The Mentoring Action Plan And How To Put One Together

Mentoring is a wonderful activity that brings together not only two individuals looking for ways to mutually grow both personally and professionally, but also a practice that enhances the opportunity for employees inside a company to transcend and for the organization itself to be better by ensuring the people that make up their ranks, are individuals committed to growth and the accomplishment of the mission. Here at Suzzanne Uhland’s blog, we have talked about all of these benefits before in our many articles on mentoring, and one of the things that we have always said is that just like any endeavor you are about to undertake, you must have a clear direction of where you are going. A ship needs a bearing as well as a map to navigate the vast waters, and just like a vessel, so does your mentoring relationship need to have meaning and a clear objective in mind in order to be successful. Today we want to talk about mentoring plans, about how they are put together and the criteria to judge whether they are working the way they should.

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A mentoring action plan is a way for a mentee to realize where they are currently, where they want to get to by the means of their new found mentoring relationship, and more importantly, how they are going to go about actually getting there in the first place. The first thing that must be done is to ask yourself some really insightful questions like: What exactly do I want to accomplish from this relationship? Which skills do I lack or need to improve in order to be a better version of myself? Are there any alliances or partnerships I am interested in forging? Is there a way to measure what I have learned and put it to the test? How can I apply these new skills to my current position and how can they help me advance further professionally?

All of these can help mentees create a vision statement. A vision statement is all about seeing yourself in a place where you are not yet, but where you want to get to eventually.

Creating a vision statement can be considered the first action to take when putting together your mentoring action plan as it is used as the basis of decision-making processes and a way to find out what you really want to get out of your efforts being placed into the mentoring program. A vision plan requires for you to make a list considering the questions we talked about earlier, and also include things that you see as your own personal weaknesses and strengths. This information can help you identify your capabilities, limitations and immediate goals to pursue.

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The next logical step is to actually identify those goals and state them in a specific and realistic way so they are attainable considering your current skills and intentions. Taking a look at your past performance reviews or analyzing prospective jobs or positions you would like to attain are great ways to identify areas of possible development. Remember the acronym SMART when are putting together a set of goals to work towards.

S stands for being specific about the things you want to achieve. M is for those goals to be measurable and meaningful for you, your environment, the company, etc. A is for attainable, achievable or action-oriented instead of empty words that are nothing more than just hopeful-thinking but lacking direction and acceptance. R stands not just for realistic by also relevant and reasonable. It goes without saying that your goals must lead you somewhere and not simply be something else you are able to do,  since that by itself, doesn’t amount to much. Last but not least, we have T that stands for tangible, time-based and timely because you have to set timelines in order to know if this is working at all or you are just wasting your time. Challenging yourself is quite important because nothing worth it comes along without hard work.

Setting deadlines should come after and this is the way you get motivated to see progress and push yourself to continue moving forward. This can be done by having schedule benchmarks and feedback sessions to evaluate progress together and adjust accordingly.

The real change begins when the mentoring action plan is truly put together and subsequently put to work. Having everything laid out for you is the best way to take charge and begin to work towards objectives that can be measured and closely monitored. Regardless of how things are done, mentoring relationships are organic partnerships and they will find their own way to move forward because they do not all work the same way. Your particular case may find a different set of challenges as those of your coworkers and have common strengths that others may wish they had. The important thing is to continue growing and to always understand the importance of proper planning.

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Why is mentoring the best way to raise leaders in your company?

This is happening more and more frequently, which is quite encouraging. A company with problems (eminently, with communication problems) decides to adopt a change of perspective and start doing things differently and decides to implement a mentoring project. The company’s directives hire an expert in this area and all of them design the program with the objective that the directors become the mentors of the top executives of the organization, who could be the leaders of it in the future, to develop their leadership skills. When these types of adjustments are made, the benefits are so many that they are difficult to classify. However, the most important of these is the new form of leadership that is built and executed for the good of the entire company.

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When leadership is built from mentoring processes, the leader that results is not a simple advisor to his or her subordinates, and, of course, he/she is not someone who simply delegates and gives orders so that everything is done to his or her convenience. A leader built a from mentoring processes, first of all, uses coaching skills and techniques; forms and transmits knowledge, and relates and sponsors the mentees. This type of leader considers three basic dimensions that must be developed in any professional role: Emotional, intellectual and social.

