3 Keys to Successful Mentor Programs

two coworkers smiling and looking at a document together

Over the years we have been asked to help clients design, develop, and implement mentor programs. In today’s environment with its emphasis on transparency, speed of adaptation, and resilience in light of accelerating access to new information, not only does having allies matter, but having someone help you with the curation of information is key. This is all in pursuit of both professional and personal development – what do I need to become more aware of, understand better, and apply more effectively?  

Three lessons and insights gleaned from these experiences are summarized below. Clearwater Consulting is a learning organization – so with every project, program, and client relationship, we seek to learn something that will help us, and our client organizations grow. We welcome your thoughts and insights!

1. Willing to Share

At the core of a strong mentor relationship is the candor that clarifies what the mentee is seeking to achieve, what they know they need to develop further, AND what the mentor has experienced, successfully and not so successfully. Honest dialog develops over time, which is why most mentor programs need the full year. Monthly or bi-weekly meetings slowly allow the two individuals to let go of the masks typically used in business. This experience is more challenging for some than others. But if the mentor-mentee pair agree at the beginning to be intentional about their honest story sharing, we have noted that trust is built more quickly. 

2. Wanting to Learn

Successful mentor partnerships focus as much on the journey as the outcome or goal. For mentees, rather than approaching the conversation with a “tell me what to do” mindset, approach the mentor with the question “what insights do you have about this topic that I can learn from and apply in my own way?” This approach speaks to curiosity and self-reflection. At this point, it is less about an action plan and more about opening to a new lens. For the mentor, sharing one’s story can be a learning experience. Acknowledging those learnings along the way gives permission to the mentee to do the same. We cannot overemphasize the importance of such a growth mindset (more on that in a future blog).  

3. Working the Idea

Then it all comes down to practice and working the idea. Between sessions, the most productive and engaged mentors and mentees (yes, both) take a relevant idea, convert it into some action they can practice for the next few weeks, and observe what they notice. This makes the conversation real, not just an interesting exchange. Practice something that matters — active listening, researching a new skill certification, writing a vision statement, completing a self-assessment, interviewing another colleague — all in the spirit of seeking to learn and open yourself to what is possible.

In the end, the mentor and mentee share a deeper understanding about themselves, the path forward for both, and the impact they can have on their teams, the organization, and their community.

Clearwater Consulting can help your organization start or improve a mentoring program as part of your leadership development initiatives. Contact us or call (404) 634-4332 to schedule a conversation.