Even if your organisation doesn’t have a formal mentoring program in place, offer mentoring to your team members. Because mentoring can be done informally and with few resources, it’s easy to take the initiative yourself.
Find the right mentor
The old-fashioned view of mentoring was that you should not mentor your own team members, but that’s no longer the case. You can – and should – mentor your own team members, but also consider other people who can mentor them as well.
This is where you can draw on your network. Identify potential mentors, discuss them with the mentoree, help the mentoree choose one (or more), discuss the mentoring opportunity with the potential mentors, and facilitate a three-way introductory meeting to “launch” the mentoring program.
Look for mentors who can help your team members expand beyond their current “path”, whether it’s their role, expertise or experience. Mentoring allows them to expand their thinking and look further, testing and exploring in a safe environment.
Mentors can also help with the mentoree’s personal goals and ambitions. Think creatively about which mentors could bring the organisation’s resources to bear to help mentorees with goals like relocation and travel, being seconded to another department, taking unpaid leave, having flexible working hours, and so on.
Don’t limit them to just one mentor, either. The old mentoring model recommended one mentor at a time, but they can have mentors for different areas in their professional life.
If you can’t find a suitable mentor easily, consider the growing supply of paid mentoring services, usually provided by external consultants with specific experience and skills.
Be flexible with the format
Traditional mentoring is done in person, with a one-on-one meeting in an office, boardroom, or external location like a café or restaurant. As online collaboration technology has improved, mentoring no longer needs to be physical or just for one person at a time.
Videoconferencing in particular makes it easier for mentors and mentorees to conduct their mentoring sessions from different locations. It provides many of the benefits of in-person meetings, and sometimes even more – for example, recording of sessions, ability to share documents electronically, and more productive use of time. Of course, the biggest benefit is that it allows mentoring that otherwise wouldn’t be possible.
It’s also possible to conduct effective mentoring in small groups. This is different from a training course because the agenda is driven by each mentoree’s needs. Although it appears to be inferior to individual mentoring, group mentoring offers some advantages (apart from the obvious efficiency of time and resources):
- Mentorees learn by listening to the mentor’s advice to others.
- Mentorees engage with each other, not just with their mentor.
- Mentors can call on mentorees to provide their input and feedback into issues raised by others.
- Mentorees can connect with each other outside the mentoring program, either to “buddy up” with each other to help with the mentoring or for other reasons.