors or mentorees and my response is to let existing participants do the selling. One great way is to have an informational session where current mentors and mentorees share their experiences with prospective members. This is a powerful recruitment tool.
4. Use current participants for training new mentors and mentorees. Similar to #3 except in this case, you invite a given pair or number of mentors/mentorees to serve on a panel during training to share their experience and answer questions from those who are about to engage in the mentoring relationship. If you do this, have some questions prepared so that you can prompt interaction if you have a quiet audience.
5. Review your matching process. Look at those pairs who didn't do as well as you expected and review what went into those particular matches. What was the deciding factor in making this match, and, in retrospect, was that the correct decision to make? Did you have any concerns originally about this match? If yes, did these concerns manifest themselves in the results? What information was missing that would have helped to make a better match? Should you adjust your profile form to include this information for future matches? Likewise, look at your good matches and review why those matches worked so well. Were certain matches more successful because the information they provided was more comprehensive or revelatory? Should you then ensure that others do the same?
These five spruce-up strategies will help your organization's mentoring success.