January is National Mentoring Month, a month with a cause that is central to many of associations’ missions. Many of our clients here are Kellen run successful mentoring programs, which is a great way to develop connections among your members and to promote the advancement of the next generation of members. A mentoring program is an attractive member benefit for a young professional just starting out, and it can be equally rewarding for the mentor, who can feel like they are giving back to their industry.
If you are administrating a program for your association, here are seven tips for nurturing successful mentoring relationships:
- Build the right structure. Recruit strong potential mentors and mentees. Commitment is necessary for any program to be successful. Provide mentors and mentees with guidelines of what this commitment will entail so they understand that the mentoring relationship must be taken seriously in order to be successful.
- Aim to make the perfect match. Unfortunately, matching is not always a science. Be very conscientious when you put your matches together. Find out what is most important to the mentor in a mentoring relationship and what the mentee is looking to gain from the partnership. It can be a challenge as your program gets larger, but try to consider the career goals, interests, geographic proximity, and personalities of the pairs as you make the matches.
- Arrange the introduction. Hold an orientation for your mentee/mentor pairs. At the event, find a way for the pairs to break the ice and get to know one another. Go over the expectations for the program again.
- Allow flexibility. While setting ground rules and expectations are important, you still need to allow the pairs flexibility to make the program work for their needs. Some pairs will meet for coffee regularly, while others might chat by email or phone sporadically. As long as they are communicating and are both satisfied by the arrangements, the relationship can work.
- Create a supportive environment. Solicit feedback from the participants on how things are going. If a participant hasn’t heard a peep from their partner in months, they should feel comfortable reaching out to the program chairs or staff to get help, and you should respond to concerns in a timely manner. Your mentee/mentor pairs need to feel that they can rely upon you to be respectful of their unique issues.
- Understand that sometimes things just don’t work out. Despite all your care, some matches just might not work out. Don’t penalize the participants. Sometimes the chemistry just may not be right. Try to find a good solution, such as finding new matches.
- Establish an end date. Be sure to have closure parameters established during the commitment process. Typically terms run for a year. Some pairs might stay in touch after the program ends, but you should give both people a formal opportunity to opt out of the commitment. Establish an official end of program procedure, such as a program end celebration.
What other tips do you have for nurturing successful mentoring relationships?