All stakeholders in the mentoring process—the company, the mentor, and the mentee—benefit when mentors think and act strategically. And the benefits to a firm’s financial performance have been shown to be tangible and quantifiable.
Whether you’re just beginning a mentoring program or already have one in place, consider the following checklist of effective mentoring practices to identify potential improvements for your process:
Is mentoring a priority? Mentoring is a management activity, not just a management responsibility. A mentor proactively and directly interacts with those being mentored.
If your mentoring activities appear at least twice a week on your calendar, you are visibly and actively making mentoring a priority for you and your mentee.
How visible are your mentee’s assignments to upper management? Mentored employees should be assigned a “real” project as soon as they join their work units. The new staff member and the mentor need to quickly develop a sense of where and how the mentee can contribute to projects that matter.
If the mentee’s project is important enough to show up on the monthly or quarterly general management review agenda, it’s a highly visible assignment.
How and how often do you review progress on assignments with your mentee? Mentors should schedule a weekly review meeting for each project in which mentored staff members participate. Ask the new employees to prepare written weekly summaries in advance of the review meeting. The entire project team and the mentees benefit from this discipline of preparing written summaries in advance.
If your mentee proactively contributes to the review meeting discussion and development of next-step action plans, you know you’ve been effective with respect to advancing her personal professional contributions.
What resources are available to help your mentee learn and navigate the workplace culture? Mentors should introduce a new mentee to established staff members who can serve as resources for questions related to the key support tasks of daily life in the workplace. Some examples of these key tasks include timecard practices, ISO quality procedures, purchasing procedures and, equally important, the “unwritten” rules of life in the work unit and the company. Check back with the mentee to learn if there are any other procedures that need to be covered.
If resources are available and in place for the mentee to tap into, you’ve effectively and usefully expanded her internal network.
How does the mentee learn about external market and industry dynamics that affect your business? Mentors should schedule regular one-to-one “touch-base” meetings not associated with performance evaluation activities with mentees. These meetings should be office-based but without a formal agenda. The purpose is to allow the mentor and mentee to discuss company-related topics not necessarily connected with ongoing projects. These more free-ranging conversations allow mentors to introduce forward-looking topics such as changing market or industry dynamics and the company’s planned responses to them.
If you’re having touch-base meetings at least once a week in the first three to four months of the mentee’s employment, you’ve increased your mentee’s perspective and knowledge regarding issues affecting the business and, thereby, increased the value-add potential of her decision making.
Do you have a mentoring process that specifically addresses senior-level mentees? A key marker of senior-level employees is strategic thinking. Thinking and acting strategically is a transferable skill—one that enhances a mentee’s prospects for advancement to other roles in the company. Through all the mentor-led discussions described above, the mentee herself begins to think and act strategically, strengthening the alignment between her personal professional goals and those of the company.
If the mentee is fully engaged in producing outcomes the company values, she will be noticed—and noticed favorably—by her colleagues. As a mentor, once you see that happening, you know you’ve contributed effectively to your mentee’s career development.
Individual contributors need crucial foundational skills to take on a management role and achieve team success.