Key Questions

Here they are!  The essential questions we need to ask and answer to achieve high impact mentoring and mentor programs.  We suggest that you NOT to try and answer the Key Program Design Questions right now. That takes a terrific amount of knowledge and understanding to do. In fact, that takes the guidance and expertise contained in this whole web site to do.

The point is to read through the questions, so they are in your mind. You will discover some you haven’t thought of yourself – Good! Maybe come back to them as you begin each new aspect of your program development process. Let the questions prompt your thinking, and if you are ever confused about where to go next, let a question or two help you find focus for your next steps.

Since effective mentoring is a complex professional practice, the programs that develop and support mentors and their proteges could not be anything other than complex as well. In fact, using this entire web site will be necessary.  Although such a task may seem daunting right now, consider this . . .

All the information and guidance you need to actually accomplish great things and your desired results are AVAILABLE here on this web site and through the support of your colleagues at IMA. You don’t have to spend a lot of time researching and hunting the web to findit- then, wondering if what you found is good advice to follow. What you need to succeed is already collected and here for you. That’s because facilitating your learning and success and that of your mentoring program is IMA’s goal.


INDEX to the Categories of the Questions:


Mentor Program Leadership

  • What Mentor Program Leadership, Advisory, or Governance Group is needed?
  • Do we need a formal, written governing agreement for our mentoring program?

    • If so, who should be the parties to this agreement?
  • What stake holders should be involved in designing & governing the mentoring program?
    • Mentors?
    • Proteges?
    • New but experienced employees?
    • Managers (at what levels)
    • Board members?
    • Union or association leaders?
    • Community members?
    • University faculty?
    • Retired employees?
    • Others?
  • In what ways can each stake holder group be meaningfully involved in program design?
  • Who will develop selection & matching criteria and processes?
  • Is a Mentor Program Leader needed?
  • What are the roles and tasks of a mentor program coordinator ?

Program Partners

  • Should we develop and run the program by ourselves?
  • Do we need partners from other organizations to ensure our success?
  • What partners might contribute to our program’s success?
  • How might university preservice programs prepare their students so their  participation in OUR mentor program is more effective?
  • How and at what point in the process can we establish any needed partnerships?
  • What would potential partners gain form our partnerships?

The  Program’s Conceptual Foundation

  • How can we be sure that the mentoring program is designed to professionally develop proteges to be effective employees?
  • What research-based model of human development should we use as the basic structure for planning the mentoring program?
  • How would that same conceptual framework effect program implementation, evaluation, or improvement?
  • How would that same conceptual framework shape the mentoring process?

Process for Program Design & Development

  • What process is best for developing an effective mentoring program?
  • Who should be involved in the program development process?
  • What research do we need for an effective program development process?
  • Do we need expert guidance during the process?
  • If we need expert guidance for program development, how do we locate and select the right expert?

Data-Based Planning

  • What data do we have and need to get to effectively plan?
  • How do we use data to build an effective plan?
  • How do we design a program to ensure that identified needs are effectively addressed?

Program Approach

  • For Whom Will the Mentoring Be Provided? (See “The Participants” below)
    • Novice employees just starting in their careers?
    • Experienced but new hires?
    • Existing, high potential employees?
  • Is informal mentoring enough, or do we need Formal Mentoring?
  • What are the pros and cons of Full or Part Time Mentoring?
  • What Should Be the Configuration of the Mentoring Support? 1 to 1? Team?

Protege Needs Assessment

  • What research is there on protege needs and what does it tells us?
  • What local research do we have or need to do on our own proteges’ needs, and what does it tells us?
  • What is an effective yet feasible needs assessment process?
  • How do we use needs assessment data and research for effective program planning?
  • What needs are best addressed with training? With mentoring? With other program strategies?
  • What methods do mentors need to help them assess and address the specific needs of their specific protege?

Organizational Needs Assessment

  • What organizational needs are there which are appropriate for the mentoring program to address?
  • What organizational needs are there which programs other than mentoring should address?
  • What calendar issues and events should be considered when planning a mentoring program?

Other Contextual Issues to Consider

  • Do we have existing state or local mentoring policies to consider & are these effective?
  • What policies and practices are barriers to mentoring and how can these be overcome?

    • External?
    • Internal?
  • What operational changes need to be made in our schools to make mentoring possible?
  • Do we need to change the nature of new teachers’ initial assignments?
  • Do mentors and proteges have ready access to email and telephones?
  • How will mentors interact with non participants in the organization and others to ensure that proteges have appropriate access to needed professional development opportunities and support?

