Lesson 1. Formal and informal mentoring programmes
As seen in the “Personal Awareness” course, mentoring relationships are focused on personal and professional development. Designed to build confidence in the mentee, a mentoring relationship is based on honesty, trust, exchange of knowledge, encouragement and empowerment. Regardless of the context and purpose, all mentoring programmes should place the mentee at the centre.
Mentoring can be formal or informal. In informal mentoring, both mentor and mentee establish a relationship without a structured definition of objectives and goals to achieve. A formal mentoring relationship, often happens within the context of an organisation, and requires a set of conventional procedures to frame the mentoring process, namely:
- A mentorship agreement
A formal document to establish the aims, objectives, rules and boundaries of the mentoring programme/sessions. It can also include the designing of action plans and other supporting documents for the mentoring meetings/sessions.
- Mentoring meeting/sessions
The mentoring relation can be grouped in four phases:
- development and maturation
All these phases must comprise a designated number of meetings/sessions with a clear structure and follow through objectives. The number of meetings/sessions can be indicated in the mentorship agreement and must relate to the objectives of the mentoring relationship.
Monitoring is essential to all of the mentoring lifecycle, and this includes evaluating the mentee’s progression, but also assessing and/or reflecting on the mentor’s own practices.
- PHASES OF A FORMAL MENTORING PROGRAMME
A formal mentoring relationship needs a basic and solid structure in order to achieve a designated outcome. For that, it is essential to have in mind four sequential phases that depend on each other and must also have a time frame definition (not equal for all phases).
This is the phase where you prepare your mentoring relationship, and the first steps include:
- Revise your skills and competences for mentoring practices. This can even require getting a certification in mentoring. In any case, you must be willing to develop your mentoring skills (continuous learning).
- Find a mentee through a matchmaking process. In organisational contexts there are some basic formalities and techniques to match mentors and mentees and they are mostly based on profiling both mentor and mentee to match interests and areas of improvement that the mentee needs. In your case, you can use your networks and publicise your mentoring services (paid or pro bono).
- Compile all the tools and document templates you will need during your mentoring relationships. For example, platforms that you will use to communicate with your mentee; a template for the mentoring agreement; a mentoring sessions plan; a mentee action plan; evaluation forms; mentoring exercises. This list must also include an updated bibliography about mentoring practices.
The initial preparation phase is crucial for any mentoring relationship. It is vital that the mentor designs its mentoring programme with some level of formality. This will have a pedagogical influence on the mentee and can easily be transferred to his/her professional practices.
This phase corresponds to the beginning of the mentoring relationship. Based on your initial preparation you will set up a first meeting where you will get to know your mentee, his/her objectives and purpose. This phase can be framed in one or two meetings depending on what you consider is important to achieve. But first, you must bond with your mentee. At this stage you must include the signing off of the mentoring agreement.
- Development and maturation
Based on the initiation phase and having to hand information about your mentee, you will then establish a plan for the mentoring session, including the number of sessions needed to achieve the objectives and aims of your mentee. This phase will correspond to the development and maturation of your mentoring relationship, and it includes:
- supervising the mentee through counselling, facilitation techniques, motivation and ensuring an effective delivery of the programme objectives
- following-up through evaluation, self-assessment, providing corrective feedback, identifying elements and areas that need improvement, and agreeing on action for development.
At the beginning of a mentoring relationship, the mentor must define how and when the mentorship programme will end. The end of the mentoring programme is the beginning of something new for both mentor and mentee. This doesn´t mean that both mentor and mentee will no longer contact each other. It means that they have completed a timely framed programme.
Explore your reading about the different phases of a mentoring relationship and the expected roles of the mentor and mentee by reading the following handbook and practical example: