Creating a mentoring program can be a daunting task for any company or organization. Many people know that mentoring is important because it helps people grow their careers, build their businesses and everyone involved learns. You need to help your people grow if you want your company or organization to grow. But HOW do you do that?


Mentoring is a LOT more than just “Giving career advice”. “Career advice” could be ANYTHING from networking skills and professional etiquette lessons to detailed tactics you need to use every day on the job. Simon Sinek’s now famous TED Talk (and book) tells us we need to start with “WHY?”

With this in mind for your mentoring program:  Why do you want to build a mentoring program in the first place? Why will mentees invest the time needed to successfully be mentoring? Why will mentors invest their time to give advice? Here’s one way to uncover the answers to why:

  1. List the SPECIFIC results you want to get (for your company/organization and the people involved – both mentees and mentors). Anything goes, just write them all down in three columns. Write at least 10 ideas for each.
  2. THEN: Answer “WHY?” for each of those desired results.
  3. NOW: Find the underlying themes; create your key messaging and the key answers to the overall “WHY’s” for the program.


People need a great reason to take on new, time consuming activities. Think about college. If you went to college you probably didn’t go through the research process of picking a college, setting up campus visits, applying and then paying for a few years of higher education because “you had some time on your hands”. Even if you didn’t know exactly what you wanted to do with your life (go figure) at the time you knew you were creating the opportunity for a better life and career path by going to college.

While it’s less of a time investment (hopefully) mentoring programs fall into the same boat: People won’t get involved just because they have a few extra hours a week to find something to do with. That’s why you need to answer “WHY?” for them BEFORE they will get involved. Now you know why you’re creating (or enhancing, altering, building upon) your mentoring program.

How are you going to do it? If an overarching theme is “Mentees will get involved to learn (insert specific skill sets here) to grow their careers” then you know which mentors to include in the program: The people who excel at those exact skills within your company or organization. If an overarching theme is “Mentors will be given the opportunity to sharpen (insert specific skills here) and network with each other” then you know that you need to provide ongoing training for them and create opportunities (events or otherwise) for them to network with each other.

KEY POINT: Notice that both of those focus on the old saying “Everyone listens to the radio station WIIFM – What’s In It For Me”. You are already telling everyone involved how it will enhance their lives and help their careers. That’s a great start.


From that great start you move on to building your program. While there are MANY ways to go about this here’s one thing to remember and build into every aspect of your program:

“Mentoring is more than just giving advice.
Mentoring is offering advice, support and connections to solve problems”

Before ANY one-on-one mentoring sessions (or group mentoring) be sure that each MENTEE comes to the table with a clearly defined problem they need to solve. Be sure that each MENTOR knows what that problem is and is ready to offer advice, support and connections (every mentor can’t have every answer – but they might know someone who does) to help the mentee(s) solve their problem. That structure alone will help kick things off strong or make your existing programs stronger.

I’ll be leading a conversation at the next Tutor/Mentor Leadership and Networking Conference in Chicago on November 7th, 2014. Check it out here! What “WHY’s” will you uncover and what problems can you start solving for people TODAY?