"meeting agenda"

Sat 25 January 2020
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

Mon 27 April 2020
When a company implements a new employee-to-employee horizontal mentorship program, this can feel like a big first step towards progress! However, impactful mentorship is not Field of Dreams; just because you built it, it doesn’t mean that employees will see ‘magical’ changes overnight. It takes more than a basic mentorship program to develop engaged employees and achieve the desired goals you have for the mentor program and the company as a whole. 


This article offers my perspective on the importance of semi-structured meeting agendas as a driving force for effective, impactful mentorship, regardless of the personalities of the people participating.


Our conventional wisdom tells us that “if two people are extroverted, they are naturally going to hit it off. Structured meetings will just get in the way of natural conversation!”


This conventional wisdom is wrong.


Extroverts get their energy from being around other people. We expect two extroverted people to have an easy path to conversation, but this doesn’t account for a key issue: how productive is what they are discussing? Is their discussion casual, like sports, weather, or family? Or, is their discussion about the obstacles they are facing at work and having a dialogue about how to make their work more productive and personally fulfilling?


People may be able to gain value from any conversation, true. But, more likely than not, these casual conversations are superficial and not particularly substantive. The reason for this is because people feel comfortable discussing things that they either see on a daily basis or that they don’t have control over but are generally interested in. We are used to these conversation topics. When anyone ever asks, “how are you doing?” it is typically followed by these superficial talking points. 


Casual conversations are low risk, low reward. Few people have revelations when discussing whether the Lakers will make the playoffs. These conversations are comforting and valuable, but they are simply no substitute for challenging discussions and self-reflection. 


On the flip side, deep conversations are rarer for a reason. Talking about work obstacles and challenging your fears about what’s possible in your professional career is uncomfortable! We are forced to be vulnerable. These conversations do drive profound outcomes, but without an agenda keeping people on track, we can unintentionally deviate back to those comfortable, superficial topics.  


Falling back to comfortable conversation isn’t just a risk for extroverted people; introverts can face their own challenges during a mentorship program. One might assume “if two people are introverted, they can figure out a mentor meeting without an agenda. They are professionals and their introversion will make them more comfortable.”


Again, this conventional wisdom falls flat. Ask introverts if they would feel comfortable with this and most will say no. This is typically the assumption extroverted people have about introverted people.


The issue is that the people that are most interested in starting company-wide mentor programs are typically extroverts. Introverts just typically don’t share that same type of self-sustaining drive for more social interaction; they recharge their ‘mental energy’ in different ways. 


But, this doesn’t mean that introverts are disinterested in mentorship!


Instead, when an introvert participates in a mentor program, they might be more likely to have some anxiety or skepticism about meeting somebody they (typically) have minimal interaction with. They need to feel confident and come to the meeting with a plan: How long is the meeting? What are the topics for discussion? How can they be sure that this meeting will be impactful to them? 


Meeting agendas accomplish this goal. Meeting agendas give introverted people the safety net of a plan of action. They know that the discussion will be meaningful, that the conversation won’t be open-ended without a set end time, and that the other person (their mentor) shares this plan.


Implementing a mentor program is a huge first step towards building a stronger, more positive company culture and breaking through communication barriers.


But just having a mentor program doesn’t mean that the company is accomplishing their goals. Improvement takes active effort; the communication barriers and dysfunctional turnover are not going to magically disappear overnight. Employee engagement and positive company culture doesn’t appear by flipping a switch.


Unfortunately, many companies start (and end) these efforts with the idea of “let’s start a mentor program!” and simply call it a day. They might ‘match’ employees, but randomly. They might give suggested topics, but not meeting agendas. Instead of creating an impactful mentorship program for their company, they simply checked another box for their year-end review and assumed the benefits had already materialized. 


Providing mentor meeting agendas is one very important piece of building a strong, thriving employee horizontal mentorship program that connects with every employee, regardless of personality. 



Building Mentor Connections Through Work Orientation

Kickstarting Mentorships For Fulfilling Careers