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Mentorship Insider Presents: 4 Mistakes Mini-Series Mistake #3: Lack of Clear (& Consistent) Communication

What’s so special about communicating?


Communication is one part of the heart of mentorship! It’s vital to mentorship’s success - without it reflection, learning, and change can’t occur. Achieving individual and program goals requires constant communication from all sides including the program manager(s), mentors, and mentees. 


If communication becomes a challenge, whether because of busy schedules or lack of interest or engagement, participants tend to disengage. Let’s explore how leading by example, and advocating for communication, can help participants and you achieve the outcomes you’re hoping for.  


It starts with you. Program Manager - You Matter!


As a program manager, you play a crucial role in ensuring strong communication and accountability between mentors and mentees. You're the driving force behind setting clear expectations, providing resources, and facilitating effective communication. By encouraging open dialogue and regular check-ins, you help mentors and mentees connect, share progress, and address challenges. You monitor relationships, intervene when needed, and promote continuous improvement through feedback and recognition. Your efforts create a supportive environment, empowering everyone to engage fully and enhancing the program's overall impact.

Hold Everyone Accountable - lead by example

To kickstart effective communication habits and accountability in the mentorship program, initiate an orientation session for mentors and mentees, stressing the significance of clear and consistent communication. This provides them a session to get started on establishing expectations and aligning on communication frequency, preferred channels, and response times. 


What do you want to communicate?

Start off by reflecting on what you as a program manager want to communicate to participants and what is most important in that communication to progress mentor/mentee relationships towards the set end-goal, whatever that may be. This step is important because it reminds you of overarching goals/the initial purpose as to why you chose mentorship in the first place.

Start by asking yourself/your team:

  • What specific outcomes do we hope to achieve for mentors and mentees?

  • Aside from their own personal goals, are we guiding them towards an overarching objective? If so, what is it?

  • What are the needs of the mentors and mentees? (This can vary between participant but you can start by brainstorming some general needs such as reskilling/upskilling, forming new connections, etc).

  • Are there key milestones and timelines participants should be aware of? 

  • How can we effectively communicate the benefits of participating in the mentorship program to participants?

  • What resources/support systems are in place to both mentees and mentors throughout the mentorship journey?

  • How are we gathering feedback to continue to iterate on best practices for the program?

  • How can we celebrate achievements/milestones of participants?

Try This!

Once you have an idea of the most important things you want to communicate to participants, use your answers as the basis of communication to them. Translate what you’ve learned in your own brainstorming and prompt them to begin doing the same. Facilitate a goal-setting exercise, prompting mentees to articulate their objectives and discuss how communication will facilitate goal attainment. Regular check-ins are scheduled, promoting accountability and progress tracking. A feedback mechanism is put in place, fostering open communication and continuous improvement. You can then curate a resource library with communication tools and guides, offering ongoing support to mentors and mentees as they navigate their mentoring journey. Through these initiatives, you can lay a strong foundation for meaningful communication, ultimately enhancing the effectiveness and impact of the mentorship program.


Examples of Mentorship Programs That Have Excelled Due to Communication Structure

  • Women in Technology Mentorship Program

    • The Women in Technology Mentoring Program, developed by the Australian Computer Society (ACS), focuses on advancing gender diversity in the technology industry by pairing experienced female mentors with aspiring female professionals. The program's success is attributed to its emphasis on communication, which includes regular one-on-one meetings, group workshops, and networking events. These communication channels facilitate knowledge sharing, skill development, and relationship building between mentors and mentees, contributing to the program's positive outcomes.

  • Big Brothers Big Sisters Mentoring Program

    • Big Brothers Big Sisters program's success is rooted in its emphasis on communication and relationship building. Mentors and mentees engage in regular one-on-one activities, participate in group events, and communicate through various channels. 

  • IBM's Mentorship Program

    •   IBM's Pathfinder Mentorship Program pairs experienced employees with early-career professionals to facilitate skill development and career advancement. With it’s robust communication infrastructure, including mentorship training sessions, goal-setting workshops, and regular check-in meetings, mentors and mentees communicate through virtual platforms, such as video conferencing and instant messaging, to overcome geographical barriers and maintain regular contact. This effective communication strategy enables mentors to provide personalized guidance and support, leading to enhanced career growth and development for mentees. 

These mentorship programs demonstrate the importance of effective communication in fostering positive mentor-mentee relationships and achieving successful outcomes. As a program manager, if you can clearly articulate the purpose of the program to participants and establish open dialogue from the get-go, you are actively setting up your participants with necessary tools to maintain and strive for open communication throughout their journey.  

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