shutterstock_155465270The Three Legs of a Successful Mentoring Program

A lot has been written about the detailed processes for running a mentoring program, but we too rarely take a top-level view to understand the core elements required to ensure mentoring program success.  In our view, there are three essentials to successful mentoring and like a three-legged stool; when one leg is removed things fall flat.

The Three Legs Successful Mentoring Stands On

For any mentoring program to succeed it must stand on three legs:

Program Manager

Mentoring programs simply do not run themselves.  Technological advancements give companies access to database functionality, matching algorithms and even some automation of key administrative tasks.  But don’t be fooled that technology eliminates the need for a program manager.

A good program manager will act as an internal champion for the program, ensuring ongoing management support, as well as evaluate program effectiveness and recommend improvements.  Most important he or she will problem solve, guide and encourage participants at an individual level and as a group, a nurturing role that ensures that both the organisation and participants get the most out of the program.

Expertise

While mentoring is a powerful tool to achieve a range of organisational objectives, it is also a major investment for an organisation, at the very least demanding a considerable amount of time from key staff members.  It only makes sense to run a mentoring program using best practice techniques as well as professional training and support resources to maximise your return on investment.

There are two options here.  Either you can employ a program manager with specific mentoring expertise and experience, or you can support your inexperienced program manager with outside guidance and resources for program design, management and participant training.

Technology

Mentoring programs increasingly rely on technology to optimise outcomes. Where a program is large in scope or covers a broad geographical territory, different technologies such as program administration software, webinar access for program events and high quality eLearning for mentors and mentees, are essential to success. Technology allows mentoring programs to be delivered into remote areas or pairs to be matched up across regions or countries. Ideally, these technologies should be integrated to simplify access and optimise the user experience.

Why a Two Legged Stool Falls Over

The most important thing to understand is that a successful mentoring program requires ALL THREE legs, remove one and your program will fall flat. Worse still, remove two legs and your program may never get off the ground.

Expertise + Technology

It may seem possible to build a strong mentoring program using expert resources and technology alone.  But without the nurturing of a program manager, the mentoring pairs tend to lose momentum.  Yes, some pairs will have success regardless, but others will falter, reducing the effectiveness of your program.

Program Manager + Expertise

If your mentoring program is very small it is possible to run a mentoring program with a good program manager and expert resources.  But once your mentoring program scales up or demands broad geographic reach, technology will be essential to holding your program together without overextending your program manager.

Program Manager + Technology

It is certainly possible to set up a mentoring program without expertise.  Let technology do the matching and find an eager but inexperienced volunteer to administer the program.  Your program might even appear to run along satisfactorily.  But there is no question that your results will fall short of potential if the program has not been designed properly or if mentors and mentees have not been well prepared for a successful learning partnership.

At the end of the day, a mentoring program should be about delivering against organisational objectives.  Expertise is needed to design a program to specifically address core objectives and to continually evaluate and improve it.  Professional resources and expert training are essential to fostering strong mentoring relationships, upskilling participants and optimizing program outcomes.

There is simply no getting around it.  A successful mentoring campaign stands on three legs.