You’ve come so far in your mentor/mentee relationship! Take a breath and take a look at all you’ve accomplished over the past 12 months.
Do you remember where you began a year ago? What was the quality and tone of that relationship then? What were your goals and visions?
Where are you now…and even more exciting, Where are you headed for the next 12 months?
Next month we begin a whole new series of tips! So, dream, journal and wonder at your next level…and stay tuned for more.
One of the highlights of this past year for us has been working with the Dallas County Community College District (DCCCD) to establish a successful mentoring culture.
DCCCD launched its Network Mentoring Culture in August by convening the Chancellor’s staff and presidents, HR representatives and other college leaders with a primary goal: to create a mentoring culture.
According to George Marquez, DCCCD’s Executive District Director of Talent Development and Division of Talent Central:
“From my perspective, successful employee engagement into the DCCCD system occurs with talent development programs and a mentoring system. We sincerely believe that the mentor component is the strongest bond that we can have in any of our employee programs because mentors provide a safe way to extend the skills and knowledge of employees through encouragement and support. Having a system of mentors also allows us to strengthen our succession planning.”
A kickoff training for Chancellors Fellows and their mentors followed a day-long consultation with DCCCD leaders.
In October we certified 18 DCCCD mentoring workshop facilitators (from seven colleges, across three locations) to conduct Starting Strong: What Mentors Need to Know and Do™ based on the book Starting Strong.
Newly certified DCCCD Starting Strong facilitators.
We were, and continue to be, impressed with the passion, commitment and talented leaders we had the privilege of certifying. Their individual contributions made the certification such a warm and welcoming experience for everyone!
Lory Fischler, Dr. Lois J. Zachary and Lisa Fain presenting their memento.
The Importance of the First 90 Days
It’s a fact: The first 90 days sets the tone for your mentoring relationships! According to Lory Fischler, co-author of Starting Strong (Jossey-Bass 2014), “Many mentoring relationships don’t actually survive the three-month milestone. That’s because they start with good intention and energy but get derailed by lack of time, structure, purpose, progress and accountability.”
We’ve identified six essential conversations that we believe ought to take place during the first 90 days of a mentoring relationship to ensure that it starts strong and stays focused. These conversations set the tone for mentoring success.
Conversation #1: Mentoring partners often jump into mentoring too soon and fail to take the necessary time to get to know one another. When mentoring partners spend time to build their relationship by engaging in real conversation, they are better able to establish the high level of trust that is critical for learning and growth.
Conversation #2: Once trust has been established, it is time to decide how to structure your mentoring relationship and your meetings so that you stay on track. By proactively talking about ground rules, confidentiality, hot buttons and boundaries, mentoring partners avoid problems along the way.
Conversation #3: A robust series of conversations about the mentee’s goals is often more important than the process of formally defining them. Through conversation an effective mentor facilitates mentee understanding about his or her needs and the areas of potential growth necessary to meet those goals.
Conversation #4: Once goals have been identified, it’s time to talk about how to achieve them. This is accomplished by identifying learning opportunities to support and challenge the mentee — to encourage a mentee to stretch and stand outside his or her comfort zone. This where true growth and development occur.
Conversation #5: Along the way, there may be stumbling blocks that get in the way of the relationship. Holding a conversation to address them as soon as they occur keeps the focus on progress and forward movement.
Conversation #6: The three-month milestone is ideal for holding a two-way feedback check-in conversation. By addressing meaty questions (i.e., “What has been the biggest learning to date? What are we doing that is providing value? What is working and what could be better?”) both mentor and mentee receive feedback that enables them to elevate their individual skills.
You won’t want to miss our day-long conference, Making Mentoring Matter: Strategies and Tools for Individual Development and Organizational Effectiveness on Wednesday. May 4, 2016 in Bellevue, WA., where Lory Fischler will be presenting a workshop entitled “Starting Strong: The First 90 Days.”
Starting Strong: A Mentoring Fable provides a view inside six successful mentoring conversations that take place over 90 days. The reader is privy to the thoughts and reflections of both the mentor and mentee, and gets to observe the personal dynamics of a successful mentoring relationship as it unfolds. It’s an excellent training resource because it models how good mentoring should look and feel.
Cynthia is one of the mentors you meet in the book. She is an experienced mentor who is committed to her own growth and development as a mentor and the growth and development her mentees.
