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Mentoring: Challenges and Benefits

Posted November 22, 2017 by Jonathon Jackson

The intentions of mentoring, and of establishing a successful mentoring program within an organization, are always good ones.

But it isn’t a simple process, and there are pitfalls that can derail a mentoring program before it has a chance to prove its effectiveness.

Mentoring guru and program development consultant Jenn Labin has written a new book, Mentoring Programs That Work. She has listed a number of challenges inherent in establishing a mentoring program, ways to overcome these challenges, and benefits of seeing the program through.

If an organization is one that thrives on collaboration and innovation, its mentoring program will not succeed if it is too tightly structured with elements like multiple check-ins and frequent participant surveys. Conversely, if an organization is more traditional in terms of its structure and hierarchy, its mentoring program will fail if it doesn’t have appropriate levels of responsive administrative support and communication. Simply put, the program must fit the organization. One size does not fit all.

Labin points out that some training facilitators and leaders struggle to understand the impact that mentoring programs can have, as opposed to classroom or e-learning, because it’s not as easy to observe and measure the mentoring learning process and how that process is applied. 

What’s important to remember, though, is that even though observation and measurement is not as easy in a mentoring program, measurement is in fact possible. And, as Labin asserts, mentoring “will likely create far more effective results across your organization than staying within the comfortable bounds of classroom training or e-learning.”

This is because, unlike in a classroom environment where the content has usually been decided upon well in advance, a mentor can quickly focus on whatever their mentee’s immediate needs are at any given time – just-in-time learning, or pacing.

But there’s more. Mentees can apply their learning more efficiently if they get the help they need when they actually need it. We call this pacing and chunking – at a pace that the mentee needs, and learning in chunks that can be applied, tried, and refined. This allows them to continue to enhance their skills and knowledge in many different areas, because they’re not stuck in one spot waiting for guidance that may come to them late, if it comes at all.

Learning that is done in this fashion is more sustainable than learning that is done in a classroom, because, as Labin notes, it’s based on connections between people, and on just-in-time learning – learning when the mentee needs it. Such relationships, if nurtured properly, can last for many years and work to the benefit of both the mentee and the mentor.

At ODScore Inc., we’re all about building relationships and connecting with purpose. Get in touch with us to learn how we can help you develop a solid mentoring program that works within the context of your organization.


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