Mentoring programs are an integral part of succession planning for many institutions. The impulse is good. Seasoned leaders can impart their wisdom to a new generation of leaders. Leaders strengthen their legacy by investing in the long-term success of an organization. Unfortunately, mentoring programs are often better in theory than in practice. The best of intentions fizzle out in infrequent meetings, stilted interactions, and unauthentic feedback. Most programs deliver little actual long-term value to participants or to the institution as a whole.
Mentoring programs seek to facilitate the kind of organic relationships that spring up among senior leaders and younger team members. Recreating a natural connection is a tall order. Many of the mentor-mentee relationships reflect this challenge. The risk is that they can end up stiff and never progress to a genuine rapport.
Should the entire effort be scrapped? Not at all.
While you can’t manufacture magic, you can provide a straightforward, constructive framework that will allow both mentors and mentees to benefit from a coaching program.
The lynch pin of an effective mentoring program is clear expectations. By setting expectations at the outset, you give your participants a blueprint for success. There are several facets of a thriving mentoring relationship.
While some participants will seek out involvement, others can—and should—be invited. Key leaders in your institution ought to participate. Allow both the mentors and the mentees to recommend future participants. Make thoughtful, strategic connections between mentors and mentees for maximum benefit.
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