Group mentoring is a relatively recent innovation. It is typically used in situations, where the demand for mentors outstrips the supply. In a typical group mentoring programme, the mentees might meet on their own once a month, acting as peer mentors and agreeing topics they want to bring collectively for discussion with their mentor. They also support each other in developing networks within the organisation and wider afield. A group might be anything from two people to ten (the absolute maximum). .
In the group mentoring, the mentor and mentees agree how they want the sessions to run. Some of the common options include:
- A general discussion around the topic, with the mentees drawing out the mentor’s experience and perspectives
- A conversation between the mentor and one member of the group, on an issue particularly relevant to that person but also to some or all of the others
- The mentor encourages one group member to present an issue and facilitates the others in coaching them
Typically, some members of the group will want one-to-one sessions with the mentor. These may be one-off, or develop into a standard one-to-one mentoring relationship.
Evaluating the group mentoring relationship can be challenging, because each member may have different expectations and requirements. So it’s important to capture these at the beginning and build them into the evaluation process.
An alternative model of group mentoring occurs when an individual has need of a range of different experience sets, in tackling a complex issue. In this case, he or she may assemble (usually with help) a panel of mentors, who help develop a range of responses and perspectives. It’s a bit like having a personalised Delphi Group! Managing this kind of interaction is quite demanding on the mentee, who typically needs to be relatively mature to ensure that they remain in charge of the dialogue. This kind of group mentoring may consist of a series of one-to-one meetings with two or three (or more) mentors; or a meeting with all of them together. The problem with one-to-one meetings is that it’s often hard not to be swayed first one way then the other. The advantage is built in reflection time. Meetings with several mentors at a time can be a bit overwhelming. Good practice is for one mentor to chair the conversation – or even better, for the mentee to do so, if they have the confidence! It’s important also to contract around behaviours, not least because the issue of peer differential is multiplied in this environment. It’s also important for the mentee to set out very clearly at the beginning what he or she wants to achieve from the mentoring session – and to give the mentors honest and direct feedback about the process!
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