Obviously, for this to be achieved, it is necessary to have certain knowledge. Otherwise, the mentoring program could fail. Ideally, a company may start with a small group of mentors and mentees. A group of ten people, for example, is easy to follow and monitor, and from there it is possible to quantitatively extend the new versions of the mentoring programs.

In the same way, it is vital to choose the pairs of mentors and mentees very well. This selection should be made jointly with experts in the human resources area, or with external organizational psychologists. The idea is not simply to organize couples that get along but to complement each other in their knowledge and experience, and from which a true learning can emerge.

Before executing anything, it is very important to plan the sessions, and, above all, to elaborate a very detailed internal guide that includes a practical methodology that is easy to put into practice.

Read also: Why does your company need a mentoring program?, by Suzzanne Uhland

These types of programs are, of course, tremendously beneficial for mentees. What most often stands out in them is the increase of confidence towards the executives of the organizations, as well as a greater assumption of challenges when it comes to their roles. However, the most surprising factor about mentoring processes is the benefits in terms of increasing and improving skills to train other people and developing their potential.

There is always an increase in the level of personal satisfaction of mentors, which is a valuable resource in an organization. In fact, mentoring is one of the practices that most increase the level of commitment and satisfaction of the people who are part of a company.

The mentors consider their participation in the program very satisfactory, not only for the improvement of their competences but also for having contributed to achieving a difference, a change, and improvement in the lives of their mentees. In the same way, this happens because both mentors and mentees expand their own networks of professional contacts, as well as the acquisition of new technical knowledge (both for mentors, who are updated by the new knowledge that mentees bring from the academies, and for mentees, who are nourished by the experience of the mentors.)

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Mentoring has an exponential effect because it not only generates benefits for mentees and mentors but also for the entire company. It can be noticed in all programs, both for small (and family) companies and for large corporations. The main improvements that are obtained thanks to these programs for organizations are four.

The first is that organizational training is improved, especially when company executives become mentors, based on the example of those who participated in the mentoring program, and have taken as mentees other people within the organization to mentor them. The second is that individual performance is improved. This is so because the mentees generally show greater commitment, loyalty, and productivity. The third thing is that, as mentioned above, there is an increase in the level of trust: Mentoring programs increase trust between the members of the Board and senior executives or senior leaders of the company, as both parties learn to communicate in a closer and sincere way. Finally, governance is significantly improved throughout the organization. The relationships between the different interest groups at the internal level of the company improve, there is a clearer and more direct knowledge of the talent, and the leadership capacities of the people who work in the organization. This facilitates the identification of future leaders that the organization may need.

Recommended: Predicting the future of mentoring programs

Why does your company need a mentoring program?

One of the main problems that organizations have in our country (and, in fact, in the whole continent) has to do with the very way in which the idea of business has been assumed. For a long time, since the times of wealth and growth, in the middle of the last century, the business world has focused on the mere idea of production, enrichment, and expansion. Precisely, that is where the problem lies since, although it is necessary to make money and not stop growing, it is also necessary to think of the world we are building. Creating a business culture is as important as economic development. One of the ways to foster that business culture is through mentoring.

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Mentoring is closely linked to our Western literary history. In Homer’s ‘Odyssey’ we find the term ‘mentoring’ for the first time. Mentor was an old man who lived in Ithaca, and who was responsible for helping Ulysses in his absence during the War of Troy. His work also consisted of training Telemachus, the first son of the hero. According to Greek mythology, the goddess Athena used the face of Mentor when she wanted to communicate with Telemachus while he was looking for his father.

Recommended: Coach or Mentor? You Need Both

Therefore, a mentor refers to a counselor, someone who is capable of giving wise and prudent advice. Recently, the term has been widely used in the business environment since it has allowed to enhance the learning of employees based on the help of more experienced workers. There are two great types of mentoring. The best-known is called ‘behavioral mentoring.’ In this category, there is typically someone with more experience that tells the mentee what things should be done and how according to the way the mentor has worked for years in the company. This is a simple transmission of knowledge, like a father who’s teaching his son how to keep carrying out his profession.

