A coaching or mentoring program is an important way for an organization to take an interest in its associates, train them, and let them know that there is someone out there to help them. In our first discussion about creating a program, you learned that you have to define whether the program will be coaching or mentoring, as well as define the goals of the program.

The next step is the design of the program, so let’s discuss a couple of general tips about program design before we go to the details. Treat your coaching and mentoring program as you would a training or leadership development program, that is, give it the same “loving care” and attention to detail as you would a new flagship educational program. The second tip is to spend adequate time in this design phase in order to create the best program possible. Don’t sacrifice quality for a few extra days or weeks. Let’s discuss design steps. You may be surprised – some of these steps are exactly like designing a training program.

First, whether the program is formal or informal, create objectives based on your goals. While developing these objectives, think about them in terms of training objectives. What is it that you want the “coachee” or proteges to be able to do during a certain time frame in the program? The objectives could be as simple as learning more about the management function at your organization or even getting to know a senior person as a mentor.

Whatever your objectives, write them down and “formalize” them so that you can evaluate your success in the future. Along the same lines, create a mission statement for the program. This statement will serve two purposes: one, it will show everyone in the organization what the mission of the coaching program is (and hopefully garner some interest), and two, the mission statement will give the coaches and mentors something to focus on as they move forward.

Next, take the time to obtain the buy-in of key stakeholders and executives. Just as a training program does not have much chance of success if it’s not supported by a money-holder or executive, your coaching or mentoring program may not survive if it lacks a senior champion. Use your carefully crafted goals, objectives, and mission statement to show the executive the benefits to the organization. Frame those benefits in terms of the goals, i.e. higher production, lower training costs, or higher retention. If the executive you’re reaching out to has a financial stake, consider asking him or her to offer bonus pay for coaches or mentors. There is one potential pitfall with compensation for coaches: some coaches may take the responsibility simply to earn extra money. When you move on to evaluation and selection criteria, be sure to keep this possible problem in mind in order to “weed out” undesirable coaches.

Take the time to develop measurement and evaluation for your program, as well. Again, use your goals and determine how you’re going to define the success of the program as a whole as well as down to each individual coach and proteges. Remember that measurements and evaluations will go both ways, that is, both coaches and proteges should be allowed to evaluate their experience, their coach or proteges, and their success. Don’t forget to determine your selection process for both coaches and proteges: create criteria that is easy to understand and compare to a person’s performance, personality, or both. Along with this, determine schedules for meetings and schedules of payments to coaches (if this is something your organization has decided to do).

As you move forward, begin to design a training program for mentors or coaches. Don’t let the decision to make a program formal or informal get in the way of showing mentors and coaches how to perform that function. Use the objectives you’ve come up with and create a training program. The training could be a simple web seminar, a Power Point, or a full blown, in-person workshop. Start with basics, such as the definitions of coaching and mentoring, and move to the specifics of your particular program such as measurements and evaluations. Once you’ve gone through the first few steps of design, the actual creation of the formal program will be easy. Again, take your time, plan the design, and then get to it.

After you’ve designed the program, it’s time to plan the implementation. In our next step, you’ll figure out how to make the coaching or mentoring program happen.

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