Characteristic #12: Mentor Programs (Part 2)

By | September 23, 2013

[September 23, 2013]  As noted before (Characteristic #11), senior executive leaders provide value to other leaders in a variety of ways. 

One way to do this is to articulate those things that you see as elements for a successful junior leader (the “66 essentials”). 

Another way is to ensure that there is a functioning and effective mentorship program in place. 

It is difficult to believe that in today’s work environments (being so competitive – to include everyone needing every advantage possible), that most employees have no access to a mentor and many organizations have no mentorship program. 

Having some form of mentorship program, regardless of the level of complexity and formality, seems like a common sense approach to most of us.  But why? 

Mentors accomplish several positive goals.  Their mentorship helps employees personally and professionally, which leads to improved employee performance, increased motivation, and higher retention rates.  Theoretically, this leads to improved organizational performance. 

A mentorship program is also a contributor to a positive work environment and is likely to result in outsiders wanting to be part of your “winning team” or organization. 

The downside to a program is the commitment of resources (usually time) to both the mentoring activity and mentor training.  Another downside is that a poor mentor can actually do more harm than good. 

There are several aspects to a mentorship program to ensure it is effective: 

  1. The program should align with the organization mission, vision, and values.  For example, if “customer respect” is a company value, the mentorship program must reflect it.  Additionally, the program should be part of the overall fabric of the organization in how it functions.
  2. It requires a very senior executive leader “champion” in the organization who visibly encourages mentors.  And other senior leaders must have buy-in so they can encourage its development.
  3. The best, most experienced people should be recruited and trained to be mentors.  Typically these are more senior personnel.  They should also be provided with some form of incentives.  Mentoring requires the time of the best leaders, so “recognition” of their efforts is just a start.
  4. Preferably, there should be some formalization of the program that defines mentor objectives, benefits, training, and processes of mentoring.
  5. There should be a sustainment effort that ensures the program is a long-term and can change with the dynamics of the organization.  Ideally, there is also a method to monitor and track the effectiveness of the program. 

Who gets mentored and the type of mentoring program will depend upon the organization and its goals. 

Certainly, junior leaders and “top talent” should be mentored.  Most of us would not argue with that.  But what about new employees in entry level positions or very senior employees nearing retirement?  Should all employees have the opportunity to have a mentor?

These are fundamental questions that must be addressed by the senior executive leader early on and something I will address in future blog posts. 



Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article every day on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.

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