When we first set out to develop our Mentoring Scheme for members two years ago, the first place we started was by fully understanding what mentoring is. The first definition that a quick internet search came up with was: ‘Mentorship is a relationship in which a more experienced or more knowledgeable person helps to guide a less experienced or less knowledgeable person’.
This definition felt out-of-date and confusing, not least because it assumed that people could only become mentors if they themselves assumed to have some greater knowledge or experience than someone they hadn’t otherwise met.
We didn’t want this limiting definition to shape who stepped forward to volunteer as a mentor and we didn’t want those interested in mentoring to doubt their own abilities or potential. We wanted to ensure that all members feel empowered and capable of mentoring. Our early vision was to tackle this definition head on and move away from the traditional hierarchal mentor and mentee relationship.
We were inspired by the different approaches adopted by other organisations, such as reverse mentoring and peer-to-peer mentoring. Peer mentoring is particularly exciting because it offers the opportunity for both parties to reach their goals and to also build confidence through practising key mentoring skills.
Breaking down barriers
We began by acknowledging that people bring many different personal qualities, skill sets and experiences to the table, and all have the potential to be great mentors. Not only did we want to challenge accepted notions of what makes a great leader, we also wanted to find ways to empower and inspire younger people in the sector, challenge hierarchical structures and drive improved working relationships. A lofty goal, but one worth aiming for!
That was our starting point, and fast forward to spring 2021, we are approaching the second birthday of the CFG Mentoring Scheme and our third successful cohort is in full flow. Our initial scheme took place through an informal, relaxed event with mentoring myth-busting, ice breakers and a matching workshop. From this initial event, we successfully matched 10 pairs, with seven peer relationships established who then received formal mentoring training.
Since then, our approach has changed due to the pandemic. The scheme was converted to a digital matching event, with a three-part webinar series to skill the group in mentoring. We now also run monthly mentoring sessions where all our cohorts are invited to check in with each other, as well as take part in practical exercises to brush up their mentoring skills.
It was a challenge to recreate the informal nature of our mentoring scheme online. For many, the ability to connect and be oneself whilst sat at a screen is not always easy, and we were concerned that it would change the dynamics of what we were trying to achieve, and how. It can take a bit of time, but our concerns were, for the most part, unfounded.
There is also one clear benefit of moving the scheme online during the pandemic. With many now working from home, it’s easier than ever to find time to check in and connect. The scheme has never been more accessible because geographical barriers no longer exist. This has enriched the match-making process and supports our vision in ways we could never have imagined.
Thriving in difficult times
These are turbulent times, but I believe that great support has been found in this small mentoring community. I can speak for myself when I say that I have found comfort in the group. We get to know each cohort and we take great pride in their mentoring journey. Some truly meaningful relationships have developed through these sessions and this has opened up a wide range of conversation topics. We are reminded often of the power of communication and how important it is to have a safe space to talk. It’s hard not to be enthusiastic when we hear positive anecdotes from both mentors and mentees.
Looking ahead, we plan to continue our work and are currently preparing for our next cohort. The webinar series is booked in for 90 minutes, three Wednesdays in a row commencing next week on 28 April. There are a few places left, so if you’d like to get involved, please email the team for further information.
I was excited, nervous and enthusiastic to take on this project two years ago. Even though I bought into the concept straight away, I could not predict how the CFG Mentoring Scheme would grow in strength and success. Hearing the feedback from participants and witnessing their thriving working relationships is truly fulfilling.
We have felt extremely supported in this, and that’s thanks to those open, honest and sometimes raw conversations we’ve been able to have with all those who’ve been involved. Two years on, we’re now ready to take the scheme to the next level and welcome even more of you to this exciting new community!
Please get in touch if you'd like to join us in the next cohort or to find out more. You can email either myself or Zoe Bennett.
Free to CFG members, the next Mentoring Scheme sessions will be:
- Wednesday 5 May 4.00-5.30pm – Introduction and Matching
- Wednesday 12 May 4.00-5.30pm – Building Skills
- Wednesday 19 May 4.00–5.30pm Get Ready for Mentoring
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