Maintaining mentoring momentum

Kai Kirkkopelto

New mentorships are exciting. Diaries are at the ready and meetings are being booked as soon and as frequently as possible. But sometimes, after a while, the novelty wears off. Life and work get in the way, mentoring momentum falls short and meetings become more infrequent. 

Mentoring programmes are more important now than ever before. They help:

But due to the current climate, implementing effective mentoring programmes is harder than ever. Many employees are still working remotely, and those that aren’t, are likely working a hybrid model – part of the time at home, part of the time at the office. This brings an added layer of complication for mentors and mentees when planning their mentoring meetings; and as such, momentum can dwindle quickly.

But this doesn’t need to be the case. Here at Grasp, we know that mentoring programmes can provide real support to employees in turbulent times. So here are our top tips for keeping the mentoring momentum going in your organisation:

1. Find a routine from the start

The easiest way to ensure consistency in mentoring is to devise a plan up front. How often are you going to meet? Where? How long will the meetings last? How will you choose what to discuss? For some pairings the best pattern might be every two weeks, or once a month. For others, it may be more infrequent, perhaps once a quarter, but with more regular, informal catch ups in between. Whatever routine is decided, it’s important that both parties stick to it. And if for any reason you need to cancel a meeting, reschedule it immediately.

2. Communication methods and boundaries

Often mentorships go wrong due to miscommunication; which often includes one party overstepping boundaries. Therefore it’s of paramount importance that you openly discuss communication methods and boundaries up front. For example, some may only wish to reply to emails Monday – Friday, 9am – 5pm. And that’s fine – if it’s communicated. Others prefer emails over phone calls, or vice versa. Whatever your preferred communication methods are, and whatever your boundaries are – make them clear from the very start.

3. Set goals and priorities

You may have heard the saying “What gets measured, gets improved” and that is as true for mentoring as it is for anything else in life. It’s important to set goals and priorities at the start of a mentoring partnership, and then review them frequently. 

But it’s not good enough for a mentee to say “I want to improve my leadership skills”. Instead, get the mentee to consider the topic more deeply, and set a SMART goal, which means: 

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable 
  • Realistic 
  • Time-bound 

For example, if the mentee believes they need to improve their project management abilities to improve their leadership skills – perhaps they will set a goal of “Implementing a new project management process for the team, by the end of December 2021”. 

Setting this goal will allow both the mentee and mentor to check back in and evaluate the progress of their partnership. If the mentee has more than one goal they want to achieve – prioritise the goals, and work on one at a time. 

4. Ask for feedback 

Often when a mentoring relationship is lacking momentum, it’s due to non-commitment from one party. If you feel your mentor, or mentee, isn’t giving their all to the mentoring programme – ask them why. More often than not, it’s due to external factors. Perhaps they do not feel they have the time to commit right now, or they do not feel like they’re getting enough from the programme to prioritise it. If you have an open conversation with the other person, you’ll likely be able to get to the root of the problem, and resolve it. Remember, this may mean reviewing and revising the goals, priorities and schedules you’ve already set. And that’s fine. There is no rule book when it comes to mentoring; as long as it works for both parties, you’ll see success. 

What to do when you can’t get the mentoring momentum going 

We’ve spoken a lot in this article about keeping momentum going, but sometimes mentoring partnerships struggle to get off the ground at all. And this may be because the mentee and mentor are not a right fit for one another

The important thing to remember here is that it’s fine if a mentoring relationship doesn’t quite work out. If you’re struggling to get mentoring momentum going from the start, the best thing you can do is to speak up. Communicate with your mentor/mentee and your HR team (or whoever’s in charge of your mentoring programme). They will work with you to resolve the issue or rematch you with a new mentor – which is much better than pretending everything is a-ok and missing out on the heaps of benefits mentoring brings to all parties. 

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