Ellen Ensher provides resources for individual and programmatic continuous learning processes, as well as discussing best practice examples of mentoring programs that provide ongoing support such as peer mentoring platforms.
- Have you ever had the experience of joining a new gym, and meeting with a trainer who trained you on all of the shiny new equipment, then, the next time you went, you couldn't remember any of the new exercises, and you just felt really disengaged? The same phenomena can occur with mentoring training. The key to success in both of these situations is to go beyond the first training session and provide ongoing support. I'm going to give you three suggestions to help mentors and proteges stay engaged and keep learning continuously in your mentoring program.
My first suggestion for continuous learning is to follow up with mentors and proteges periodically. I recommend that you follow up within a month of the first training session, and then again at the halfway point. The follow ups can be official, in the form of an online survey, or informal, like a personal call. If you do this, then you can keep your finger on the pulse of the program and intervene to provide coaching and resources as needed. You may wish to ask questions like: how is your mentoring relationship going so far on a scale of one to five? With one being horrible and five being fantastic.
How frequently have you communicated and what topics have you covered? What help do you need to improve your experience in this program? Second, I recommend that you provide conversational starters and ongoing coaching periodically. A peer program is one year in length, then I recommend that you provide conversational starters at least once a month. Try to make your starters creative, provocative, and specific to your participants.
For example, I worked with a program that paired highly gifted students with industry mentors, so the conversation topics were more theoretical, like discuss with your protege their thoughts on how we can provide access to clean water to everyone in the world by 2030. Make yourself available for coaching for both mentors and proteges, so when challenges arise, they can be addressed right away. Third, build community among peers.
The best way for participants in your mentoring program to stay engaged is for them to feel like they are part of a learning community. Have events or use technology like online venues. These should bring together not just mentors and proteges, but also proteges with their fellow proteges, and mentors with their fellow mentors. In this way, relationships can happen across levels and boundaries. For example, one of my clients hosted monthly lunchtime webinars for mentors only, where the mentors could safely vent, share resources, and solve problems together.
Just like joining a new gym, it takes a while for mentors and proteges to get acclimated to each other and the program. The more that you follow up, provide guidance, and build community, the greater the likelihood that mentors and proteges will keep showing up in every sense of the word.
- 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