The story of Cynthia and her Gen-Y mentee unfolds over 90 days (six mentoring meetings) and you get to sit in on each of them. You will hear their private thoughts before, during and after their meetings. At the end of each chapter, you will find questions to prompt personal reflection and spark conversation about the chapter content.
Cynthia learned the hard way about how to create a successful mentoring partnership. After a few failed mentoring relationships of her own, she grew from the experience. By the time she launched her next relationship, she was savvier and had a clearer understanding of what it takes to achieve tangible results.
What made the difference for Cynthia? What did she do differently that made her more successful?
In Starting Strong, you will learn about Cynthia’s strategies for mentoring success:
1. Cynthia recognizes that her mentee will be uneasy as the more junior employee, mentored by a senior executive. She takes time to get to know him and put him at ease before launching into the work of mentoring.
2. Some key structures and agreements help set the tone and expectations for progress and accountability. The mentee, who is new to mentoring, thought mentoring was an informal drop-in relationship.
3. Learning is the purpose and product of mentoring — and its goals drive the learning. Mentors and mentees alike struggle with goal setting. It can be tempting for mentees to pick goals they can easy achieve or that aren’t relevant to their work success.
4. Application of skills and learning are a critical part of mentee success.
5. Stumbling blocks are inevitable in mentoring relationships. Mentors and mentees need a confidential, safe place to get coaching around issues that surface.
6. The 90 day mark is an excellent time to schedule a check-in with mentoring partners.
The conversation playbook guides you so that you can engage in parallel conversation with Cynthia and her mentee. It prepares you for your mentoring sessions by suggesting appropriate conversation topics, starters and probing questions to use to build a solid foundation for your own mentoring relationships during the first 90 days.
When we wrote Starting Strong, our primary goal was to help people understand what really good mentoring conversation looked like in practice. Second, we wanted to address some very basic (and commonly asked) questions: How do the individuals who are engaged in mentoring experience the relationship? What do they think about? What do they talk about? What conversations should they engage in to build their relationship and facilitate the learning process?
Starting Strong is a combination of two books in one – a mentoring fable and a conversation playbook. The fable presents an in-depth look at the dynamics and conversations inherent in a mentoring relationship when it is first starting out. The characters in the fable represent a composite of real life mentoring issues, struggles, and challenges. The conversation play book contains a set of tools to guide the reader’s mentoring conversations.
We had hoped that Starting Strong would provide a reference, a resource, and case study scenario. However, it wasn’t until recently that we discovered just how powerful it was as a training tool for raising the level of trust, deepening the relationship and keeping mentoring pairs on track.
Starting Strong enabled mentoring partners to build trust quickly because it created a shared language and understanding right from the start.
Starting Strong provided a roadmap for keeping relationships on track. As a result, new mentoring partners were more confident because they knew what to expect and they had the tools and strategies they needed to guide them.
Starting Strong gave experienced mentors new insights that allowed them to recognize what was missing in past mentoring relationships and better understand why they went off course.
Starting Strong provided a context for the training so that participants had a mental picture of what good mentoring looked like.
Starting Strong increased mentee understanding about the purpose of mentoring and their role in driving their own development.
Starting Strong gave mentees a better understanding about the role of their mentor in helping help them tackle their issues – without solving the problem for them.
How Reading Starting Strong Can Help
Each participant was sent a copy Starting Strong prior to the initial mentoring training and asked to think about specific questions prior to the initial training.
- What resonated for you? What surprised you? What is something new you learned?
- Mentors: What skills and competencies do you admire the most in the mentor, Cynthia?
- Mentees: In what ways do you relate to the mentee, Rafa? What did you learn from his experience?
We found that reading Starting Strong made a significant difference in the quality and depth of the mentoring conversations that took place during and after the mentoring training.
Our observations were validated by the participant comments five weeks following the training:
- Starting Strong was valuable in helping me know what I could expect.
- Starting Strong challenges traditional views.
- It gave me comfort to know there was a clear roadmap I could follow.
- Starting Strong was an eye opener about what good mentoring really looked like.
- It prepared us to start on the right foot and understand what we were getting into.
- It guided us step by step through the conversations we needed to have.
- It jump started our conversation.
- Starting Strong focused us on addressing some things we might not have addressed.
- The book opened the door to the different conversations we need to have.
- Starting Strong offered an example of a mentor and mentee and seeing their perspective.
Ask participants to read Starting Strong prior to your next training event. It will kick start mentoring training and get mentoring pairs started on the right foot.