Education 101: Redesigning
Take the Good with the Bad
Investment Tip: Stay In For The Long
It's About Time
You Have to Be a Little
Letters to the Editor
John Runyan Responds
When I think of evaluating these initiatives, I use my "learning organization" lens and turn first to their purpose. Most frequently, mentoring programs are intended to develop the skills and promotability of people who are different from the typical managers and leaders in the organization. These differences are usually related to gender, culture, race and/or age.
At their least useful, these programs are tacked-on, superficial efforts to assuage some temporary legal or political concern with not much substantive sponsorship from leaders in the corporation. At their most valuable, these programs truly engage mentors, mentees and the rest of the organization in a series of learning exchanges that draw and develop the best from the mentees - and enable the mentees to influence the corporation by bringing their gender, cultural or other differences to core corporate issues. In my answers, I am assuming the latter context.
I think of four parts to this evaluation effort - in every part the primary value comes from the open and honest sharing of the information generated. Each of the two individuals involved, those who work near and around the mentee, and the organization as whole all have work to do and a stake in the larger mutual learning process. Instinctively I choose a qualitative and narrative mode of evaluation that elicits substantive descriptions and judgments. I would rely less on strictly numerical ratings that often reduce the evaluative process to snap judgments that lack depth and detail - and therefore less dialogue and learning. In particular, I also suggest more of an appreciative inquiry approach to evaluation to better understand what is working for the people involved, not what is problematic.
For the mentee, I believe that effective evaluation would involve both a self-evaluation and a 360º assessment from those who work around that receiver of mentoring. Some of the questions for the mentee to answer and share with all stakeholders would include:
o What is the greatest learning and
value that you received from this experience?
For the mentor, evaluation would involve a self-appraisal and an evaluation of the progress of the mentee using some of the same questions outlined above. Some of the questions for the mentor to personally answer and review with relevant stakeholders would include:
o What is the greatest learning and
value that you received from this experience as
For all those who work near and around the mentee, the 360º assessment mentioned earlier would consist of information to the mentee about perceptions, judgments and choices of these consumers of the mentee's work. Some of the questions for these colleagues and customers to answer and dialogue with others about would include:
o How did you first see and experience
this mentee? How do you see and experience them now? What
shifts in your perceptions do you notice?
For the corporation as a whole, the initial evaluation would consist of an assessment of the learning exchanges spawned by the mentoring program and the integration of ideas, approaches and problem-solving generated from the different background and experiences of mentees. As the program unfolded, later evaluations could include how many and which of the mentees has been promoted up through the organization and with what effect on the success of the company. Some of the questions at earlier stages for leaders across the organization to answer would include:
o How have mentors and mentees in this
program shared their learnings widely? How are they
catalysts for learning exchanges that involve
Leaders of a corporation who choose to do this kind of qualitative and dialogue-oriented evaluation of their mentoring would be well on their way to making the most of their investments in that initiative.