Thursday, May 29, 2014

Mentoring Problem #3: Mentoring Communication

Communicate With Your Mentoring Participants

It’s not the mentors’ and mentees’ responsibility to figure out where their gaps are in understanding what exactly they need to do for the duration of the program and the mentoring partnership. Mostly because right now it may be just one big gap.

That's dangerous for you as the program administrator. Here's why you need one common mentoring communication strategy.

Imagine you have fifteen mentoring participants in a room. You ask them what mentoring is. Individually, 8 to 10 of them reply with incredibly different answers. Now that you know that your mentoring program participants have this many different opinions about what mentoring is – none of them in line with your mentoring program’s objectives – are you going to continue forward without making it clear to them exactly what mentoring means for your organization, what the goals are, and what they’ll be expected to do?

(Please say no.)

Congratulations: if you chose “no”, you chose correctly! If you go forward now, you can bet that all of those opinions are going to circulate and communicate to others what they think they should do, and how and why they think they should do it. Not only is this not going to tie back into your objectives, but it will cause rampant confusion and frustration throughout your entire program – perhaps even to the point that everyone gives up, and nothing at all is achieved.

Mentoring Communication, Mentoring Training

One of the things that everyone agrees on when starting up a mentoring program is that there needs to be a common mentoring communication strategy around what the program entails to everyone it’s going to affect – including mentors, mentees, managers, supervisors, and program administrators.

What people don’t usually agree on is what that common communication should include in terms of telling participants and managers/supervisors what exactly is expected.

So what should your mentoring training program and communications include? The plan and structure developed in the very beginning should determine those specifics. But always keep in mind that your mentoring program participants don’t know what they don’t know, which is why they need mentoring training. Things that are obvious to you are not obvious to them.

For example, one of the big questions we get is “How often should mentors and mentees meet?” What participants think sounds correct varies between the extremes of meeting for 2 hours once per quarter and meeting several hours once per week. Other very common questions are asked about what confidentiality parameters should be, or how to work with a mentee’s manager to accomplish goals.

In short, your participants don’t know what it takes. You have to let them know – but if and only if you know what it takes. 

Otherwise, you take the risk of perpetuating misinformation all by yourself.

 Other posts in this series:
Judy Corner is an expert in mentoring training and program planning.


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