Peer Mentoring - An Effective Way to Help you Grow in your Business Career
Mentoring is defined as a strategic approach to developing a person by partnering them with a more experienced person to teach, coach, council, sponsor, and encourage. I have been designing mentor programs and participating in mentor programs for almost 20 years. Peer mentor programs are unique in that they often lack structure, defined length, or formal training. I currently have four peer mentors that I rely on to give me feedback and to help me move through challenges, learn, and grow.
How I found my Peer Mentors
My peer mentors have been introduced into my life through connections with similar interests or associations. I met one of my mentors, who is 75 years old, through an event we both attended at the Gestalt international Study Center in Wellfleet, MA. Through our conversations and later through joining another professional association, we developed a strong friendship. We have attended conferences and events together, and even designed a conference together, focused on Strengths and Appreciative Inquiry. We bring different experiences to our conversations, and I appreciate her guidance and advice.
Another peer mentor of mine came from a follow-up email I sent to folks who had signed up for a workshop on Mentor Program Design at the Boston Association of Talent Development (ATD). This gentleman was unable to attend; I simply followed up to see if there was any interest in talking about Mentor programs. It turned out that we had many shared interests professionally, and we also enjoy cycling. We now do a video call together every month or so to share ideas, successes, and challenges. We share a background in executive coaching, learning design, and leadership development.
I met another peer mentor when she joined the professional association I founded in Vermont and New Hampshire (the Granite State Learning and OD Round Table). She also runs a consulting business and provides executive coaching, so we have that in common. We have also taken courses through Case Western Reserve University (she completed her Masters Degree and I took classes with the same faculty via Coursera ). We have been peer mentors for six years and meet in person or through video call. We share tips and advice on navigating work in coaching and consulting.
Lastly, my fourth peer mentor was originally introduced to me through a common friend. As a cyclist, I joined this friend’s riding group and at the time; I was a bit slower than the others. He suggested I ride with a woman whom he worked with, as we rode at about the same pace. Starting out as friends who ride bikes together, we have coached, consulted, and mentored each other for over seven years! Often when we meet up, we are outdoors, hiking, biking or kayaking while we discuss our work situations and request feedback and support.
These peer mentors continue to provide me with meaningful and diverse perspectives on life and work. When I want to make a change to my business, they are the first people I get feedback from! I consider them my “pseudo” Board of Directors.
How You Can Find a Peer Mentor?
A starting point is to think about what areas you want to learn and develop. What are your objectives? I often advise clients to be specific about what they're learning objectives are. Once you have a target, think about people who are in your network who may have strengths in this area. Also, think about what you might be able to teach or help them with. Strong mentoring relationships can be built through reciprocity.
Simply asking the person to teach or mentor you in the specific area is often effective. If you can also offer to help or teach them something, that is also a great idea. Once there is agreement to peer mentor, discuss how to connect and how often to meet. Peer mentoring is based on positive and supported dynamics between both people. This type of mentoring doesn't necessarily have to be long-term. It could be for a few months or simply until you master your skill or help the other person build their strength.
What tips do you have for connecting with a peer mentor? What have you tried that has been successful? Share a short success story of a peer mentor relationship that you have experienced.
Check out my blog post on the Positive Use of Power: Mentor Programs Strengthen Culture and Produce Strong ROI.
Stay tuned for upcoming blogs on formal and informal mentor programs. Having designed these programs for many organizations with positive Return on Investment (#ROI), I will write more about this approach in the next few blogs.
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