Ah, mentoring. We all want it. We all want to encourage it between the professionals we support. Everyone I talk to confesses that they should be giving more to programs already in place, or laments that they haven’t got a program into place. The truth is that developing a strong mentoring culture within an organization or industry takes tremendous work and care over an extended period. It’s an investment that I think is definitely worth making, and will no doubt be the subject of future posts. For now, though, let me get the ball rolling by offering a neat, achievable, and no-cost mentoring initiative that you can try now: speed mentoring.
Speed mentoring. Is that like speed dating?
Not really. It’s a little more deep and meaningful than that. Speed mentoring pairs up experienced practitioners with less experienced practitioners from outside their immediate work group for a one-off session. Each pair arranges to meet for 60 minutes at a time and place that works for them during the two-week speed mentoring period — usually over a coffee, lunch or beer. What they talk about is up to them, although participants usually get more out of it when mentees bring along one or more career issues to discuss. And that’s it. There’s no further obligation to meet again.
Simple, right? Yup, but also deceptively powerful.
The power of speed mentoring
In my experience, speed mentoring offers three key benefits.
1. It’s an easy way to help. It’s only an hour, making it easy to get busy senior people to commit – even those who have been unable to commit to junior development for some time. It’s one-off, allaying people’s natural fears about relationship commitment. And because it’s budget-friendly (pairs pay their own way), firm leaders tend to be more willing to give a pilot a try.
2. Quality connections. Speed mentoring creates an opportunity to connect for people who may only otherwise exchange pleasantries in an elevator or at a work function. It breaks down practice area silos, creates an exchange of perspectives across generations, and develops networking skills as people see/remind themselves how much they can learn about a colleague and their practice over one coffee.
3. Lovely, diverse and unexpected outcomes. Pairs constantly amaze me with what they get out of an hour together. Information, insights, solutions,work opportunities, the promise of introductions, a possible ongoing mentoring relationship, feelings of connection to the firm, a desire for more opportunities to connect.
It’s all good, but there’s always a catch, right? Here it is. To work well, speed mentoring does take some real effort on the part of the organizer/s. Strong communication, clear guidance for the pairs, and follow up to ensure that meetings happen and to gather feedback afterward. To learn about a recent speed mentoring initiative I spearheaded for the BC Chapter of the International Association of Business Communicators, check out my article in Connect, IABC-BC’s quarterly newsletter.
If you’re ready to add a shot of adrenalin to your mentoring culture, give speed mentoring a try. And if you want to learn more, give me a call.