The other mode of mentoring is known as ‘development mentoring.’ In this type, the process is not limited to a vertical transmission of knowledge from a mentor to a mentee. Here the mentor seeks, above all, that the mentee develops skills, finds ways to solve problems, to find ways to develop his or her own methods. For this reason, although the mentor must be someone experienced, it is more important that he or she be trained to develop the mentee’s intelligence.

Read also: Why people in the business world need a mentor?, by Suzzanne Uhland

This type of programs, especially the second one, not only allows the productive capacities of the company to continue in constant expansion but help the employees to build themselves as persons. It is, in some way, a social investment. When employees have gone through mentoring processes, particularly development mentoring ones, they generally positively affect the business environment and produce changes in other employees and processes of the entire company. This happens, above all, because development mentoring aims at a modification of the identity rather than just a behavioral programming. When the mentees have changed (actually, improved) a series of mental patterns, they become better people and employees.

Mentoring is more than a necessity for companies. Some might think that mentoring processes only take place in large companies, with a large human resources departments. Actually, it is not like that. In fact, mentoring programs in small and medium-sized companies have been as frequent as in large ones, and for several decades.

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The reasons why a company needs mentoring programs are basically two. The first one is that companies, like all systems, are becoming more complex as they grow and form subsystems (in the form of departments, such as logistics, marketing, production, etc.,) and these, in turn, gain depth during the growth of the company. This is one of the great objectives of any organization, but here there may be a problem if the departments start operating as independent entities and thus lose the direction of where the organization should go as a whole. Mentoring is, then, a way of building bridges between different areas, of transmitting knowledge among them and redistributing information more equitably.

The second reason is that mentoring itself leads us to question the idea of professional success. What does it mean to be successful? Certainly, it is not just about making money, but about building ourselves as people. Mentoring, then, is a possibility to do so, to bring new values to society, instead of focusing solely on productivity.

Mentoring makes us more human, in a moment of history when the obsessions with artificial intelligence and large-scale automation processes force us to rethink our situation in the world as human beings. Companies do not function thanks to the workforce of millions of machines (at least not for now,) but thanks to human beings who feel, who dream, who seek to improve themselves. So, it does not matter what industry a company belongs to, nor how big it is. A mentoring program can be tremendously beneficial in any case.

In this TED video, Kam Phillips explains how mentoring has the ability to change the world.

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The Most Common Mentoring Mistakes Made By Companies And Employees

Here at Suzzanne Uhland’s blog, we have talked about many times of the clear advantages of having a mentoring program set up for your employees, as well as joining one as a mentor or mentee in your organization. Companies benefit greatly when they pair up their employees and thus bring new member up to speed on the company’s practices, procedures, and goals while at the same time investing in the development of new members of the organization. If you are a senior employee, then mentoring opens up a door of opportunities in a whole different way, by giving you the chance to learn skills that perhaps were not relevant during your own training and that are common with today’s younger generations, or also by helping you enhance your own leadership skills in a real-world environment.

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It is clear that the advantages are many and for everyone involved, but then again we have to talk about the most common mistakes organizations and individuals make when putting together, maintaining and participating in a mentoring program. Mistakes and wrong dealings when it comes to mentoring can develop to become difficulty seeing the advantages of the relationship, benefiting from being part of a mentorship and even result in the failure of the program itself.

These are some of the most common mistakes made when it comes to mentorships.

Sometimes even great mentors fail because they forget to do things such as reframing challenges in a way that can be easily understood and properly assessed by the mentee. Our frame of mind is something crucial when it comes to finding ways to deal with obstacles as things may seem impossible to solve and predicaments may feel impossible from where we are standing. Reframing problems allow us to remove ourselves from the predicament and literally find a new approach. A great mentor knows this and sometimes that is what sets them apart from the rest. Forgetting about reframing or simply tackling issues without changing our frame of mind is a big mistake in mentoring and one that even experienced participants easily fall into.

