Take Your Business Mentoring Program to the Next Level

A common question we get from people is how to take an existing mentoring program to the proverbial "next level." Unfortunately, this question doesn't have a one-size-fits-all answer, but here are some additional questions to guide you on next steps.

1. What is your definition of "the next level"? Sometimes we encounter eager program managers who want to take their program to the next level, but they can't articulate what they mean by that phrase. You need to identify what, exactly, you're looking to accomplish so that you can create and implement a realistic plan.

2. Is your program ready for the next level? Maybe you ran your pilot program with 25 pairs and now you want to open it up to the whole organization of 5000 people. While that's not an impossible jump to make, you must be realistic: operating a 25-pair program is going to be much different from operating a potential 2500-pair program.

3. Have you learned everything you can from your current program, especially if it's a pilot program? Many organizations—large and small—start with a pilot program to test the mentoring waters. This is a smart strategy and one we advocate. Here's the thing, though: it's not unheard of to run several pilot programs back-to-back while tweaking and learning from each one before launching a larger, company-wide initiative. In other words, don't rush it. Take the time to build a strong foundation before proceeding to the next level.

4. Will you continue using the same mentoring model? It's perfectly OK to say "yes" to this question, especially if your organization has had success with it. However, sometimes taking a program to the next level will involve a change to the mentoring model. For example, let's say an organization used a group model to start out since more mentorees were available than mentors. But as word got out and people heard positive things about the program, other folks expressed an interest in participating as mentors. Graduating to a managed program (where mentors and mentorees work one-to-one) would make a lot of sense in this case.

5. What role will technology play? For many companies, the next proverbial level often includes upgrading to online mentoring software, like MentoringComplete. Mentoring software streamlines many processes, such as matching mentors and mentorees, and saves the program manager many hours of work every week. But, again, it all depends on your goals and what the next level looks like for your organization. (See our first point above.)

6. Do you provide training? One of the easiest ways to elevate a program from OK to great is by giving your mentors, mentorees, and program managers all the resources they need to be successful. While the mentoring concept is extremely intuitive, how to go about mentoring can seem daunting, especially at first. Training your mentors and mentorees on what to expect and how to manage the relationship can automatically take your program to the next level. Ditto when you certify your program managers.

7. Are you satisfied with your program's size and mentoring model, but you feel there's something lacking, like maybe people can and should be getting more out of the program? You've done everything right (or you think you have, anyway), but you're not satisfied with the results (or maybe you're not even sure how to measure results). In this case, a consultation with a mentoring expert can do wonders.

At Management Mentors, we do these sorts of consultations a lot. We'll talk to people with current programs, learn about their goals, their challenges, and so forth, and make recommendations for improving their programs. This 30-minute to hour-long conversation can be incredibly helpful and enlightening. And we don't charge for this initial conversation either, so it's worth doing. (If you're interested, just respond to this email or use the contact form on our site.)

Remember, mentoring is a journey. It takes time. Another way to look at it is like this: mentoring is a marathon, not a sprint. While it's commendable that you want to improve your program and take it to the next level, make sure you're doing it for the right reasons, that it's the right time, and that you have the right systems set up to support your goals.

As always, let us know if you have any questions. Here's to your mentoring success!

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