Tag Archive | good mentors

The Mentor’s Toolbox: Mentoring Strategy

One of the keys to a successful mentoring program is having a clear strategy that covers every aspect of the whole mentoring process. The strategy is basically a plan that shows how the mentoring will be done right from initiating the program to the end of it. It defines the overall approach to be used, length of the program, areas of focus and how problems and/or conflicts will be handled, if they arise.

You can map out the strategy by first breaking the mentoring process into stages or phases with goals for each stage and methods to be used at each stage. For instance a two-year work-place mentoring program in a technical environment can be broken into four 6-month periods during which specific skill areas are explored thoroughly. The first two periods may involve face to face interaction where mentor and mentee do tasks together or spend a lot of time together in discussion. The third period may involve field/site visits for the mentee to observe practically how things are done, and the last period may involve assigning new tasks for the mentee to complete independently and give weekly reports.

Strategies may also vary from simple to complex depending on the nature of the mentoring process. For example the strategy for mentoring a teenage girl on general life skills may be as simple as meeting once a week to discuss specific areas of concern and answer her questions. The weekly discussion points can be pre-determined or can be raised spontaneously as you go. On the other hand, the strategy for mentoring college undergraduates may include things like experimental projects, library research, counseling sessions and so on, which are more detailed and written down.

A good mentoring strategy should have the following elements:

  1. Clear goals to be achieved by the time the program ends. It could be a single goal or more than one, depending on the needs of the mentee(s). Having clear goals will help both mentor and mentee to focus and not deviate into other matters that may not be of any use to the mentoring process. Goals also provide a benchmark against which to evaluate the success or otherwise of the mentoring process.
  2. Methods to be used and when, e.g. discussion groups, site visits, research, etc.
  3. Time scales. Although some mentoring relationships can go on for life, most formal mentoring is done within a specified period of time during which certain goals must be met. Putting time scales also allows for reviews or evaluations to be done at the end of the period so that a decision can be made whether to ‘release’ or extend.
  4. Clear roles/responsibilities for both mentor and mentee. This enables mutual respect, which is important in any kind of relationship. Each party knows what is expected of them and this reduces the chances of misunderstandings.

Essential Qualities of a Good Mentor

If you want one year of prosperity, grow grain,
If you want ten years of prosperity, grow trees,
If you want one hundred years of prosperity, grow people.
(Chinese proverb)

Mentors do not come easy, especially in this century where people are more glued to electronic devices and software applications than to people and relationships. Time for people seems to be such a rare gem nowadays, even within established relationships like families. Yet, we all need to grow in different faucets of life – relationships, career, character, etc.

However, there are some areas of life for which we surely need someone more experienced or knowledgeable to guide us safely to a desired destination. For that reason, mentorship will always be a subject worthy of our attention.

Six qualities I have found to be very valuable for mentoring are:

  • Honesty
  • Reliability
  • Availability
  • Humility
  • Ability (specific to the area of training)
  • Commitment

This list is by no means exhaustive; it only points out the most important qualities that should apply to any kind of mentor in any field. Depending on what kind of mentoring you require, you may need to add a few more qualities so as to receive maximum benefit out of the relationship.

One way to determine well what you need from your mentor is to clearly define your expectations right from the start. Let him/her know what you want out of the relationship, and when. For instance you could say, “At the end of one month, I would like to be able to write quality content for a business website.” From that expectation it is clear that you need a mentor who is competent in website content and is available for that period of one month.

You may not be able to find all of the above qualities in one person but at least you get the idea – don’t settle for just anyone out there to be your mentor. Have certain standards you are looking for.