# Building a Lead Mentorship Program

Developing people leadership skills within technology organizations is challenging because the career development focus is often on technology topics and skills. Organizations may have practice groups targeting areas of the product or technology stack, but there are rarely similar forums for leadership and management skills. This can limit opportunities for employee growth, specifically if individuals wish to pursue roles targeting direct people management.

A Lead Mentorship Program (LMP) seeks to provide a mechanism to develop and practice the skills & activities required to move into a people leadership role. It is an opportunity to explore and practice people leadership skills without requiring a permanent career move, and helps build a pipeline of future people leaders.

The LMP neither guarantees or requires that a participant moves into a leadership position; this is dictated by organizational need & timing, and a shared desire between management and the candidate to move forward.

There is no fixed timeline or strict curriculum for completing a LMP; some participants may demonstrate the requisite skills, behaviors and experience within a very short period while others take up to a year. Completion is based on the sponsoring manager presenting the candidate's documented progress to other managers & engineering leaders with a recommendation, and this group then reviews and accepts the recommendation, or asks for further targeted actions.

# Program Contents

The following describes the general areas and activities a participant should complete. As the program is highly opportunistic the manager and candidate should continually look for opportunities as they arise.

# Participate in an Annual Performance Review Cycle (from the people leader perspective)

This may involve completing mid-year or year-end documentation and participating in the conversations with individual contributors.

# Organize and Complete Regularly Scheduled One-on-Ones

One-on-ones are a fundamental component of people leadership. You can review Building An Effective One-on-one Strategy for tips on creating your own one-on-one strategy.

The candidate should be able to describe how they have incorporated the following into their one-on-one sessions:

  • Building Trust
  • Gain a shared context
  • Plan and support career growth
  • Solve problems

# Participate in Company Leadership Training

This format of training helps new and emerging leaders complete & support interviews, build engagement, deliver feedback, and other initiatives. It will likely only be offered with limited frequency, so the sponsoring manager should coordinate with human resources well in advance to identify the an appropriate schedule.

# Demonstrate and Provide Evidence of Developing People Leadership Skills

These items are examples of topics that can be discussed and explored, rather than an exhaustive list:

  • An understanding of the different scenarios and approaches to mentoring, coaching and sponsoring.
  • Practice and application of an observe/impact/request feedback approach with the candidate’s manager, peers and individuals they are managing.
  • Exploration (with guidance from manager) of Lead/Manager responsibilities such as:
    • Coaching career paths & helping with personal growth
    • Participate in the recruitment & interview process
    • Delivering informal feedback across communication mediums
    • Monitoring team health
    • Defining & improving team processes
    • Identifying and solving execution roadblocks
  • Show evidence of starting to identify a personal “style” or “philosophy” as a leader (example: develop their own “I optimize for” statement or complete a self-reflection on leadership style).
  • Development of a peer group for personal support & development

# Own the Team's Development Process

The team lead typically owns (or coordinates with the team's Scrum Master) the scrum ceremonies for the development process:

  • Lead the daily team stand-up.
  • Manage the planning, review and sprint retrospectives.
  • Coordinate and facilitate the program increment planning events.
  • Produce the weekly Success / Challenges / Priorities / Appreciation (SCPA) update for the team that can be shared with the produce development group and rolled up into the department-level SCPA.
  • Manage ongoing team performance monitoring, communication and coordination activities.

# Executing and Documenting the LMP

LMP candidates and their manager should have an increased frequency for their one-on-one schedule, typically on a weekly cadence. This allows for quickly addressing any developing situations and finding opportunities.

A simple log-based document (ex: a Google Doc or Confluence page) that both the manager and candidate can edit is sufficient for recording progress and notes. The manager should complete the tracking document for the candidate's participation

# A Sample LMP Template

Focus on the narrative, not the format

When both the manager and candidate believe they have captured evidence highlighting all of the desired experiences and activities, the manager can share the documentation with the leadership group and schedule a review.

TIP: Internships and co-operative education are great opportunities to allow an emerging leader to practice realistic leadership techniques before moving into a permanent management position. The fixed term (typically four to twelve months) provides lots of practice and fits well with a typical LMP timeline. An LMP candidate can also take on direct management of a single employee within a existing team.

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