Mentoring – How to Get Buy-in

This post is a response to Kelly’s question:

“I am a mentor in a high school and am having difficulty applying this in the school setting.  There are no profits on the line, liability, promotions, etc.  Yes, there is student learning and test scores.  However, no one is in jeopardy of losing their job over it so the relationship between the mentor and mentoree is a harder sell to the mentorees than in the business world.  We do not make the relationship optional, all first and second year teachers must have a mentor.  Can you help me re-frame this in a way that I can see how to apply your teachings in the high school setting.  I appreciate your time and expertise.”

Share your ideas and experience below.

Mentoring – How To Get Buy-in


Hand Pact shutterstock_154958036 copy

Regardless of the setting, mentoring must be seen as a positive opportunity not a punishment. This is more difficult when participants are conscripts not volunteers.

Correctly, you define the problem as one of re-framing the mindset around mentoring.

Prior to launching a mentoring program of any sort, it’s important to communicate the benefits to all involved. In a school setting that includes the participating teachers and non-participating teachers, as well as administrators/managers/board of the school, students, the school community and the community beyond.

I like to have a two-way conversation about mentoring and its value with the stakeholders, including participants. This could be done through individual interviews, focus groups, workshops or simply a “mentoring briefing” where you talk about the program. The key though, is to make sure the communication is two-way, not a lecture. In a workshop or briefing I will usually do a fast overview of what mentoring is, then put people into 4 small groups, each to discuss and list the benefits they see for 1) people who are mentored 2) mentors 3) the organization (in this case the school) and 4) the clients (in this case students). You could go beyond students and have a 5th group talk about the implications for the community as well.

Teacher at Chalkboard

You see, to get buy-in you need to tap into people’s values. The activity above draws that out. Get them involved in saying why mentoring is important and you are halfway there in the reframe.

The other half is keeping up the communication. Don’t lose the enthusiasm and connection you’ve created. Repetition (as you know from teaching) embeds knowledge. Shape messages about mentoring to reinforce what means most to your audience – why are they teachers? Where does their passion to teach spring from? What do they care about? What do they want for themselves? What do they aspire to? What is needed? What problems cry out for solutions? And, realistically, what part can mentoring play in addressing these?

Once you get going you need to maintain momentum. Keep pumping out positive messages, speaking to their values. Find evidence to back up your claims and personal stories of success. Recruit advocates and champions, get testimonials from trusted sources and use a variety of media – face-to-face, written, video. You can view a 2 minute video I made: “What does Mentoring Offer Nurses” that was created from nurses input in a similar process to the one I’ve described, and there are some other generic videos designed for the same purpose, here.

What you’re really doing is marketing mentoring. Finding out what the needs of the market (teachers) are, then showing how mentoring meets those needs. It’s actually not dissimilar to designing teaching that meets the needs of students, because that’s how mentoring works.

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About Ann Rolfe

Ann Rolfe is internationally recognised as Australia's leading specialist in mentoring, and is available for speaking, training and consulting. Here Ann shares her knowledge and allows you to ask your most pressing questions about mentoring.

3 Responses to “Mentoring – How to Get Buy-in”

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