Guiding protégés to growth
Mentoring 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
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
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.
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.