Mentoring as a Leadership Development Tool

The Crawford Mentoring Model incorporates three components: a process map, roles and responsibilities of participants, and a measurement system tied to a continuous improvement cycle.

How do you improve an emerging leader’s knowledge, networking savvy, and perspective of an organization? The answer is mentoring. By identifying learning goals, leveraging relationships, encouraging active participation, and measuring results, a mentoring program that draws on your existing pool of talent can provide a solution no classroom can deliver. When a recent hire or veteran employee enters a new organization, the speed with which they assimilate by gaining knowledge, building relationships, and applying prior learning to their new environment creates human capital ROI. The ability of a management team, not solely the manager, to render mentoring support becomes the driving force for the trajectory of the employee’s performance.

As a global organization with a broad suite of services, Crawford & Company recognized the need to encourage the development of its managers, and created a global mentoring model. The Crawford Mentoring Model defines a central framework that targets individual needs, economic realities, and strategic goals. The framework incorporates three components:

  1. A process map
  2. Roles and responsibilities of participants
  3. A measurement system tied to a continuous improvement cycle—into a flexible and adaptive model.

Download the Mentoring Process Map graphic below.

The flexible structure establishes situationally specific goals and timing, open selection of participants, and a survey-based feedback loop for the continuing program evolution. Once the mentoring process is understood by all participating parties, candidate selection begins.

Roles and Responsibilities

If tomorrow you were asked to mentor a new employee, your initial thought might be, “So what am I supposed to do?” Many participants in a mentoring relationship are new to the process and often will benefit by understanding some role realities. If, for example, the parties are a distance apart, must they travel to participate or are virtual tools such as Skype or instant messaging acceptable? New mentors might be concerned with what information they may or may not share —personal information, trade secrets, or outside associations.

The mentor and mentee must begin the process by identifying common objectives and expectations. They also must address the importance of confidentiality and relationship boundaries. They should create a plan with clear tasks for achieving goals and a regular check-in function to confirm both parties remain on track for expected engagement outcomes.

Suggestions for how to engage:

  • The mentee should do most of the work—prepare for the meeting, do most of the talking, and take notes and summarize in e-mail as appropriate.
  • Strive to be on time for meetings, “be there,” and avoid any multitasking.
  • Address any difficulties in the relationship and seek to resolve issues; the commitment is for both parties to work toward common objectives.
  • The mentor must be an active listener, and give open, honest, and timely feedback to the mentee.
  • The roles must also direct action. What actions constitute a mentoring meeting or accomplishment? Be mindful that simple actions we take for granted can be meaningful on a bi-directional basis. While a more seasoned manager might offer great insights to the industry or a customer relationship, a young mentee might share a tip on social media or a better method to present information such as Prezi.

Actions to drive engagement:

  • Share relevant files or a challenge to review and discuss.
  • Find an interesting article and explore its application within the organization.
  • Offer a meeting invite as an observer to learn more about a topic.
  • Enlist in a project team to meet new people and learn about another part of the business.
  • Encourage membership in a local industry chapter association to meet industry peers.
  • Arrange ride-alongs or job-shadowing opportunities.

Measurement System Tied to a Continuous Improvement

Following the process, engaging the parties and working toward common goals leads to measuring impact. The mentoring model Crawford designed recognized three beneficiaries to the process:

  1. The individual
  2. The organization
  3. The customer

Although the primary purpose was to enhance the skills and knowledge of the participants, exposure to new information, processes, and relationships drives many ancillary benefits. The organization may yield a process improvement, product enhancement, or engagement with industry partner. Likewise, the customer ultimately benefits by engaging with a more knowledgeable employee, using an improved product, or seeing the company in a new light as presented by an employee or industry colleague. So how are these benefits measured?

As Crawford developed the measurement mechanism, its goal was twofold: measure program effectiveness and establish a management dashboard. Employing a survey was the most efficient and effective method to gather and analyze information. The survey measures common attributes among three constituents—the mentee, his or her line manager, and the mentor. The design rationale was to measure different vantage points to insure that tweaking the program for the benefit of the mentee would not adversely affect the mentor’s experience. The measurements assessed the value and quality of the program, along with querying on potential improvements. Supplemental questions to the mentor and line manger addressed additional training support to better prepare for their roles and how the program reflected the strategic goals of the organization. These questions gave insight into how to improve implementation and record business impact. Using an online survey tool also established a database and reporting capability for easy monitoring.

Infusing continuous improvement into the program requires a dashboard that tracks key attributes on a historical basis. The dashboard allows for monitoring global deployment while recognizing local achievements. Common dashboard elements to consider include:

  • Participant volume and engagement levels by region
  • Satisfaction with the company’s sponsorship of the program
  • On-the-job performance enablement
  • Actionable recommendations for implementation
  • Suggested improvements

Additionally, the dashboard can capture operational impact data including:

  • Alignment to strategic goals
  • Better understanding of the perspective of future leaders
  • Self-reflection of mentors on what they should do differently

The Crawford Mentoring Model now operates on three continents and has established a means for participants to observe, share, explore, and reflect. It was designed to not be overtly prescriptive nor positioned to solve broad organizational issues. It remains a key tool in professional development and one that requires an investment in time and personal commitment. Its impact can span an organization and last a lifetime.

Game Links:

Actions of Good Mentoring https://www.kmcondemand.com/games/Unscramble_Mentorsactions.htmlMentoring Leadership Development https://www.kmcondemand.com/games/Mentoring_Leadership_Development.html

Douglas F. Dell is SVP of e-Learning Services at Crawford & Company. For more information, visit us.crawfordandcompany.com; KMC: www.kmcondemand.com; and PTC: www.kmcondemand.com/ptc

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