"If you don't know where you are going, any road will get you there."
A clear purpose, describing why your mentoring programme exists and what it aims to achieve, is critical for making the decision to run a mentoring programme and to make decisions about the design of the mentoring programme.
However, for many different reasons and with good intentions, purpose statements are often very broad and trying to encompass maybe too many agendas at the same time. This will make it difficult for the programme managers to do a good job, for the mentors and mentees to understand what is expected of them and for the organisation at large to understand how they may benefit from the mentoring programme.
The purpose of your mentoring programme will be founded in the beliefs and value system of your organisation and - hopefully - in your strategic business needs. It may not be directly measurable, but the purpose shows the direction for what you wish to achieve through the mentoring programme and at the same time reflects what you wish to achieve for the organisation and the business.
A clear purpose will help you to:
- position the mentoring programme in the organisation and clearly communicate the importance of the programme in relation to daily work, business challenges and long-term strategy,
- describe clear criteria for whom to select as mentors and mentees and which stakeholders to involve in the selection process,
- clarify what is important and how to prioritise when participants and their direct managers are balancing time and ressources,
- integrate the participants' learning goals with their individual development plans and align these with their direct managers,
- develop the right key performance indicators or objectives for the programme,
- evaluate the performance and results of the mentoring programme,
- ensure the commitment and support of top management.
Without a clear purpose that is clearly communicated to all stakeholders, you may experience a number of difficulties for the mentoring programme. Depending on the corporate culture, the leadership skills and values, the skills and motivation of the mentors and mentees, and the capacity and resources of HR these difficulties may have a larger or smaller impact on your mentoring programme.
The most significant negative effects can be that:
- it will be difficult to gain support from stakeholders - who may even work against the programme,
- it will be difficult to achieve adequate resources - from these stakeholders - to achieve relevant results,
- participants will be unclear about why they are in the programme, what they can gain and may lose motivation and focus,
- the mix of mentees may be too heteregeneous or expectations too diverse for the group to build a strong, cohesive network of participants - and the same may apply to the mix of mentors,
- it will be difficult to measure and document the value and success of the programme,
- without the commitment and continuous visible support of top management (or highly placed sponsors) the programme will not receive the needed attention from participants or support from stakeholders.
Check your own mentoring programme by asking yourself these questions:
- how does your purpose statement work for you?
- what is the purpose statement of your mentoring programme?
- which kind of difficulties do you experience around the purpose statement?
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