By Kirsten M. Poulsen
Director and Management Consultant
Traditionally mentoring happens as a one-to-one relationship between a more experienced person as the mentor and a less experienced person as the mentee. However, we experience a growing interest in establishing group mentoring programmes based on the need to provide mentoring for more mentees while mentors is a scares resource.
Group mentoring – what is that?
Group mentoring can take many forms, however the most common form is 1-2 mentors with a group of 5-10 mentees that collaborate around the learning and sharing. This kind of mentoring is characterised by:
- The mentees sharing a broad learning goal – e.g. the transition from studying to starting their first full time job.
- Mentees are responsible for their own learning and for supporting the learning of the other mentees in the group.
- All members of the group meet at the same time and discuss the same topic(s).
- Mentors act as learning partners and facilitators for the group and manages the group dynamics.
In essence, group mentoring is a combination of group facilitation and peer mentoring with the mentor(s) contributing as facilitators for the group dynamics, helping the mentees share and learn and providing input based on the mentor’s own experience e.g. through storytelling, providing information, giving feedback etc. Thus, the mentors as well as the mentees help each another learn and develop within the framework of the specific mentoring programme.
The advantages and disadvantages of group mentoring
Let’s first emphasize that we strongly recommend group mentoring to be a one-to-many relationship with no more than 5 mentees in a group. The more participants in a mentoring group, the more complex the people dynamics which usually results in less learning and development for the individual.
Additionally, group mentoring is significantly different from one-to-one mentoring and requires a different skillset and a different set of tools for the mentor. While on the other hand, group mentoring also provides a great opportunity to accustom the participants to the process of co-learning and helping others to learn while taking responsibility for their own learning.
Some of the advantages of group mentoring are:
- Mentees can gain insights from the mentor as well as from their peers.
- Sharing career dreams and ambitions as well as concerns validate these and generates a sense of belonging and mutual understanding.
- Because it involves more than two individuals, group mentoring develops diversity of thinking, practice and understanding.
Some of the disadvantages of group mentoring are:
- The mentoring relationship becomes less personal and the level of confidentiality might be limited
- Competition for the mentor’s attention can occur within the group and become a barrier to collaboration and learning
- Each member has different needs that must be taken into consideration
- Scheduling of meeting can become difficult
The essence of mentoring
The essence of mentoring, is that it can provide value both at strategic, organisational and individual levels at the same time. As mentoring is a learning relationship taking place within a consciously designed framework, the framework gently influences the mentors and mentees and their relationship in the direction of the overall purpose. The framework provides guidelines and tools without prescribing an exact curriculum, thus providing flexibility within the mentoring groups and making room for each individual to set their own goals and their own solutions.