Social exchange and reciprocity are the foundations for the best mentoring programs. Here, Ellen Ensher shows how the power mentoring (networks of various types of mentoring) can maximize program success, and make formal mentoring programs look and feel like informal relationships.
- There isn't one right way to design a mentoring program. There are lots of right ways. In fact, there are so many forms of mentoring programs that work well, the challenge can be deciding which forms are the best fit for your organization. Choice is a good problem to have, and I'm gonna give you some guidance. I have three basic assumptions that I think are essential for successful formal mentoring programs. The first assumption is, mentoring relationships are a social exchange, and they must be reciprocal and mutually beneficial.
In other words, both mentors and proteges need to give and get value from the relationship and the program. Mentors and proteges need to feel rewarded for participating in the program. Over the years, some clients have told me that this feels oddly transactional or mean, but really, it's not so. In fact, consider most of your successful relationships at work, or even in your personal life.
Isn't there always a give and take? What you exchange with each other is probably not exactly the same, yet if you think about it big picture, there is an exchange. So ask, how will this program be mutually rewarding for your participants? The second assumption is that, unlike other relationships, like say a marriage, mentoring relationships do not have to be monogamous. In other words, the best mentoring programs offer flexibility and opportunities for multiple forms of mentoring.
For example, I designed a mentoring program for a Chicago based healthcare client several years ago. For this program, we included two types of mentoring forms. First, proteges were paired with mentors who were further along in their careers. Second, proteges also had group mentors as they met in teams with senior executives. However, what was unexpected and interesting was that mentors and proteges actually started to serve as peer mentors to each other as well.
The peer mentoring was something that just happened the first time around, and then it worked so well, we institutionalized it the second time around. The third major assumption is that most successful formal mentoring relationships need to look and feel like informal or spontaneously developed relationships. To understand why this matters, I'm going to do a word association with you. So, what is your first reaction when I say the word blind date? For many of us, the most common association is, yuk.
Well, so it is with arranged mentoring. Most people want to feel like they have some choice, control, and autonomy in who their mentoring partner is and how they manage the relationship. I urge you to keep these three assumptions in mind when designing your own mentoring program, and reflect on what you feel are your fundamental assumptions.
- The benefits of formal mentoring programs
- The types and purpose of mentoring programs
- Designing a framework and a needs assessment
- Creating a mentoring culture
- Ensuring organizational support
- Choosing participants
- Training essentials for mentors
- Concluding and celebrating your program
- Evaluating your program
- Making your mentoring program last