“Traditional” mentoring is rather hierarchical—but modern mentoring has changed. In addition to reverse mentoring, another growing trend is peer mentoring.
What is peer mentoring? This is a type of mentoring relationship in which the difference in age and experience in those involved is less pronounced. First made popular by universities, peer mentoring is starting to get more play in professional environments as well.
Peer mentoring is one partner helping the other that is maybe only a little bit behind them professionally. This way, the obstacles and issues they’ve recently dealt with are fresh in their mind, and they’re more able to speak to their experiences and the tools they employed to push through them.
But that’s not the only perk, peer mentoring also relaxes those traditionally rigid lines between mentor and mentee dictated by age, experience, rank, and more. This provides both partners with a more even playing field to make contributions and help one another.
Now that you understand why peer mentoring is a mentoring method that can benefit your people, here’s how you can implement this type of program within your organisation.
Finding a Mentor
Unlike a more traditional mentoring relationship in which the parameters are fairly clear cut from what is expected of both parties, the mutual nature of a peer mentoring relationship means team members or team leads need to be more mindful when selecting or matching partners.
The ideal peer mentor is someone who shares your work experience, but with a distinctive background than your own. In this way, they’ll be able to offer you a unique perspective on both the everyday work and the long-term goals and challenges you both face.
This shared professional foundation with different personal lived experiences provides more exposure to a diversity of thought, providing you with different approaches to common scenarios.
Although the work experiences of the two partners should be similar, they shouldn’t be identical. After all, the point of a peer mentoring relationship is development – to push you out of long-held routines, roles, or responses that may no longer be serving you in order to further develop yourself and your path.
As we’ve discussed in previous posts, setting S.M.A.R.T. goals is an essential part of any mentoring process. These will help both mentoring partners understand what their counterpart is looking to get out of the relationship, as well as where they’re best suited to help the other along the way.
In addition to personal goals, both partners should discuss what they want to accomplish and get out of the relationship together. What is the purpose of your peer mentoring relationship? How do you both intend to create a meaningful partnership together?
Pippa: Our mentoring relationship is peer-to-peer. Apart from that though, we’re taking a fairly traditional approach – we take turns each session to be mentor/mentee, and the mentee comes prepared with a dilemma they want to work through. Because we are at similar places in our careers, I find this discipline really useful in ensuring we both get the most out of each session, rather than just chatting. Read more about Pippa and Lauren’s experience of peer mentoring.
Communication is Key
As with any relationship in general, communication is key. Find a mentoring partner with whom you can be open and frank. You understand that directness isn’t meant to be hurtful, it’s meant to bring blind spots to the surface so that they can be addressed and worked through.
Communication will also keep you both on the same page, ensuring expectations are understood and that tasks are being completed so that goals can be met.
Ready to get your mentoring program started? Learn more about the five key decisions you need to make in order to successfully match, build momentum and measure a program.