Another big mistake in mentoring happens when mentors simply give out the answers to mentees. Finding solutions is about coaching individuals and helping them reach conclusions on their own for the most part. A good mentor is not a person who solves issues for you; instead, they guide you and help you find the answers on your own while helping you stay on track while a goal has been set and a plan has been hatched.

The problem with giving a mentee the solution to their issue is that we are literally taking away from them the opportunity to grow and learn from experiences. The job of a mentor is to facilitate such learning opportunities and not to take them away from their mentees.

A great way to mentor is to ask questions. Instead of telling them what to do, have them answer questions about why they haven’t done something yet, thus making them really think about what is it that is stopping them from taking risks or to analyze aspects that they may have not considered before.

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As a mentee, one of the biggest and most common mistakes is choosing a mentor that is too similar to you. It is very comfortable to talk to someone with your same background and way of thinking, so developing that kind of relationship will be naturally easy, however, it isn’t recommended to avoid contrast when it comes to mentoring. You will learn the most from partners that are of a different gender and background because you will be exposed to a whole new spectrum of experiences that can enrich your own. Think also outside of your chain of command and go for someone who is not your direct supervisor so you can avoid conflicts of interest. Be bold and brave and get out of your comfort zone.

Another mistake mentees make has to do with asking for advice that is too general. Always be specific about your questions, about the issues that worry you and about the advice you want to receive. It is normal to not be clear about your needs at first, but finding out is part of the experience.

As an organization, one of the most common mistakes people make is wrongly pairing participants. Sometimes this is done at random and that spells out a recipe for disaster. Remember that not all senior members are willing to participate in mentoring, so this shouldn’t be something that is imposed on people. The trick is to find people who are excited about the opportunity to teach others and partner them with employees who have interest in advancing their professional life and goals that can benefit from receiving help from others with more experience.

The last and probably the most important mistake companies make is that they forget to follow up and supervise their own mentoring program. That could mean the end of the program itself, easily.

 

A practical ABC of how to implement a mentoring program in your company

A mentoring process is an excellent solution for the development of any organization. This type of program allows the transmission of knowledge to be carried out in an efficient and friendly way, and it constitutes an opportunity for a company to produce and preserve a series of knowledge that it has discovered for years. Mentoring allows the contact and collaboration of workers from diverse areas and knowledge which brings great benefits in terms of communication and integration. One of the most positive consequences of this is that the workers who have gone through mentoring processes are more likely to make more effective and accountable decisions than others who have not as they feel more secure when they start executing new processes. However, it is important to learn how to develop these programs by the book. If a mentoring process is not implemented properly, it is possible that the corporate climate that a company has built so meticulously for years breaks down in a short time.

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For this reason, it is essential to take into account an ABC to be followed in order to implement a mentoring process in a company since it is not enough to establish a series of objectives to achieve and have the availabilities and knowledge of the mentors. Let’s see why.

First of all, a basic aspect that must be done to implement an appropriate mentoring process is taking advantage of the existing communications within the company and doing ‘some marketing’ among the employees of the whole organization. The important thing here is to explain what this process consists of to the executives of the company, and, above all, to make them feel included in this project. It is necessary to clarify what mentoring consists of, what its benefits are for an organization, what the main objectives are, who can participate in it, and how they can do it. It is important to clarify that mentoring is a voluntary process at all times and that both mentors and mentees carry out a mentoring process because they wish to do so. If an adequate explanation is achieved at this point, the more experienced employees of the company are more likely to feel motivated to be part of the mentoring project; especially, if they know that they have the full support of the organization.

Read also: The Best Tips For Making Your Mentoring Relationships Successful, by Suzzanne Uhland

To this extent, what follows from here is, first of all, a correct planning of the whole process. A series of clear and achievable objectives must be established, as well as a step-by-step approach to attain them in the short, medium and long-term. Here you can establish both the number and frequency of the mentoring sessions, as well as the operating guidelines that will be followed throughout the entire program, and the necessary tools for the transmission of knowledge.

In this first step, it is important to take all the time to properly plan and draw a roadmap that, although it may diverge a bit from the practice, will help to keep the program within clear limits. This, not only to not waste time but to prevent the mentoring program from turning into something completely different from what was initially planned.

