Terri Hughes Blog

The Power of Mentoring Circles

Posted on Tuesday, September 30, 2014

We can all identify at least one leader who had a positive, significant and lasting impact acting as a mentor. Last month I had the pleasure of being invited to attend a mentoring circle hosted by a former client with a group of her management mentees in a large global company. 

She had purchased copies of my book, Simple Shifts for each of her mentees, to form the discussion topic for their July meeting.

I couldn’t wait to get their feedback on my book, and if they tried using some of the tools.  I learned that mentoring circles are part of the culture of this company with many circles being formed by executives eager to mentor small groups of interested managers.  What a great development opportunity!

As I listened to the group leader (my former client), I was impressed with her willingness to be open and vulnerable with her group.  They talked about the difficulties of sticking with personal goals, and she shared some very personal ones, including goals that she accomplished and slipped back on.  She set the stage for very comfortable discussion with this group of 10 women managers.

Simple Shifts - Feedback

I listened closely to their comments on my book, especially from one who noted, “This isn’t rocket science but it was like a big thump on my head when I thought about the concept of my intentions being known only to me, and that others see only my behaviors.”  She recognized the importance of making sure both are aligned.  Another mentee was inspired by the realization that she doesn’t have to “know it all” as a leader.  I was so pleased that they captured the essence of my book – how becoming self-aware creates the foundation for positive growth.

Several mentees talked about the daily ’15-minute meeting’ exercise, and how they were using it to keep focused on their bigger goals.  The group leader talked about her experience with this tool when we worked together several years ago to help her prioritize her most important goals and stop overextending herself.  Again, opening herself to allow the group a peek into her development opportunities.

It was clear to me that everyone got the important concepts in the book, and several gave the tools a try.  The leader had created such a safe space for this group to go deep into difficult conversations about their fears, being able to celebrate their successes along the way and being able to forgive themselves when mistakes are made.

Mentoring Circle Basics

You don’t have to be in a large company with a formal process to create mentoring circles.  Two to three people are enough to form a small mentoring circle.  As I listened to the group, it was clear that the benefits of the group discussion were as powerful as a one to one mentor situation.

If you’re interested in starting a mentoring circle in your company, try these simple ideas:

  •  Determine your own mentoring strengths areas.
  • Talk with your peers about their direct reports who may be interested in being mentored through a group process in your topic areas.
  • Start with a small group – no more than ten, and set up regular monthly meetings.
  • Create a safe, confidential space for open, honest discussion.
  • Let the group guide the discussion, as the leader did in this example.  While she had a main topic area, she let the group guide the discussion and ask the questions.
  • Watch how the combined energies and experiences help each other go beyond what would be possible with just one individual as they generate different perspectives.
  • Use good books, like my former client did, to bring focus and perspectives to the discussions.




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