5 Tips on Keeping Mentees Engaged in Your Mentorship Program

These tips can help you identify ways that you can build or strengthen your program to achieve maximum engagement.

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Mentoring programs can be effective tools for teaching and upskilling professionals. When managed well, they can create significant benefits for mentees and can also create lasting benefits and impact for mentors. However, it takes some strategy and finesse to operate a mentorship program that lasts and reaches its potential.

If you are facilitating (or planning to start) a mentorship program, these tips can help you identify ways that you can build or strengthen your program to achieve maximum engagement. Especially if you are currently experiencing difficulties keeping your mentees engaged, use these ideas to analyse your current mechanisms and processes for places you can improve.

1. Reduce the Level of Stress in the Program

Every mentorship program is different. In rare occasions, mentees or mentee cohorts have the luxury of being able to focus on their menteeship and not need to balance that with other responsibilities. But for the vast majority of mentorship programs, mentees have a lot on their plates at once.

Usually they’ll have a full-time job, or be a full-time student, or be managing some combination of both. Sometimes their other commitments are connected to the same organisation and all under one roof, but often they could be very separate. Unless you continually check in and monitor mentees’ workloads and stress levels during your program, you’ll not have an idea of the pressure they are under outside of their sessions with you.

Because of this, it can be both to their advantage and yours to proactively limit the amount of additional stress you create with your mentorship program. This can help your mentees last and not burn out before the program ends. Completing the program with stamina left in the tank and a vested interest in the program subject matter means your mentees are more likely to continue engaging in growth and the skills or content you shared with them as they move forward. Even small adjustments can help limit the stress that naturally accumulates from engaging in mentorship.

For instance, recognizing the stress that even simple tasks like decision-making can create can help you identify and eliminate parts of your program that aren’t really necessary and may be adding unnecessary stress. Making expectations clear at the start is another good way of removing the stress of unclear assignments, workload, or engagement protocol. These and other simple ways of limiting stress can help your mentees get the most out of your program.

2. Encourage Your Mentees to Ask When They Need Help

Many mentors and teachers would probably be surprised if they learned from a mentee or student that they seemed unapproachable. Most mentors would never tell their mentees that they aren’t allowed to ask questions, voice things they were struggling with, or instigate two-way discussion. However, unless specifically stated otherwise, that can sometimes be the assumption mentees make. It can benefit just about any mentor/mentee relationship to iterate or even reiterate that questions and requests for help are allowed and encouraged.

The purpose of mentorship programs is to create growth. Growth can be stretching, challenging, and even downright difficult at times. When you proactively make sure your mentees know that their questions and struggles are welcome and that you want them to voice when they need help, you’ll find that the dynamic of the relationship can change and deepen dramatically over time.

If you need to, it’s absolutely ok to define boundaries and create preferred methods of going about these conversations. However, more often than not, making room for this kind of honesty can enhance the entirety of how your mentees engage with you and your program - not just the time or two they may need to take you up on it.

3. Ask Them What They Want

As a mentor, you may have a clearly defined curriculum or set of subjects or skills you plan to introduce for every mentee. And in some professions, settings, or mentor program types, this is necessary. However, in almost every mentorship program, there can and should be room to tailor even small elements of the curriculum. Making a mentorship program more individualised can do wonders to help a mentee stay engaged.

To achieve this, the easiest way to find opportunities to tailor the mentorship program to the mentee is to simply ask what they want to learn. Young professionals, graduates, or students who have enlisted in mentoring are, much more often than not, the types of people that are naturally motivated, driven, and curious. They will likely have goals and interests that they hope they’ll be able to advance by engaging in your mentoring. Ask them what they are interested in learning or how they would like to grow during your program. This can be particularly beneficial at the start, but this can be done at literally any time.

Your mentees will appreciate your attention and care, and you’ll benefit by finding out what mentees are most motivated by and interested in. Even if your mentees ask about subjects or skills about which you don’t feel confident, you can be honest about that and treat it as an opportunity for you to learn together.

4. Emphasise Good Self Care

Self-care is a vital component of everyone’s long-term professional stamina and performance. A lack of healthy habits such as nutritious eating, good interpersonal relationships, proper hydration and sleep, regular exercise, and taking time to de-stress and relax can contribute powerfully to stress and burnout. This should be an open conversation with your mentees. As a part of checking in with them, it’s good to institute a pattern of conversations about their self-care routines. Emphasise the importance of the elements listed above and encourage them to treat each one with importance.

Remember also - if it’s important for your mentees, it’s important for you. Model good self-care habits rather than preaching them to others without actually implementing them yourself. This can provide additional places of connection with your mentees. Comparing notes on how you each accomplish self-care and sharing tips or ideas can be a great way of keeping your mentees engaged with you during the program.

5. Seek Mentorship Yourself

Finally, it benefits both you and your mentees to continually work towards improving their experience and engagement with your program. As you deliver your mentorship, it can be incredibly beneficial to you and to your mentees to receive mentoring yourself.

Do you know of someone else who has more experience mentoring than you do? Could you seek out an experienced mentor and ask for an informal or formal mentoring relationship to ask advice and be sharpened as a mentor?

Proactively seeking ways to improve your mentoring skills can fundamentally change the game not only for you but for your mentees and their experiences as you become a more confident and engaging mentor.

This article was guest written by Andrew Deen.

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