The next step is the mentor training. It is not just about talking and talking about work experiences, but about meeting learning objectives, to listen to the mentee’s questions, to know how to assign tasks, and to have good communication. For all that, some training is required and all mentors should be trained, not only in mentoring techniques but in the most basic rudiments of instruction.

Recommended: Tips for Effectively Train and Mentor a New Project Manager

After all of the above, what follows is to select and assign both mentors and mentees. Because the mentoring program focuses almost exclusively on the first ones, it is essential to clarify what the skills and abilities of the mentors are, as well as the knowledge that they intend to transmit during the program. Likewise, it is necessary to identify which employees are willing to start a mentoring program, to and verify that there is a fluent and effective communication between the mentors and mentees who will work together.

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Finally, it is necessary to constantly review the performance of the program and to evaluate whether the proposed objectives were reached or not. Many errors occur the first time a mentoring program is implemented. It is normal (and, in fact, necessary.) The important thing is to identify them and to find ways to avoid incurring them again. Before any mentoring program, a company should take into account the previous program, and improving the new one in some way. This is the only way for a mentoring program to not negatively affect the business culture of an organization.

After the evaluation, the idea is to plan the next program again. It is advisable to study the mentoring processes of other companies and learning from the problems of others, as well as their good results.

Check this video for further information.

 

Mentoring: A key tool for talent retention

Any organization that seeks to maintain its competitiveness must seriously consider the issue of talent development and management, especially as regards a clear problem of our time: Employees, especially those of the new generations, do not usually stay in the companies they work for a long time. This involves a series of expenses in time and in money (especially when it comes to training processes,) and it really represents a problem for a large number of organizations around the world. One of the measures that may be implemented to deal with this problem is mentoring. I will first analyze the problem of human talent retention, and then I will get deeper into what mentoring can do to provide intelligent solutions.

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The flight of talent has its origin in the mishandling of human resources which has been made from the management of organizations. The lack of understanding leads to the abandonment of thousands of jobs a year. The reasons for the flight of talent are sometimes ignored by the managers themselves who prefer using imperative leadership methodologies, more typical of the old times, in order to imitate the successes of their predecessors.

Still, it is necessary to understand that the world has evolved since then, and the old models are now historical records for the new generations, which point to circular forms of management, based on internal communication and the promotion of labor well-being. Ignoring the adaptation to the new models of human capital management may lead to a serious problem, which not only impacts the future of the company but, on a large scale, would mean a threat to the global economy itself.

The old forms of leadership are outdated and must give way to the new generations based on communication and mutual understanding between leader and worker. Millennials are the generation that opens the door to change. This generation is providing a continuous evolution to improve this and to adapt to the new forms of management for the coming generation, which is eminently digital. At present, the motivation to work, the fact of achieving a good working weather and the family conciliation are the key aspects to get the workers involved in the corporate culture. The philosophy of work of the present century has its roots in the happiness of employees: A happy worker is a productive worker.

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Now, mentoring is a key tool to retain the best-qualified staff of companies. However, even though it has several benefits, it is extremely important that you learn how to use it and implement it correctly. This strategy is related to progression, growth and professional challenges. It consists of a process through which a more experienced person, the mentor, teaches, assists, offers possible paths and contributes to the personal and professional growth of the mentee by investing time, energy, and knowledge. Mentoring, besides being a catalyst for the continuous learning process in the company, shortens the learning curve and is useful for structuring the training that takes place in the workplace. However, it is necessary to know the process well, as the benefits that can be obtained, the objectives that are pursued, and the frequent barriers for an adequate mentoring design.

Read also: Deconstructing the benefits of mentoring: Is it worth it?, by Suzzanne Uhland

Mentoring should be incorporated as part of the development strategy of people within a company and be considered as part of the values of the organization. The same workers can volunteer to mentor the new members of the company, and, during the execution of this plan, the company will be concerned with the professional development of all of them, since the mentors need to study a bit more to teach.

