What makes a great mentoring program manager?

One part match-maker, another part relationship counsellor, mixed with liberal doses of financial controller, communications specialist, trainer and project manager. That’s what makes up the unique characteristics of a great program manager. The role is so broad that it’s actually quite hard to do really well at all aspects.

The European Mentoring and Coaching Council (EMCC) administers a Global Coach/Mentor Program Manager Training Quality Award (PMQA). This Award has 12 professional core standards against which program managers are assessed. I’ve grouped them into six:

  1. Program Planning. An effective mentoring program manager designs a program to suit the context and clearly identifies the purpose, scope and goals, making the methodology available to key stakeholders.
  2. Program governance, stakeholder management, risks and issue management. Good program management requires effective reporting to stakeholders, ability to balance and skilfully navigate different agendas of participants, program team and wider stakeholders. Good governance includes maintaining high ethical standards and duty of care. A skilled program manager identifies risk up front and makes timely adjustments to suit a changing context.
  3. Budgeting and ROI. It is the program manager’s role to ensure the program is adequately funded and delivers a return on investment.
  4. Recruit, select, match, train and supervise participants. Great program managers design and implement effective processes for these core activities, ideally informed by evidence. They establish a suitable supervision or reflective practice plan for participants.
  5. Program evaluation and quality assurance. An evaluation strategy and methodology must be identified at the beginning so that program effectiveness can be assessed. The program manager will apply quality assurance processes, enabling individual, training or program accreditation as appropriate.
  6. Focus on self. A great program manager is highly self-aware and invests in continuing professional development for the role.

The best program managers I know have the ability to balance empathy with assertiveness. The role requires outstanding listening and communication skills, so that mentors and mentees will open up and seek assistance when needed. At the same time, an accomplished program manager knows when to push the responsibility back to participants as needed, and how to push back on stakeholders’ (sometimes) unreasonable demands. For programs with large numbers, numeracy and a degree of tech savviness are also needed.

The role requirements are often under-estimated. Whilst there is a degree of administration in the role, a good program manager has wisdom and judgement that junior administrators lack. It is also highly rewarding. There is nothing better than mentor and mentee feedback when the mentoring experience has been life-changing. It is a gift to have the opportunity to enable that for others.

© 2020 Melissa Richardson


A guide to unleashing the hidden value in your organisation through high impact strategic mentoring programs.

Most human beings and organisations have one thing in common – they both want to do better. But it’s hard for one to achieve without the other. When you can harness both you can achieve great things.

Unfortunately, most organisational structures are hierarchical, which may aid efficiency but not necessarily “real” human interaction.

Solving the human equation is the cornerstone of great culture and the larger and more diverse the workforce, the more challenging it becomes, even before we factor in things like location, technology and pay rates.

Well designed and managed mentoring programs can have a dramatic impact on workplace culture and people engagement. A strategic mentoring program transcends hierarchy, creating relationships and interactions to build individual and hence organisational value.

In this guide we present you with proven practical insights on how to design, build, implement and automate a high influence mentoring program and create your own ripple effect.

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the ripple effect