So you have started a mentor program, congrats! You matched people together and your people are now gearing up to begin meeting. This is an exciting time for your mentor program, but also a critical time. If your participants have a bad first meeting, the likelihood of a second meeting happening diminishes significantly and the likelihood the relationship succeeds diminishes greatly as well.
If your employees go into this meeting without an agenda, here are the questions that they will be thinking about:
What will we talk about?
Can this person even help me?
Can I help this person?
What if this is a big waste of time?
What if my mentor talks too much or doesn’t talk at all?
Should I share and be vulnerable or only talk about the day-to-day things like the weather and sports?
Will this person care?
You could argue that this is a pessimistic view of the thoughts in one’s head before meeting and that an optimist would think oppositely and you would be correct in thinking this. But, in our experience, when most people try something new for the first time, they are more hesitant to fully embrace this new thing. This hesitancy is typically met with skepticism.
How can you significantly minimize this skepticism? Provide an agenda!
You might think “Agendas will make the relationship robotic and impersonal!” but in our experience, the opposite is true. Agendas provide a starting point for the conversation. They give people the confidence to know what will be discussed during the conversation while knowing that if they learn something interested about their mentor that they can ask for elaboration and grow the conversation in whichever direction feels most natural.
Should I prepare an agenda for every mentor meeting? At least one new agenda per month.
A first agenda is great, but without consistent guidance and structure, the relationship can begin to lack newness beyond life/career status updates. Providing a new agenda every month creates context and provides a roadmap as to where the relationship should be going. This creates freshness in the relationship and allows for you, the administrator of this mentor program, to control the flow and success of the mentor program.
Should I create the same agenda for every mentor pairing? No.
A one-size-fits-all policy around your mentor meeting agendas is not ideal. The reason for this is because not all mentor pairings share the same Work Orientation. For example, people that are job oriented get much of their workplace engagement socially. Therefore, their agendas should incorporate some form of social activity like volunteering, going out to lunch, or taking a walk outside. People that are career oriented get much of their workplace engagement from the work that they do and learning new skills. Therefore, their agendas should be focused around setting timelines with each other for learning new skills. People that are career oriented get much of their workplace engagement from high level thinking. Therefore, their agendas should be focused around discussing abstract concepts on how their work and their company has an impact on society on a larger level.
Should I be gathering feedback on my agendas after every mentor meeting? Yes.
The ideas you come up with for mentor meetings could be great or a total flop. Being ignorant to the feedback from everyone means that the loudest voices will win. The loudest voices are not necessarily representative of the entire group.
Is there an order you tend to follow for structuring mentor meeting agendas? Yes.
At Ambition In Motion, we typically follow a structure of rapport building, then collaboration exercise, then goal setting, then reviewing obstacles (perceived vs. real), then reviewing strengths and weaknesses, and then providing feedback to each other (e.g. a 360 degree review).
So…What are the 5 reasons why you NEED to provide agendas for your company’s mentor program?
1. Removes much of the skepticism from participants
2. Allows you to control the pace and direction of the relationship
3. Gives you insight into the effectiveness of the program
4. Creates opportunities for mending and iterating relationships while they are happening
5. Provides you with a formula for success for future versions of the mentor program