Benefiting from a Mentor program

More and more organisations are adopting mentor programs for their staff’s. It is good to see this trend.

In my current organisation, one of the best employee benefit is the Mentor program itself. In this program the staff have the choice of choosing their own mentor.

In our set up we have a line manager and separate mentor. While the line manager is generally responsible for the well being off the staff, the mentor is a special relation. A relation in which staff’s based on their short term and long term goals identify a person with support who can help them get to where they want.

The program has personally helped a lot in the last 1.5 years.

My first mentor in this program was @JamesA_Thompson. He helped me a lot on my soft skills and my ability to have a wider impact. He also helped me understand how organisations work. He made me feel that it is all about me and supported me in growing in every step.

Prior to this organised mentor program (as the trend goes), I did have mentors through out my careers. Most of these mentor relationships are unofficial. They range from line mangers, cubicle neighbors to random person in the organisation (there was once an architect in my organisation, he trained me so well. He was neither a manager nor worked in my team. We however caught up once in a while — the short conversations I had with them influenced a lot in what I do daily).


In my role, I do mentor some developers in our organisation. They all have different aspirations, they range in a spectrum in terms of their learning methods, but what most of them have in common in the challenge in defining their objectives.

Step 1: Exploring the objective of this relationship

This is the very first step in the mentor program. Some people have very clear expectations and what they want from you to do in helping them. On other side you do meet people who have idea but struggle in defining it. This is where it gets important. Taking a few rounds of back and forth conversations and helping them have a clear expectation and understanding forms an important part of this relationship.

Step 2: Defining the goals

I usually get into this area only after having a few rounds of conversation to flush out some of the expectations and getting comfortable with discussion. I think that is when people open up and start talking. In this stage, the idea is generate just a laundry list of things that they like to learn and also help them in their career. Internally we have a few tools that helps us do it effectively.

Step 3: Identifying the 2 / 3 things that is goal for the next 3–6 months period

This is the interesting phase. Out of n things identified and listed, picking up just 2 or 3 that aligns better for the next 3–6 months period. Once this is identified, I generally take a couple of conversations to let them think about a plan of attack.

It is a good idea to use tools that help understand the type of learner, like this one here.

Once a course of action is set, like in everything learning a disciplined follow up is the best thing that keeps us in track. Again the follow up techniques varies depending on the person, some would require just a nudge, others require even blocking their calendar and most would require some appreciation for their effort put in so far.

Once wavelength is set up, it flows beautifully. The catch up would make a very useful time.

Remember,

As in any relationship, the fruit of mentor program can only be harvested by investing time.

While I summarized a consistent way of benefiting from a mentor program, there is always a unusual mentor that strikes the right cords and works like a charm. When this happens, just go along with it.

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