The Participants

  • Which employees will receive mentoring?

    • First time, young employees right out of college?
    • Novice employees entering from another career?
    • New to the organization?
    • New to a grade, job level, or specific assignment?
    • New to a site, but experienced in the organization?
    • New hires with previous, but not recent experience?
    • Persons in disadvantaged minorities?
    • Underrepresented minorities and women?
    • Veterans who are experiencing difficulties?
    • High potential junior managers?
    • Managers selected for future executive positions?
  • Will participation in the mentoring program be mandatory or voluntary?
  • How long will a protege participate in a mentoring program?
  • What and who will determine how long a protege should be mentored?

    • Meeting a minimum a performance standard?
    • Protege self-assessment?
    • Mentor assessment & judgment of protege need?
    • Manager assessment of protege need?
    • A fixed time line, such as a year? Two years? Three years?
    • Externally set time line for certification or other compliance?

Program Purpose and Goals

  • What is the difference between purpose & goals?
  • Do we also need a mission and vision for the mentoring program?
  • What goals and results can our program realistically expect to attain?
  • What are the options for mentor program goals that make the most sense for our employees and local needs as an organization?
  • Which combination of goals will address the needs we have identified?
  • Goal Permanence? Will our program’s goals be:

    • Far-reaching and valid for a long time? (requires foresight or psychic powers.)
    • Shorter term (2-3 years) and expected to change as the program evolves?
    • If the latter choice,

      • What changes do we expect to occur?
      • What time line do we expect those changes to follow?
      • How can we ensure that decisions at those later times are made in light of both our existing goals & emerging, different goals?
  • Are the different goals we have chosen for the mentoring program complimentary or counter to each other?
  • Do our mentor program goals compliment and not conflict with the goals of other
    improvement efforts?

Program Structures & Components

  • What components for our mentor program are necessary to accomplish our goals?
  • What other support components besides mentoring do proteges need?
  • Can several program components address the same goals to ensure the goals are met

Program Implementation

  • Should we implement the whole program design at once or phase it in?
  • How can we phase-in the implementation of a complex program model to keep it
    manageable and successful?
  • What parts should be implemented first? Later?
  • How can we get any needed initial funding to support the program?

Time & Timing

  • How frequently should mentoring activities occur?
  • What is the best way to provide time for mentoring?
  • Will our mentors be full-time or will they have other work duties, too?
  • How can we estimate how much time is needed to effectively mentor?
  • Is there research about the impact of time available for mentoring and it’s impact on mentors’ effectiveness?
  • Should we and how could we measure how much time mentors give to mentoring?
  • How long will mentors serve?
  • If the mentor is released from some or all work duties to serve as a mentor, how will we facilitate a mentor’s eventual return to work full-time?

Roles & Tasks

  • What’s the difference between mentor charcteristics, roles & tasks?
  • Mentors

    • Given our goals, what are the roles and tasks that every mentor should ideally be able to fulfill?
    • Which mentoring tasks are the same for every protege?
    • Which mentoring tasks are unique to different people, or people with different levels of experience?
    • Which mentoring tasks will most mentors already know?
    • Which tasks are not likely to already be known?
    • What check lists can be developed (or found & adapted) that include typical mentoring tasks?
    • How can checklists be refined to focus early mentoring on priorities, so proteges are not overwhelmed?
  • Proteges

    • What do effective proteges need to be able to do regarding the mentoring program?
  • Supervisors

    • What do effective supervisors of proteges need to be able to do regarding the mentoring program?
    • How should mentors and supervisors determine which tasks each needs to play?

Recruitment of Mentors

  • What relationship should there be among the mentor recruitment, selection, and matching processes?
  • What are the best methods for recruiting mentors?
  • What must we do to attract the better candidates for mentoring?
  • Should we use incentives to attract mentors?
  • Can mentors nominate themselves or should mentors be chosen?
  • Can retired employees become mentors?
  • What can we do if there are insufficient numbers of people willing to be mentors?
  • What job descriptions, applications, or contracts do we need to use during recruitment?

Selection of Mentors

  • Who can become a mentor?
  • What are the pros and cons of the exclusive or inclusive selection approaches?
  • If the inclusive approach is best, how can we ensure that only appropriate people serve as mentors?
  • Can supervisors also be mentors?
  • Is use of retired persons an effective mentoring approach?
  • Who has a valued view point on mentor skills and should have input on selection?
  • What selection criteria should we establish to select mentors?

