It sounds like a great idea. But there’s an odd glitch that often causes its swift demise.
This form of mentoring occurs when 1 Mentor is paired with 2+ Mentees. Sometimes a “group” can involve 5-10 Mentees. But never forget that effective mentoring requires more than warm bodies.
How is it supposed to work?
The Mentor meets with the Group on a regular basis to discuss mutually beneficial topics and issues. A Mentee in the Group will share a situation or ask a specific question and the Mentor will offer guidance that applies to the whole Group, thereby mentoring everyone simultaneously with his/her wisdom.
The benefits of Group Mentoring
- * This structure allows you to leverage a few Mentors to share their wisdom with many Mentees
- * Many Mentees are exposed to the Mentor where they might not otherwise have ever had the opportunity to work with or learn from that person
- * Mentees get visibility that is often previously unattainable
- * Mentees expand their own network by connecting with other Mentees in the Group
The Drawbacks of Group Mentoring
- * Significant issues are rarely addressed as a result of group dynamics and lack of trust/intimacy
- * Fear of confidentiality causes Mentees to withhold information
- * Fear of judgment prevents Mentees from asking questions
- * Logistical challenges cause frustration and delays
- * The Mentor never really gets to know any of the Mentees
The biggest glitch of Group Mentoring
In classic 1:1 mentoring, the onus is on the Mentee to drive the relationship. The Mentee is responsible for identifying their goals, suggesting an agenda, asking questions, setting up meetings, and reaching out to the Mentor with what they need specifically when they need it.
But in Group Mentoring who is driving the experience? Who is responsible? Who is in charge?
The reality of Group Mentoring
Ultimately the Mentees look to the Mentor to drive their experience, lead the group, and be responsible. Inevitably, and as a result, the group usually fizzles out without much impact after the first few meetings. Why? Because no one owns the Group’s success.
Why leaders run screaming
Imagine you are a busy SVP. You believe in mentoring, but you’re constantly slammed with end-of-quarter pressures. Someone in HR asks if you will be a Mentor for a Group of Mentees. You are told that all you need to do is show up and espouse your wisdom once a month. You feel guilty that you have not contributed more since you became SVP. And this sounds like an easy way to do so. You agree. You show up only to discover a room of 8 Mentees looking at you expectantly with hope and anticipation glimmering in their eyes. They are ready to be led and guided by you, the SVP, their new Mentor. You quickly realize that you’re in charge, responsible for leading the discussion and encouraging participation, and accountable for the logistics of the group.
What do you do?
You call HR and say, “I’m too busy for this. I need to withdraw.” And another group in Group Mentoring goes down in flames…
Suggestions for how to make Group Mentoring work in the face of that glitch:
- * Assign a Facilitator to champion the group’s success.
This Facilitator is then responsible for:
- * Setting up a structure and a schedule for the group before it launches
- * Identifying the purpose of the group – what they should discuss and accomplish
- * Determining the measures of success for the group – objectives to accomplish individually and as a group
- * Establishing group trust as soon as possible
- * Asking a new Mentee to drive the discussion and agenda at each meeting
- * Following up with each Mentee in between meetings
With an assigned Facilitator, set structure, clear expectations, and an actual deliverable, the glitch in Group Mentoring can easily be debugged.