Developing a Mentoring Action Plan

By Barry Sweeny, 2001


INDEX:


When the time at work is so demanding and extra time is so precious, itís no surprise that mentors and proteges are often asked to plan ahead how they will work together to accomplish the goals that the Mentoring Program has defined. Even if not asked, many mentors and proteges would want to organize their time together to ensure that it is used productively. Setting priorities, meeting needs, working together and challenging each other to grow, all take time.

Here are three methods for creating an action plan that can guide the work of the mentor/protege pair. While any one of these methods could suffice, in fact, all three methods might best be used to plan different aspects of your work.


AN ACTION PLAN TO SUPPORT MENTOR & PROTEGE PERFORMANCE IMPROVEMENT

PART A. A PROTEGE-FOCUSED PLAN –

The context for using this planning approach is that the protege has been observed and had a performance appraisal by the supervisor, and the result has been identification of areas for improvement. While the mentor is definitely NOT an “arm” of the supervisor, and may not even see the performance appraisal (unless the protege decides to reveal it) the mentor is still motivated to help the protege grow and can do so in such identified areas if the protege seeks that assistance.

In the protege-focused plan the supervisor’s visits to evaluate the protege are usually done by comparison of the observe practices of the protege against professional or organization competencies or standards. The supervisor’s recommendations regarding closing some gaps between the actual and desired level of performance leads the protege to set improvement goals to address the gaps. It is those goals that form the basis of the protege-focused action plan.

At this point the pair can decide how they will work together to support the protege’s improvement, and then they will get to work to implement their plan.

This is as far as the process needs to go. However, there is another even better possibility.


PART B. MUTUAL SUPPORT FOR PROFESSIONAL GROWTH –

In this multi-step approach, Part A (above) would still be done the mentor and the protege. Additionally, the mentor has independently developed a separate growth plan for the mentor’s professional growth as a mentor. The mentor’s growth goals are based on a comparison of the conclusions from a set of three self-assessments done during the mentor training. Given these goals,for growth as a mentor, the mentor develops his/her own implementation plan to attain the growth goals.

Next, the mentor & protege each share and perhaps compare their goals and implementation or action plans. They seek to understand each other’s strengths and they discuss how they can support each others’ plans for growth. If one party needs a partner with certain strengths their mentoring partner does not have, they can expand the team to include a colleague who does have the needed strengths.


ANOTHER OPTION – A COACHING ACTION PLAN:

Coaching is a more narrowly focused aspect of mentoring in that it is primarily a support for technical or skills improvement. Ideally, coaching should still occur within a mentoring type relationship to create the relationship context so necessary for risk-taking, problem sharing and solving, and growth.

While coaching is frequently a one-way support relationship, when it occurs between professional colleagues in the same organization, it is even better if it can be structured as a reciprocal, two-way support relationship. This approach to action planning is based on goals that the mentor and protege decide on together. In other words, there are just one or two goals which they develop together for their work as a pair, such as an inquiry into some aspect of best practice which they will undertake through their coaching of each other.

Their action plan is also shaped specifically by the fact that the plan is for mutual coaching which is based on observations of each other at work.

  • Some of their plan involves making decisions about the strategies and skills the pair want to master.
  • Other parts of the plan are decisions about how they will accomplish their observation and conferencing agenda, such as:
    • when they will observe each other and how often is needed to collect enough data to see a pattern emerge
    • in what places will they meet to confer and at what times
    • under what conditions will they observe each other, or when is it not appropriate or desired that the partner would observe.
  • They must plan time for the pre and post observation conferences for planning and for providing and analyzing the feed back data, discussing patterns that emerge and interpreting the meaning and implications of those patterns.
  • Also, the post conferences should end with a decision about what needs further improvement and a plan for how to do that.
  • Finally, there are decisions about what they each ultimately hope to accomplish as a result of their work together as coaches.

USING MENTORING CALENDARS OR CHECKLISTS TO CREATE AN ACTION PLAN

Mentoring programs often provide mentors a set of pages which address the tasks of mentors and their proteges in a month-by-month format like a calendar. Frequently these task lists or calendars take the form of guidelines which were developed by experienced mentors or the mentor program leader. Given the incorporation of their experience, the guidelines can be very helpful. Sometimes these guidelines are so specific as to be checklists. Whatever it’s format and level of detail, it can serve as the starting point for development of a mentoring pair’s action
plan.

The essential method for development of an action plan from such checklists or mentoring agendas is the adaptation of the guidelines to the mentor and protege’s needs. The final action plan is developed as the mentor and protege review the page for each month and adapting it to their situation, strengths, areas for growth, prior experience, etc.

This process includes crossing out those items which do not apply, highlighting those they will do together, and then adding dates, places, times, and other notes in the margin of the page to adapt the information to their specific setting and needs. If the guidelines can be provided to the mentoring pairs in both “hard copy” and electronic form, the above mentioned analysis and revisions can happen on the paper copy and the pair can then adapt the electronic information to create their final finished action plan.

Of course, that plan can be revised and adjusted at any time to keep it current and reflect the protege and mentor’s growth needs.