Guiding protégés to growth
imageMentoring is probably the best learning experience for any new leader (or someone considering a move into leadership). When a person moves into a new role (or even they've been in the role for a while), it's an incredible advantage to have someone to lean on for perspective and wisdom. The learners in the leadership program will be proteges in a Mentoring relationship as well.

For anyone who has had a good Mentor in their career, especially at an early stage, there's nothing more to say. It was probably very helpful in getting you over some difficult challenges. The relationship might have also given you new perspectives that you would not have come to on your own. In essence, a good Mentoring relationship accelerates a leader's maturity of thought.

In this program, the mentoring partnership is a semi-structured relationship. Mentoring activities and dialogue support the process, but the Mentor and protégé are encouraged to establish their own cadence for the six-month duration. The Mentoring time commitment is not prescribed, but we do make recommendations based on what we've seen work well in the past. Here are some aspects of the program:

1) Six-Month Commitment - the Mentor-protégé relationship is structured for six months. If the partnership wants to extend beyond that time frame, possibly at a reduced pace, that's totally normal (and actually common). Some relationships become strong professional networking partnerships that evolve from the original Mentoring relationship.

2) Structure - In this relationship, there is an agreement that both parties will sign. While this might sound legalistic, it's really more about establishing some boundaries and guidelines. When are we meeting? Who calls the meeting? What are our rules (i.e., confidentiality), when does the relationship come to an end? What are the goals? These are the junctures around which the Mentoring relationship can easily get side-tracked. By putting everything on the table at the front-end, it helps to reduce confusion.

Typically, the Mentor and protégé meet for about one-hour, every two weeks during the six-month engagement. That means about 12 sessions in the six-month period. If it's a few more or less, it's not that critical. What is important is that the meetings take place, that there are robust conversations about the protégé's assessment feedback, new learning is gleaned from the modules, and the protégé applies the content.

3) Picking a Mentor - This is sometimes an art as much as a science. The choice however, will be the protégé's. Do you pick someone that is similar to you? Do you pick a polar opposite? Someone in your same (professional) lane? Someone from a completely different department that you know nothing about? If you think you need exposure to other sides of the organization, then seek a Mentor from that area. The facilitator will guide the proteges early in the series to set a criteria.

The one thing that will help you get the most from the relationship, is to pick someone who will challenge you, not simply agree with you.

Once a Mentor is identified, the administrator of the program will reach out to them and set up a short Zoom session to alert and inform them to about the Mentoring role. They'll get a brief guide to bring them into the program and help them with their conversations with the protégé.

4) Mentoring Conversations - People can get tangled up on this. What are we going to talk about? What most pairings find however, is that there is an enormous amount of stuff to talk about, and it's more likely that you'll feel like you're running out of time. As each learning event brings forth new knowledge, along with calls to action for the protégé to actually try different approaches, there will be plenty to draw from. Consider also that throughout the program, the protégé will receive feedback from a wide range of assessments. Finally, the Mentor brings seasoned and wizened perspective to the conversation. Whatever the protégé is experiencing has most likely been experienced by the Mentor.

5) No-Fault Clause - In our experience, some relationships will simply not gel. Whether it's due to time constraints of either party, one party not showing up, or personality clashes, the main thing is that we need to get another Mentor involved. The process is not designed to create ill-feelings or thoughts that one party did not hold up their end of the bargain. So, without any hint of shame, we simply pick another Mentor and move on. [In our observation, about 20% of the relationships need to be reset].

6) Mentoring and Protégé Education - For these relationships to thrive, we've learned that it's better to provide some guidance and education to both parties. For the Mentor, we'll schedule a 60-90 minute session to talk about the overarching purpose of Mentoring and how to have a good Mentoring conversation (and what not to do). For the protégé, and this comes early in the program, we'll spend some time in class talking about what it means to be a good protégé and how to get the most out of the conversations.