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Match Intervention Protocol: Probationary Status Phone Call Best Practices

This article outlines the following, related to the phone call  Program Mangers (PMs) complete with mentors that must be placed on probationary status.  The article is broken into three sections (click the hyperlinked text below to skip to each section):

PMs are encouraged to read through these talking points prior to the call as it is entirely possible that the discussion will not flow as cleanly as outlined in this article.  What is most important is the PMs engage the mentor in a discussion that meets the objectives of the call.  Prior to completing a formal warning call with a mentor, PMs are encouraged to leverage their manager to work through any anxiety around the discussion.

Objectives of the Probationary Status Call

The formal warning call is designed to achieve the following:

  • Support the mentor in increasing their program consistency in service of having a positive impact on mentee;
  • Setting up a strategy with the mentor to help them work toward meeting basic program requirements;
  • Discuss implications of not meeting basic program requirements via the strategy listed above (un-matching).

Probationary Status Call Best Practices

Over the years, the following best practices have been developed by PMs with regard to completing probationary calls in a way that fosters the objectives listed above:

  • Be clear and direct while maintaining a warm tone;
  • Actively listen—paraphrase your mentors’ comments back to them;
  • When possible, let the mentor do the talking—they often know what they could be doing differently;
  • Avoid judgment and stay objective—try using phrases like, “I’ve noticed…” or “I saw that…”
  • Take great notes—especially about next steps - and ensure these are reflected on the mentor's platform profile;
  • Don’t take it personally—these conversations can be hard for mentors to hear, so adopt a supportive tone while maintaining some emotional distance from the mentor’s response.

Probationary Status Call Talking Points

The following talking points are designed to support PMs in high-quality execution of the probationary status call with mentors by covering the topics below (click the hyperlinked text below to skip to each section):

Frame the conversation

Begin by framing the conversation at a high level - simply noting that you are calling to discuss the mentor's relationship with their mentee.

"Hey [mentor], how’s it going? I’m calling to discuss some concerns about your relationship with [mentee]—do you have 5-10 minutes to talk?

  • If yes: "Great!Thanks for taking the time to talk, [mentor].
  • If not: "Alright, can we set up an alternate time?" (confirm that you will call the mentor and send a calendar appointment for the agreed upon time).

Present the concern and explain the implications of probationary status

In honest and direct terms—and with a warm tone—present the concern to the mentor, discuss the reasoning behind your concern, and provide the mentor with a formal notification of their placement onto probationary status.  Be clear that this is typically the last step prior to un-matching pairs if participation does not improve.

Since placing a mentor on probationary status is the next step in the Match Intervention protocol escalation, the talking points for this element of the conversation are focused on mentors that did not satisfy terms of the formal warning.

Present the Concern

"Thanks for taking the time to talk, [mentor].  I’m calling to follow up on the conversation we had in [time of formal warning discussion] about emailing regularly with [mentee].   I noticed that you’re [enter engagement concern - i.e., on track to miss your third lesson/missed event(s)] and I wanted to speak with you because it seems like [mentee] is taking this a bit personally when I see [her/him] in class.   I’m telling you this not because I want to make you feel bad, but so we can work together to get the two of you back on track and to brainstorm about how I can help you message [mentee] more regularly.  I don’t think this will happen again, but because we’ve already spoken about this in [time of formal warning discussion], I am required to place you on what’s called probationary status and notify my manager of my concerns."

Explain the implications of probationary status

"So I know it sounds weird but what probationary status means is that we’ll come up with an action plan right now, and then we’ll check in about how that action plan is going in two and four weeks.  And, if after four weeks you’re still having difficulty meeting our basic program requirements, I’ll be required to continue the discussion regarding this situation with my manager and may have to un-match you and [mentee].  I really don't want to un-match you and [mentee] and hope we can get you back on the right track.  I want to be clear that this is nothing personal, and I hope you understand that we have these policies so we can help mentors really be the strongest mentors they can be for our students and to really help them have a positive impact on their mentee.  Do you have questions about any of this?"

  • Allow time for mentor to respond/ask any questions.

Strategize about next steps

Open this portion of the discussion by asking how you can support him/her to overcome this challenge.  Invite the mentor to brainstorm  ways to improve/increase their participation.

"So, let’s talk about what I can do to support you as your PM in this relationship and then brainstorm a bit about some steps you can take to meet our basic program requirements of one online communication with [mentee] a week and one meeting a month.   What kinds of things can I do or continue to do to help you meet up with Jackie more frequently?

  • Allow time for mentor to respond/brainstorm steps PM can take to support her/him.

"Great, I’m happy to help out with those things!  Now what on your end do you think will help you be more consistent in communicating online and meeting [mentee] at least once a month? 

  • Allow time for mentor to respond and provide mentor with tips if applicable (i.e., consistently mention the next meeting time via weekly online communication, text mentee day of event to confirm meeting, leverage PM in scheduling make-up events, etc.) and then move on to the next portion of the call: setting up time to follow-up.

Set up time to review progress two weeks from call

Before summarizing the call, set up a time to follow up with the mentor to check in on their progress toward becoming more consistent.

"Thanks so much for talking this through with me [mentor]. Can we set up a time two and four weeks from now to check in, review how the plan is working, and make sure things are going as planned?"

  • Arrange a time to check in approximately two weeks in the future.  Send the mentor a calendar appointment for this discussion after the call (see follow up email template HERE).

Summarize actionable items & next steps

After thanking the mentor again for taking the time to speak, reiterate what each of you will do going forward, remind the mentor about the possibility of un-matching as well as your call in two/four weeks.

"I want to thank you again, [mentor], for taking the time to speak with me today.   I really hope this plan helps you to increase your online communication consistency with [mentee] and to meet up at least once a month.  I really want to keep the two of you matched, but it’s important to note that probationary status is typically the last warning  we give before we un-match a pair  I’m here as a resource for you and will do whatever I can to support you as a PM, but, ultimately, I need you to meet our basic program requirements of one meeting a month and one online communication a week in order to keep the two of you matched.  Please know I’m always happy to hear from you, whether to talk about things that are going great or to work on any challenges—this is what I’m here for!  Thanks again and I look forward to talking to you on [date agreed upon to check in on progress]."