What is the point in mentoring training and what should you cover? Can you not just ‘lump’ the mentors in with your coaches, or dispense with the training, as “everyone understands mentoring”?
This blog explores the importance of mentoring training, its key components and the similarities and differences with coach training.
Why bother to brief or train your mentors and mentees?
In my view this is a no-brainer. Research has demonstrated that relationships are three times more likely to succeed if formal training of mentors and mentees has taken place. This is backed up by both our evaluation findings and my experience. Please don’t leave the mentees out, I find it is just as important to have skilled mentees as effective mentors in a relationship.
What should mentoring training cover?
As well as mentoring skills development, mentoring training provides the opportunity to raise concerns and questions prior to the relationship commencing. As a minimum, this preparation should encompass:
- The programme purpose
- Objectives and process
- Roles and responsibilities of the mentor and mentee
- Contracting, agreeing expectations and boundaries and a “no fault” separation clause
- Skills and techniques (with an opportunity to practice in a safe environment)
- The understanding of the life cycle of a relationship
If you have plenty of time and resources to prepare both parties, include rapport building, goal setting, process models, competences of a mentor and mentee, reflection and learning logs. Remember to never rush the skills practice element!
In our current world, not only will you be delivering your mentoring training virtually but the majority of mentoring is also online. Spend time exploring virtual rapport building and how to communicate effectively and the challenges and advantages, when face-to-face communication is not possible
What about cultural differences and appreciating diversity?
You may also want to focus on cultural differences between participants. Consider how to recognise these and value them and ensure they don’t impact on the effectiveness and outcomes of the relationship.
Diversity and inclusion needs to be considering also, even if that is not the direct purpose of the mentoring programme. Are you supporting mentors and mentees to appreciate each other’s differences? Helping them to park ‘the power’ and for mentees or reverse mentors to feel comfortable to speak truth to power?
What is the difference between training coaches and mentors?
I am asked frequently ‘can I use my coach training for my mentoring programme’? There are overlaps, so you can use the same content for parts of the coach and mentor preparation. However, there are also areas of difference.
Areas of similarity between mentoring training and coaching training
In my experience, internal coaches and mentors require similar skills and process knowledge:
- Active listening, questioning and giving feedback skills
- Process models to create reflective space
- Understanding the life cycle of a relationship
- How to contract safely and ethically
- How to set focus, direction and if appropriate, use goals
Differences between mentoring training and coaching training
- Understanding the different roles and definitions for coaching and mentoring used internally
- Context and use within the organisation
The main difference generally comes back to how people and organisations view coaching and mentoring. Sometimes this is a controversial topic. As a designer of programmes, I view both as ‘a developmental dialogue’. However, you do need to differentiate and define these types of dialogues, despite their shared skillset, so individuals understand their roles clearly and don’t get confused.
In any organisational programme, understanding the role of the coach or mentor, their behaviours and responsibilities, is paramount.
Volume of education
The other big difference in programmes is the amount of education provided. Most mentoring programmes these days offer a one-hour webinar or a half-day face-to-face training workshop (when we can meet up) to launch the relationships. This allows only the most basic exploration of topics required to mentor successfully. Internal coach programmes generally provide accredited training over a period of time. These build on basic skills with extra tools, techniques, models and plenty of time for reflective practice.
No wonder mentoring can be viewed as the more amateur role and less effective relation and some mentors suffer from Imposter Syndrome. In one mentoring programme I support, a recent survey highlighted a third of the mentor training need requests were for approaches to bolster confidence as a mentor!
Handling coach/mentor education
In practice, the majority of organisations keep coach and mentor education separate. This avoids confusing participants, despite similar content being used. It also avoids senior leaders who volunteer to mentor undertaking an onerous amount of preparation to become a mentor. Undertaking more education would probably put a lot of them off becoming a mentor! However, increasingly I find clients want to use ‘shared’ toolkits, the same intranet content or invite both coaches and mentors to up-skilling workshops. This is a new trend as coaches and mentors are encouraged to leverage each other’s learning experiences.
Perhaps this may elevate the perception of mentors as we see more cross fertilisation of learning between coaches and mentors, less distinction in training content and organisations becoming wiser about developing both roles.
Do get in contact to discuss any of these ideas, or if you would value some support in developing your mentoring or coaching training.
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