Matching mentors and mentees — get tough!

Matching mentors and mentees, Spectrum of approachesThere are a number of factors to consider when matching mentors and mentees in a programme. Matching can get complicated at times when stakeholders in the scheme have very clear views of who the mentoring pairs should be. Matching criteria need to be in alignment with the purpose/business objective for the programme. If a senior leader wants to choose their own protégée to mentor, you may need to be tough and reinforce your matching criteria. So make sure you are clear what they are!

The criteria for matching mentors and mentees

Matching is one of the core steps of developing a mentoring programme. These are some of the aspects, which you want to consider when matching:

  • Programme purpose or objectives – is this for talent, knowledge management, onboarding, gender, graduate development etc
  • The criteria for matching (such as gender, diversity, culture, knowledge, experience, location, interests, tenure, what mentees “need” and what mentors “offer” etc)
  • The balance between similarity and difference (i.e. the stretch for learning in the relationship)
  • How much choice will you allow the mentors and mentees?
  • The rapport between the mentor and mentee
  • Whether or not the mentor should be a role model? Or whether you are utilising peer or reverse mentoring in your programme?

The most effective mentor and mentee matching

The most successful mentor and mentee matching in my experience of mentoring programme design occurs when there is:

  • A similar value and belief structure between mentor/mentee
  • Rapid development of trust and rapport*
  • Sufficient self-disclosure*
  • A clear business or developmental objective(s) for the relationship
  • Not too big a “gap” in terms of seniority
  • Consideration of experience as being more important than age
  • Not too much similarity, as this will not aid learning.

* These aspects develop more quickly with robust briefing or training of the mentors and mentees.

Process for matching mentors and mentees

The process for matching in mentoring can involve identifying selection criteria and assigning pairs or allowing self-selection for the mentoring pair. Allow some choice if possible, as the most successful mentor and mentee matching occurs in mentoring relationships where both parties felt they had some choice in their partner. This applies even if this is just the mentor or mentee having the opportunity to say “no” to their suggested mentoring match. However, it is always very important that if either mentor or mentee in a mentoring relationship is uncomfortable with the way the relationship is going, that support is available and a “no fault” separation clause can be invoked.

I have identified three types of process for matching in mentoring with my colleague Paul Stokes:

  1. Laissez faire – where there is an informal choice by the mentors and mentees which is just formalized by the programme manager e.g. can be through the use of a mentoring database that participants can access or a “speed dating” approach
  2. Facilitative approach – where there is a formal mentor/mentee decision making process which is supported by the programme manager e.g. they can offer 2 or 3 tentative matches to the mentors and mentees to choose from
  3. Interventionist approach – where the programme manager makes the match and it is controlled and carried out by them.

Which process for matching in mentoring?

Smaller programmes

For small programmes, we tend to use “intuition” based method following an interventionist approach. So making matches using application forms designed for the programme and personal assessment of the compatibility of the mentor and mentee. This is particularly successful where we have personal knowledge of the mentors and mentees through recruitment, selection and training. Some programme managers will interview participants alongside using application forms, but this can be a very time intensive process. Use our virtual programme management if you need help with this.

Larger programmes – use mentor matching software

In larger schemes – 25 pairs plus, the programme manager has to use the best approach they can with the resources at their disposal. Matching on a larger scale can involve using specialised mentor matching software or a specially designed database. Read our blog on Mentoring Technology, to see if you are ready to invest in mentor matching software?

So 4 top tips for matching mentors and mentees

  1. Give mentors and mentees a say in the match
  2. Be clear on matching criteria so you are not open to abuse by mentors, mentees or senior stakeholders
  3. Do regular check-ins to ensure the rapport is developing
  4. Have a no-fault separation clause that everyone is aware of. You may not need to use it, but it is a great safety net!

And do come back and have a chat if you need some help.

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This entry was posted in Mentoring and tagged , , by Lis Merrick. Bookmark the permalink.

About Lis Merrick

Lis Merrick is Managing Director of Coach Mentoring Limited, the ISMCP Accreditation Chair (European Mentoring and Coaching Council International Standards for Mentoring and Coaching Programmes), a Visiting Fellow of the Coaching and Mentoring Research Unit at Sheffield Business School and she was the EMCC (European Mentoring and Coaching Council) UK President from 2015 to 2018.

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