On Thursday, February 20, I will be facilitating an open Round Table discussion, “Building Your Mentoring Program,” for members of the Association for Consulting Expertise (ACE).
It has been suggested that ACE organize a mentoring program for our 60+ consultant members, with their varying levels of consulting for marketing, sales, management, process improvement and coaching, to name a few of our areas of specialty.
This is a subject of vital importance to all of us, so I am using the occasion to offer some ideas on how it should be done.
Most successful organizations use mentoring to simulate learning and creativity. This is a way for newer people to benefit from the knowledge and more experienced colleagues. When they have a structured/formalized programs, members can take the time to develop their skills. That offers great rewards to all those who participate, as well as the companies/groups that foster them.
I have mentored several people over my 25 years in the recruiting field, and have found it an enriching experience. Seeing people grow and thrive over time has been a wonderful experience that has helped shape the person I am today.
Our preferred model for hiring has been to bring on people who have no specific recruiting experience, and train them. We have always been competitive within the industry and among the branches in our company.
Mentor Success Factors
While mentoring that results in enhancing teammates’ performance is very gratifying, by no means is success a given. Factors that weigh on the outcome include communication style, personality, receptiveness to feedback and ability to focus on the needs of the individual client.
The mentor must take ownership of the role. One’s ability to be coach, adviser, instructor and advocate is critical in communication as a mentor. Determining the mentee’s learning style is very relevant, as are strong listening skills to meet the necessity for open feedback.
Prerequisites are patience, persistence and thoughtfulness on the mentor’s part in establishing a trusting relationship that builds confidence in the process. Confidence in and comfort with the depth of the mentor’s proficiency is illustrated by their use of stories.
Conducting the Process
The mentor needs to gauge the mentee’s enthusiasm and drive for learning to determine how to plan and execute the training process. If the mentee is to fully engage, he or she has to be open to the subject matter, and see the value in it. Reinforcing the learning process by employing those practices should be a part of any successful mentoring program.
Proper mentoring takes that into account by having a plan in place to closely monitor and evaluate progress to maintain alignment with the set goals and objectives. Open and honest feedback by both parties is especially essential here.
Being a champion for the mentee is one of the most critical elements for success. Frequent praise, support, acknowledgement of progress and of good ideas will generate enthusiasm, and encourage the furthering of the mentoring process.
The end goal is to have the mentee be comfortable and confident enough to employ the newly learned material, growing and evolving the use of the skills.
How to Proceed?
“Success through Collaboration” is the defining statement of ACE, and that underlies the intention of establishing a formal internal mentoring program. The mission of the mentoring program will be to provide a framework for building members’ consulting skills – thereby meeting our responsibility to be the best we can be for our clients, and for ourselves.
Given the varying needs and experience levels of the 60+ members, the methodology is as-yet unclear. As a start, here are the initial steps we will discuss at the February 20 Round Table discussion:
1) Application Process
Where are we now? The plan is to develop a more formal mentorship program with a clear vision for a working program. Should it be a requirement of ACE members to participate? Where should meetings be held? What would be the time commitment?
2) Matching Process
Defining the needs/wants of participants; defining the application/matching process.
Who are the mentors and how would a potential mentee reach one? What does the mentee in a mentor; is there a suitable match for addressing the need?
3) Mentoring Process (needs analysis)
Any successful program requires goals and objectives. Goal setting can be difficult but defining the parameters correctly makes for a tight alignment. Using metrics to gauge progress and outcomes is critical.
4) Process Improvement
After a mentoring period, there should be an evaluation from both parties. What was learned? How will the subject matter be reinforced? What might be future considerations?