Guiding Lights: How to Create a Mentor Program for Your Organization

Business.com / Education / Last Modified: February 22, 2017

Are you giving your high potentials time and attention to develop their capacity to effectively lead people and process?

With approximately 10,000 baby boomers retiring each day, a flood of young leaders will soon assume leadership positions. While this can be viewed as an exciting time of change and progress for millennials, it may appear as a time of succession stress for those currently leading organizations.

How are you preparing your millennials for leadership succession? Are you giving your high potentials time and attention to develop their capacity to effectively lead people and process? 

Many companies are failing in their succession planning and in the years to come the results could be drastic. As for the companies ahead of the curve, success coaching programs have become a popular standard for succession planning and millennial leadership preparedness.

I’ve had several conversations in my role with Character Quest Leadership Development Company in which corporate executives ask me, “What if we invest in coaching our high potentials for leadership succession and they leave the company?” This is a very common and valid concern for companies focused on the return on coaching investment, or ROCI.

My response is very simple: What if you do not invest in coaching for your high potential emerging leaders and they stay?

My argument here: It's better to invest in your young leadership than to not invest in their development at all. I believe any business savvy professional would agree that if you aren’t intentionally grooming a millennial for leadership practice, process management and personal development you will eventually have an impaired and clueless leader leading daily operations and tasks in the years to come. Thus, your company stands to potentially crumble and slowly dilapidate because leadership quality is the lifeblood of organizational longevity.

Related Article: How Can Reverse Mentoring Help Your Business?

It’s never too late to start grooming the youngsters in your company for leadership through coaching. However, creating a coaching program from scratch for your company may appear as a time consuming and dubious endeavor.

The purpose of this article is to utilize a great guide from MBA@UNC to aid in successfully launching your coaching/mentoring program. Throughout the article I will provide suggestions from my experience creating coaching programs for corporate and collegiate America. For the purposes of this article, I am assuming that your coaches will be comprised of seasoned leaders within the organization, and the coachees will be comprised of emerging millennial leaders within the organization.

The following sections will follow MBA@UNC’s 5 steps in their guide titled: How to Build a Successful Mentoring [or Coaching] Program. 

Step 1: Lay the Groundwork

As the old saying goes: time is money and money is time. This axiom holds true with a coaching program, because coaching takes time away from the daily grind. If you are planning on spearheading a coaching program by pitching the idea to your leadership team, the first step is to lay the groundwork. The groundwork is the nuts and bolts details of the program.

I suggest having a discussion with your team centered on the following questions:

  1. Why is coaching our emerging leaders important to the longevity of our company?
  2. Who should we target for coaches and coachees? Why?
  3. How long will the program run for each individual?
  4. What learning material will accompany the coaching conversations?
  5. Will all coaches be consuming the same coaching/learning content?
  6. Will the content be tailored individually? Why?
  7. What learning outcomes are expected from the program?
  8. How will we measure the effectiveness of the program?

Step 2: Prepare for the Launch

Once the details are figured out, the guide suggests that the program launch should be communicated to the entire organization. In this phase I couldn’t agree more—communicate, communicate, communicate! Coaching programs become 'just another project' if they are not communicated to the entire organization.  In order to communicate a company-wide coaching initiative, I suggest incorporating the following steps in the launch prep phase: 

1. Rally your company (or participating departments) together for an opportunity to discuss the program and provide ideas to strengthen the idea. This may be difficult in larger companies but is still necessary regardless. In this meeting discuss the following items to maximize buy-in:

2. Send out an awareness email to the entire company connecting the coaching program to the mission and purpose of your organization. For your seasoned leaders, highlight the opportunity to give back and pass on leadership wisdom to emerging leaders through the art of coaching.

