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Kaleidoscope Mentoring: A Cross-Generational Perspective


Kaleidoscope Mentoring: A Cross-Generational Perspective

Confusion alongside desire for mentoring persists. Heidrick & Struggles’ new study of mentoring within organizations found:

  • 60% of mentees said their mentor was their supervisor.
  • 91% of respondents had informal, unstructured rather than formal, mentoring program relationships.
  • The number 1 benefit respondents though they got from their mentor was feedback on their own current strengths.
  • Other benefits cited were company and job advice.

Peter Cappelli, Management Professor at University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, in his Human Resources Executive column (April 2018) upon reading the survey results said it seemed most mentees were looking for “sponsorship” (people to open doors in the company for them) rather than mentorship, for which they should be looking beyond their supervisors to someone who had the distance to be objective. He wrote that the benefits most were receiving used to be addressed by career development programs and management training. These had been cut back.

Cappelli recommended rethinking and improvements to traditional company-focused mentoring programs. But even if actually implemented as he suggests, I question whether simply sticking with one-on-one mentoring match-ups can meet the needs many people ranging from students to senior executives and professionals are seeking.

The younger generations now believe they have a lot to offer the older generations. They do, and not just about using technology and social media. So I advocate reciprocal or mutual mentoring. Some organizations have adopted reverse mentoring when enlightened senior executives realize what they can learn from Millennials and Gen Zers, usually starting with digital skills.

But let’s take it further. Even better, I advocate and set up mentoring circles so that people have several people to draw on, since no one person can supply all the advice any one person of any age/generation needs. Circles allow the chemistry factor to develop and take the time burden off one-on-one mentoring only. People within the circles are free to pair off as well.

Related: Get Prepared for GenZ and an AI World

To get your organization started setting up and running a mentoring circle, whether internal to an employer, a professional or trade organization or an alumni group, take these action steps:

Determine that there are 6-12 people interested in participating of various generations and levels of experience.

  • Determine that there are 6-12 people interested in participating of various generations and levels of experience.
  • Designate co-chairs to administer the logistics.
  • Decide how often to meet and where – in person, Skype, by phone, videoconference, etc.
  • Decide on basic ground rules and expectations.
  • Select an outside facilitator at least for the launch. After that, one or more internal facilitators in rotation can lead the way.

After a period of exploration, when participants get comfortable with each other and as both mentor and mentee, it’s somewhat like a jazz ensemble that improvises, taking off from the contribution of the other players.

If mentoring is not currently fulfilling your or your organization’s needs and demands, try this different approach. Contact me for details and best practices on how to set up mentoring circles – and most importantly how to keep them going strong and producing powerful results.

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