A mentoring program is divided into stages. First, the mentor and mentee’s expectations regarding the learning process are developed, the objectives to be attained are established, and the sessions are planned. Then, the mentor should take the reins of this process and be proactive, by learning everything he/she can from to achieve the goals. To optimize this program, the company must apply it as a tool to retain and capture talent, with the support of the management of the organization, and, in this regard, it is vital to count on enough resources of time and money.

A successful implementation of a mentoring program benefits the company since the staff feels more positive, participatory, and integrated. It usually increases its productivity, performance, and motivation, and promotes an organizational climate. Mentoring builds technical and managerial skills, optimizes the selection and development of new talent, which is recruited with high potential standards and levels of competence, among others. If you implement this mentoring plan, your employees will thank you for the concern you have for them and their loyalty to your company will rise.

The implementation of mentoring is a great effort for the organization; for each mentor and mentee. That is why the results are really stimulating, taking into account the personal and professional growth which is noticed from the beginning.

Recommended: Why retention will be the biggest Talent Challenge of 2017

How To Start A Great Mentoring Program At Work

Starting a mentoring program is one of the most intelligent, positively impacting and long-lasting decisions you can make for your business. Mentoring initiatives are something that touches everyone in the company, and they are not directed only towards a specific demographic, but instead, they are available to all those who care about their personal and professional growth, no matter what their current position inside the organization. Mentoring also has benefits that are directly related to individual development but can also boost employee satisfaction and retention levels while at the same time making your company more attractive to prospective employees or individuals in general interested in the organization.

One of the best parts of mentoring is that instead of having to invest in external resources to be brought into the company, you are capitalizing on the assets you already have, mainly the human component of those resources.

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Creating a high-impact mentoring program may not be as difficult as you think, considering all of the benefits that a well-established initiative can bestow upon a company that takes it seriously and decides to use to properly take advantage of everything their employees have to offer. Today in Suzzanne Uhland’s Blog, we want to talk about the things you need to consider and some of the most basic steps to get started and put together a mentoring program that will surely make a difference.

It only makes sense that the first step to take in the creation of such program would be to define the general and specific objectives of the initiative. What do you want to accomplish? Is this about better preparing your people to remain competitive in the market? Do you want to strengthen the leadership of your organization by helping senior leaders hone their skills while giving junior associates a closer look at the inner workings of leadership in action? Is this all about accomplishing better retention and having employees gain perspective or a new appreciation for their company? Do you want to introduce your people to a new skill and decide to use a mentoring program to do so? The answer to all of these questions will probably provide you with a good idea as to which concepts you must focus on while designing the program and which areas will not be so important when making decisions about putting it together.

Your target audience is very important when you are in the planning stages of the program because they dictate the needs of your design. You have to know what motivates your people, where they are in the career and what would be their logical next steps in a quest for growth. Knowing this information will allow you to come up with realistic goals that can be measured according to the participants’ performance and it can come as a huge help to leaders who participate by giving them an idea of the areas in which they can be most helpful and so that they can self-evaluate to gain a better understanding of their own strengths and weaknesses to support the initiative. It is important to remember that a successful mentoring program will always have a strong structure but also be characterized by its flexibility. Remember that no two mentoring relationships are the same, so you must prepare for that.

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It doesn’t matter how well designed your program is, it must have an excellent marketing campaign. People in the organization must know that it exists and in the worst-case scenario, at least know what a mentoring program is. It happens quite often that companies announce a mentoring program and are met with a great deal of enthusiasm by a member of the organization, however, the turnout is low and the actual interest seem lower than expected. This happens because people may not truly understand how mentoring works and what it can do for them. It is important that a program is not simply announced, but that actual training is thrown into the mix. Participants must understand all aspects of mentoring so they can see what they are getting into, understand the positive impact that it can bring into their lives and also know how they can maximize their effort by being active participants in their own evolution.

Mentors and mentees must be paired properly and plan to do so must be made considering all approaches. Sometimes these relationships are born organically, but in some case, the organization must step in and help both sides meet based on the criteria each participant has according to what they want from the program and what they can bring to the table. This step is crucial so you must understand how it will take place. Do not let these partnerships be on their own and forget about them completely; remember the organization must be there and provide support in any way it can since the success of a mentoring program is going to be of great influence to the future of the organization.

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