There is no question that establishing a mentoring program is a powerful way for associations to add value to their members. However, the quality of that value-add is highly reliant on the quality of the mentors the association is able to attract.
In every group there are kind and generous people who will put their hands up immediately when the call goes out for help. But a good, balanced mentoring program requires more than the usual suspects. So how do you attract mentors who are a little more focused on their own careers and less prone to volunteer?
Push the Right Buttons
The temptation when seeking mentors is to focus on the feel good factor. This works well for philanthropic souls, but for the more career focussed it is best to emphasize the personal advantages that mentoring offers.
Talk about the leadership skills a mentor will gain through participation in the program. A good mentoring program will offer a mentor training and experience in people development. These coaching and mentoring skills are bound to be useful in their careers.
Research has shown that Baby Boomers are increasingly eager to share their knowledge and leave a legacy. Mentoring is not only an opportunity to do exactly this; it is also a chance for mentors to reflect on their own careers and experience.
Many senior professionals find themselves shielded from the young people coming up in their professions. Remind potential mentors that this is an opportunity to get their finger on the pulse of a younger generation. They may be surprised what they will learn themselves.
Offer Rewards & Recognition
While we would not recommend that you pay mentors, it is a good idea to find ways to reward and recognise their contribution.
The most powerful incentive available to associations is to offer CPD points to those acting as a mentor. Assuming you are running a professional and well-developed mentoring program then offering CPD points is entirely legitimate. Mentors will receive training and experience using coaching and mentoring skills that will be invaluable in their professions. And CPD points are certainly a strong incentive for the career-focused members.
Another idea would be to provide public acknowledgement for mentors, either in the association newsletter or at a conference.
Providing a gift can be a nice way to recognise mentors. In a recent program we provided all mentors with a copy of the book Paddock to Plate at the opening session. The gift was not expensive and presenting mentors with something at the outset was a way of acknowledging the contribution they were about to make.
Celebrate Their Contribution
We encourage our clients to close mentoring programs with a social gathering, where mentors can mingle, nibble and imbibe. It’s a chance to celebrate and reflect upon the contribution they have just made to their profession.
It’s a bit more difficult if you are running a virtual mentoring program. But get creative. Maybe send all your mentors a bottle of wine and an assortment of nibbles and then organise a collective Skype call.
Celebration reinforces the importance of mentoring, increasing the chance that people will mentor again and tell their friends.
Word of Mouth
And on the subject of “telling their friends”, word of mouth can be your most powerful promotional tool for building your mentor list. The more you recognise and reward the mentors you have, the more likely they are to talk about their experience at work, in social gatherings or at conferences. Ultimately this will attract new mentors and continue to build the strength of your mentoring program.