    • How can the criteria reflect the program’s goals?
    • How can the criteria be reasonable and not burdensome, while setting a fair standard for acceptance as a mentor?
  • What selection process should we use to apply the criteria?

    • What process will ensure that we make fair and appropriate decisions?
    • What steps should the process include?
    • What time line will the process need to follow so it works with recruitment, hiring practices, mentor training, etc.

Matching Mentors & Proteges

  • What are appropriate criteria for matching criteria?
  • How important is close proximity to the mentor?
  • Is it appropriate to match based on personality, working, learning, or philosophical styles?
  • What is an appropriate matching process?
  • What time line for matching do we need to follow?
  • Who should coordinate the matching process & communication?
  • Who has a valued view point on mentor skills and should have input on mentor- protege matching?
  • How many proteges can/should a mentor work with at the same time?
  • What proactive steps can be taken to avoid mismatches?
  • What should we do if a mismatch occurs?

Initial Training

  • Mentor Training:

    • What are the implications of mentor roles and tasks for their training?
    • What are the goals-outcomes for the mentor training?
    • How can we train every mentor so they can successfully accomplish the program’s goals?
    • How should we train & assist mentors in learning & mastering needed tasks?
    • What mentoring strategies do most excellent employees already know and what strategies will mentors probably need to learn during training?
    • When will the training take place and how many times should we train each year?
    • What should be the agenda, sequence and length of training?
    • Will mentors be required to participate in the training?
    • Should proteges attend any parts of the mentoring training?
    • What roles will other stake holders have in the training?
    • What will be the optimal way for mentors to learn the skills they have not yet mastered?
    • What employee already has the necessary knowledge that could teach it to the mentors?
    • What employee might already have the skills that could model and teach the skills to mentors?
    • If no employee has the needed knowledge or skills, who does, and how can we arrange to learn it from them?
    • Should we learn to be effective trainers from an outside mentoring expert rather than try to do it ourselves?
    • What effective, proven mentor training materials are available which we might access to give us a starting place?
  • Protege Training

    • What are the implications of protege roles and tasks for their training?
    • What are the goals-outcomes for the mentor training?
    • What needs assessment research and local data have we to inform planning this training?
    • What local needs assessment data do we need to obtain and how will we obtain it?
    • How should we train & assist proteges to learn & master needed tasks?
    • How should we train proteges to work effectively with their mentors?
    • What should be the agenda, sequence and length of training?
    • What employee already has the necessary knowledge that could teach it to the proteges?
    • What employee might already have the skills that could model and teach the skills to proteges?
    • What effective, proven proteges training materials are available which we might access to give us a starting place?
  • Supervisor Training

    • What are the implications of supervisor roles and tasks for their training?
    • What are the goals-outcomes for the supervisors’ training regarding the mentor program?
    • What needs assessment research and local data have we to inform planning this training?
    • What local needs assessment data do we need to obtain and how will we obtain it?
    • How should we train & assist supervisors to learn what they need?
    • How should we train supervisors to work effectively with the mentors?
    • What mentoring skills do effective supervisors need?
    • What should be the agenda, sequence and length of training?
    • What supervisor already has the necessary knowledge that could teach it to the supervisors?
    • What supervisors might already have the skills that could model and teach the skills to supervisors?
    • What effective, proven supervisors training materials are available which we might access to give us a starting place?

On-Going Support & Training

  • What is the relationship between initial and on-going training and follow up support?
  • What on-going support activities and groups are needed for effective mentoring?
  • What on-going support activities and groups are needed for proteges?
  • What on-going support activities and groups are needed for supervisors?
  • What should be the balance between expert versus peer support for each stake holder?
  • How often should support groups meet for each stake holder?
  • What should be the goals of the support groups for each constituent group?
  • Mentoring of Mentors

    • Why is the “Mentor of Mentors” role needed?
    • What is the support role of a Mentor Program Coordinator as “Mentor of Mentors”?
    • What is the actual process of mentoring the mentors?
  • What written program materials and handbooks are needed for each stake holder group?
  • What technological or other forms of support should be developed and provided to each stake holder group?

Resources For Mentors

  • What resources and expertise should be available to mentors because they will need them as mentors?

    • A section of the web site?
    • A Mentoring Manual?
    • Ongoing counsel from others?

