A Powerful Relationship: How a Mentoring Program Can Improve Your Business

From school to the workplace, there’s one thing that has always held true: Going it alone only works in movies. Everyone needs someone to show them how to get things done the right away and help guide them down the path to success. That’s why mentoring is such an important part of any group endeavor – or sometimes a critical step in advancing your career.

In the case of the workplace, it can lead to much more productive and happier employees. And productive and happy is exactly the way you want your employees. But before running off to start a mentoring program, there are things to keep in mind.

Some Dangers to Avoid in Mentoring

Like most other plans, there are potential pitfalls. One of the first things to remember is mentoring is not coaching. People often mix these two terms, but they are not the same. Good coaches bring a well-thought-out, objective plan to the table in order to help an employee or a group of employees achieve a goal.

Mentoring, on the other hand, is more organic. A mentor and protégé spend time together so that over the course of the relationship, knowledge is passed from one person to another. This knowledge can cut across many different areas, including:

•    How to excel at a specific task, job, or career
•    How to successfully navigate company culture
•    How to interact with other employees
•    How to solve problems

Mentorship Programs Are Only as Good as the People in Them

One danger in creating a mentoring relationship is the potential of matching the wrong two people. They can be “wrong” in a variety of ways, all of which a good manager should keep in mind. For example:

•    Oil and water. There are some people in this world who are never going to get along well because of differences in personality, opinions, work ethic – any number of reasons. That’s all well and good; just don’t pair them together in a mentoring program.
•    Manipulative mentors. A mentorship program requires trust, but it can easily be used by a mentor to inappropriately delegate unwanted tasks (which is bad enough) or to use the work of the protégé and claim it as their own (even worse).
•    Neglect. For those not committed to the mentorship program, a frequent issue is simply not participating in ways that will make the relationship beneficial. This can happen either with the mentor or the protégé.

If you are a leader or manager, none of this is anything new. People are people and often bring unexpected twists and turns to any plan. That said, take extra care that these sort of problems don’t filter into the mentoring program, where they can be especially harmful.

The Benefits of Mentoring

So why go through all the trouble of creating a mentoring program? Because the benefits are many. The primary one is the passing of knowledge from a veteran employee – or one with an expertise in a certain area – to a younger employee. The amount of time spent together leads to the sort of transfer of good habits, skills, and work knowledge that cannot be replicated through emails, meetings, or even seminars.

There are many other practical benefits to mentoring, including:

•    Speeding up the onboarding process for new employees.
•    Creating a higher level of satisfaction for employees by addressing developmental needs.
•    Increasing productivity because those in the program can get quick feedback on solving problems, allowing them to get around roadblocks faster and move on.
•    Developing new leaders. Mentor programs often produce the kind of employees who eventually rise through the ranks and become leaders themselves, armed with the knowledge and skills that have been passed on to them.
•    Mentoring is good for the mentor, too. Good mentors value ongoing learning and growth. Mentoring others provides them with opportunities to learn as they teach.

Managed correctly, and with the right people in the program, mentoring can have an enormous, positive effect on your organization.

Credits: Miller Heiman

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