There has been a lot of confusion in recent years about the concept of ‘peer mentoring’ – mostly because of an upsurge in the use of the term in business publications. This has led to an overuse (and some inappropriate use) of what, used correctly, can be a very powerful tool in your Predictable Success toolkit.
This has led to an overuse (and some inappropriate use) of what, used correctly, can be a very powerful tool in your Predictable Success® toolkit.
First of all, let’s define what we mean by peer mentoring:
Peer mentoring is where one person mentors (or coaches) another at a similar level of:
- knowledge, or
- experience, or
Such peer mentoring can be one-way (person A is mentoring person B), or two-way (A and B mutually mentor each other).
Huh? So where’s the beef?
You can design a peer mentoring program with The Complete Guide To Mentoring and Coaching Program Design
So, if the person doing the mentoring has the same knowledge, experience and authority as the person being mentored, where does the actual mentoring come in? What possible benefit is there for someone to be mentored by someone else whose knowledge, experience and seniority is exactly the same as their own?
Well, the key is in the use of ‘OR’, rather than ‘AND’:
In peer mentoring, the mentor has the same knowledge OR experience OR authority, not the same knowledge AND experience AND authority: the mentor and mentee must differ in at least one of these categories.
Some examples of good peer mentoring
For example, a new, but experienced appointee – teacher, nurse, executive, it doesn’t matter – who needs help in understanding your specific systems and process would benefit from peer mentoring.
Here, her mentor may have the same experience and level of authority, but will have more knowledge (about your internal systems, in this case).
Similarly, if you have just promoted someone internally to a managerial position, they would almost certainly benefit from peer coaching or mentoring by a co-manager who is at the same authority level, and has the same knowledge, but in this case has more experience as a manager.
Where peer mentoring is used wrongly
Where peer mentoring goes wrong is when it is seen as an end in itself: when someone says something like ‘We must have a peer mentoring program’ (usually because they’ve attended a conference where someone else has raved about how great their peer mentoring program is).
It is vital to understand that peer mentoring is merely a vehicle – it’s just one of a number of ways to achieve your organizational goals – it is not an end in itself.
The point of a mentoring program (‘peer’ or otherwise) is to assist the organization in achieving its overall objectives – irrespective of the manner in which the program is delivered.
The key is to establish the goals for your mentoring program, then decide if peer mentoring is right for you – not the other way ’round.
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