      • a mentor program coordinator?
      • higher education faculty?
      • a mentor of mentors?
      • other mentors?
      • external mentoring expert?
    • Office space?
    • Phone? Email? Fax?
    • Laptop computers and other equipment?
    • Other resources?

The Mentor-Protege Relationship

  • What are the critical factors in the M-P relationship?
  • How can a program support development of an effective M-P relationship
  • What are the roles of participants in building the M-P relationship?
  • How can participants build trust into their relationship?
  • Exactly what does “confidential” mean?
  • How will we ensure that the mentor-protege relationship remains confidential?
  • How does the M-P relationship change over time? How SHOULD it change?
  • What should mentors do if proteges need to change a key behavior and won’t?
  • What should mentors say or do with supervisors if protege behaviors that MUST change but haven’t?

Mentor-Protege Communication

  • What strategies and skills do mentoring partners need for effective communication?
  • How can participants learn what they need to maintain effective communications?
  • What communication with supervisors is appropriate?
  • What communication with a Mentor Program Leader is appropriate?
  • What communication is appropriate with non mentor program colleagues?

The Developmental Mentoring Process

  • How long does the mentoring process take?
  • What are the typical phases that proteges go through as they gain experience and skill as employees?
  • How long does each separate stage of the mentoring process take?
  • What are the parallels or overlaps between the mentoring PROCESS and M-P RELATIONSHIP?
  • Do the changes need mentor facilitation to occur, or do they happen naturally?
  • How will the focus of mentoring change during the course of a protege’s involvement in the program?

Mentoring Styles

  • What different mentoring strategies will mentors need at various times and points in the mentoring process?
  • Do all mentors have all the tendencies needed to be effective mentors at each stage of the process?
  • How can mentoring styles be effectively assessed and how is that data used?
  • How can mentors predict where they will be naturally strong and appropriate, because of their personality and style of mentoring, and where they may not automatically respond the best way?
  • What are the implications for mentor training of mentoring styles?

Incentives & Recognition for Mentoring

  • How does recognition fit with or compare to incentives for mentoring?
  • What is the link between motivation and incentives?
  • Is it better to use extrinsic or intrinsic motivators as mentoring incentives?
    What are the pros & cons?
  • What incentives will attract the best candidates to serve as mentors?

    • Modified/reduced work assignments and schedules?
    • Leadership opportunities?
    • Relicensure/recertification credit?
    • Stipends?
    • Other incentives?
  • Should we provide a mentoring stipend or other forms of incentives and recognition?
  • In what other ways can mentors be compensated for their additional work and participation?
  • What amount of mentor choice is needed in any incentives approach?

Evaluation of Program Participants

  • Should we, and if so, how and for what can we appropriately hold Mentors accountable?

    • How can we ensure that mentors make a big impact on protege performance?
    • What can we do if mentors don’t seem to do their job like we think they should?
  • Should, and if so, how and for what will mentors be assessed?
  • Should, and if so, how and for what will proteges be assessed?
  • Should, and if so, how and for what will the mentor program coordinator be assessed?
  • Who will be involved in making any mentor, protege, or program coordinator assessment?
  • What evidence will be needed to evaluate and document the effectiveness of the participants?

Program Evaluation and Improvement

  • Should the evaluation be formative to guide improvement or summative to document impact?
  • What evidence will be used to evaluate and document the effectiveness of the program?
  • What’s the difference in evaluating for Quality versus Effectiveness?
  • What data can we collect to demonstrate we are accomplishing our program’s goals?
  • How can we show the mentor program contributes to OTHER improvement efforts?
  • What BASE LINE data can we collect NOW to demonstrate later on that desired results have occurred and even increased with time?
  • How can we capture and demonstrate the value of mentoring when their conversations are confidential?
  • How could we help decision makers understand our program’s value even if they have never experienced the value of a mentor themselves?
  • Who should be involved in evaluating and documenting the mentoring program?

    • An independent external program evaluator?
    • Mentors?
    • Proteges?
    • Managers? At what level?
    • Union leaders?
    • Others?
  • Do we need an expert evaluator or can we do it ourselves. Should we do it ourselves

Supporting and Sustaining the Program Over Time

  • How can we assemble the funding needed to support and grow the program?
  • How can we build support for the program with key decision makers?
  • How can we build support for the program with others who are non participants in mentoring?
  • What are the program pitfalls that we need to avoid as we build a better program and how can we avoid them?