For several years now I’ve been helping my Toastmaster’s club to implement, organize, and build a mentoring program. For several years now I’ve been frustrated with the results. For several years now I’ve tried numerous different strategies to obtain different results. But alas, all my efforts have disappointed.
My Failed Strategies
- Recruiting seasoned members to mentor new members.
- Assigning new members to a mentor with in the first week they join.
- Meeting with interested mentors to share the vision of mentoring and expectations.
- Giving education speeches about the value of mentoring and explaining a clear initiative for our club.
- Seeking out people with strong follow through to be mentors.
- Encouraging every member to have a mentor as someone to give them encouragement and push them forward on their Toastmaster journey.
- Encouraging new members to seek out an un-assigned mentor who they might connect with more and desire specific input from.
- Simplifying the mentoring process to a once-a-month, five minute phone call or face to face conversation initiated by the mentors.
We are overwhelmed. And we are distracted.
What strikes me as odd is that we, who show initiative to join Toastmasters, give speeches, show up week to week, pay dues, attend parties, stay after for coffee, take on meeting roles, sign up for roles months in advance, and choose to serve in club leadership, will often not take the initiative to make a phone call. Maybe I’m wanting it to be too formal. You know, a conversation that can be checked off on a to do list. What more likely happens is members having conversations outside the ‘mentoring’ program, asking for help, bouncing a speech idea off others over coffee after a meeting.
Work demands, family activities, and household chores are enough to sap us. Add on top of that the ever pesky handheld computing device that receives phone calls, text messages, emails, tweets, facebook updates, calendar alarms, etc. Then there is the laptop or desktop computer, television with either the latest movie from Netflix or hundreds of tantalizing cable or satellite channels to watch. Recreation. Exercise. Reading. Ad nauseam.
What I’ve Decided to do about it – The Mad Mega Mentoring Machine
- Encourage each new member to strike up conversations with anyone that want to get input from. Call it micro-mentoring.
- Add each new member that joins this year to my mentoring memo email list.
- Send a mentoring memo once-a-month and cover the basics – explanation of the minor roles, how to be the table topic master or respond to table topics, how our online and paper scheduling works, etc. I will keep these saved in my gmail ‘canned responses’ to either keep using in years to come or to pass on.
- Hold once-a-month new member orientation, as needed, to give a quick 20mn overview of Toastmasters and our club to new members.
- Offer to be a sounding board for ideas to any new member. And, no, I haven’t been overrun despite our club’s healthy rate of attaining new members. It’s a form a approachability.
- Look for those opportunities to have a conversation with a new member after a meeting to encourage them.
I know, it’s not what we are supposed to do. We are supposed to assign mentors. And we are all supposed to be super-human too. Well, instead of waiting for the planets to align, I’m taking the bull by the horns and incorporating a strategy that works and that can be passed on the next guy or gal willing to oversee mentoring.
And I will expect less out of formal relationships and a whole lot more out of the informal conversations that have been happening all along.
VP of Membership 2013