  • Selection Process for Coaches and Coachees
  • Purpose statement of program. Tie the WHAT (coaching program) with the WHY (purpose of program)
  • Brainstorm learning topics with input from a survey
  • Projected outcomes and program success indicators

3. Identify a committee that will respond to questions, comments, or concerns regarding the program. I suggest if this is a company wide initiative to select one person from each department. This decision, however is dependent on the size and structure of your organization.

4. Ensure your Coaching Program Committee understands their roles.

5. Get ready to launch!

Now that you have prepped the outline of your program for the launch let’s take a look at step #3. 

Related Article: Who You Gonna Call? Who to Lean On After Your First Entrepreneurial Failure

Step 3: Launch the Program and Train Participants [and Coaches]

Launching a coaching program requires proper training to ensure the program’s mission is top of mind. A coaching program without purpose, inspiration, and direction will inevitably fail - this is a fact. To keep the mission of the coaching program top of mind I suggest communicating the “why” before the “what” of the program.

All too often I see coaching programs fail because they are just that—another thing on a busy person’s plate. When people understand the why of a company-wide initiative, like coaching, they are more likely to buy into the vision. A few other important pieces the MBA@UNC guide touches on for training coaches and coachees is to cover the following items:

  1. Identify goals and milestones
  2. Link each goal to broader organizational needs
  3. Decide how often they will meet and for how long
  4. Learn how to provide constructive feedback

Now that the program has launched, it’s time to let relationships grow amongst your coaches and millennials.

Step 4: Build Relationships and Assess Progress

When it comes to company-wide coaching initiatives, relationship building is key to the vitality of the program itself. If coaches are selected internally one can imagine the impact the program will have with the relationships that are built.

On one hand, the young millennial has someone approachable and trustworthy they can turn to for feedback or guidance, and on the other hand the seasoned coach has the opportunity to share wisdom. Relationship building in a coaching program must evolve as an organic process. I caution HR in pressuring millennials and coaches to build relationships by over-enforcing progress assessment at the beginning of the program.

Instead, give the coaches adequate time of 2-4 visits before progress assessment becomes part of the equation and conversation. After approximately 2-4 relationship building coaching sessions, assessment becomes an appropriate topic of conversation with the millennials. 

The guide suggests that HR should be checking in to see if goals and objectives are being met. While meeting the broader organizational goals and objectives are important, HR must not forget that it is also their responsibility to ensure the coaching is benefitting the personal development of each millennial. Developing as a leader is a core value of today’s millennials, as they actively seek out areas to grow.

A coaching program offers a great opportunity for a seasoned leader to share personal and professional development advice to millennials while also helping tie their growth to greater organizational goals of the coaching program. In all, HR must balance their coaching program focus evenly on both the company and the individual Millennials being developed. This is about growing people and a company simultaneously. 

Step 5: Evaluate Program Effectiveness

At the end of the coaching program an effectiveness evaluation is crucial. The guide suggests senior leaders will be curious to know how the program met its initial objectives. The committee discussed earlier in this article should also meet with the millennials to see if the program helped them reach personal and professional goals.

This would provide an opportunity to explore if and how the coaching relationships added value to the millennials’ exposure to a broader perspective of the organization at large. While the guide provides many crucial questions to ask in your evaluation, I would add a few more questions:

  1. How has this program effectively exposed the participant to the larger picture of the organization?
  2. What wisdom was passed on to each participant that will benefit their growth within the company?
  3. Have our coaches helped in preparing their Millennials for future leadership? How? To what degree?

It is with questions like these that you will see a ROI on retention, engagement, and most importantly an increase in the quality of leadership rising through the ranks in your organization.

Related Article: Popular Management Theories Decoded

Conclusion

Creating a coaching program can be rewarding for your organization on many levels. If you are still skeptical about the time and attention a coaching program would take then I suggest you seek out someone you know who has created or participated in a coaching program at their company.

Share with them your questions, concerns, and potential program ideas. Personally, I see coaching as a value add to any company. I encourage you to use this guide from MBA@UNC as a structure and put a hard deadline on the date to start your program. 

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