Peer to Peer Mentoring
the last year or so, the volume of requests we've had for
with the design of one particular form of mentoring -
to peer mentoring - has risen considerably.
events, particular the downturn in employment
in the tech sector, mean that demand for this form
mentoring is likely to continue to rise, so here's our
peer to peer mentoring has grown in popularity
peer to peer mentoring is
(and what it isn't)
peer to peer mentoring models
peer to peer mentoring works best, and
it doesn't work so well.
Why Peer to Peer
Mentoring has Grown in Popularity
our experience, peer to peer mentoring - the idea of one
'mentoring' someone else at the same 'peer' level
organization - has grown, not because of any real
inherent in the concept itself, but because of a
of 'classical' (older, more experienced) mentors.
things have contributed to this shortage of 'classical'
managers are simply too busy to take on mentoring
another perceived task. Consequently 'volunteer' mentors
harder to come by, and conscription doesn't really work
a mentor recruitment tool.
we are all aware, people simply aren't staying around as
they used to...so older, wiser mentors are harder to
are a lot more younger, start-up companies around,
whom simply don't have 'grayhairs' on the payroll.
many industries, product cycles have come crashing down
course some high-tech industries are making it up as
along), meaning that there *isn't* any 'older,
perspective to be had - everything's (seemingly) new.
a result, for many organizations, peer to peer mentoring
hand in hand with 'battlefield promotions' as the
to really deal with process-oriented information transfer.
Peer to Peer Mentoring Is (and What It Isn't)
to peer mentoring, therefore, in most organizations,
'mentoring' at all - it's really a form of
other words, it concentrates on knowledge or skills
(as opposed to mentoring, which focuses on
to peer 'mentoring' is almost always an attempt to:
an organized, consistent transfer of
within a team or group,
using limited manpower resources.
banking organization's software
team of nine people is
with a tight deadline for
design, development and
of a new internal,
team supervisor is brand new,
three of the team members have
through this process together
but on both occasions
was very ad-hoc.
was no structured 'learning'
the previous design experiences
documentation was scrappy, and
than the software itself,
were no outputs in the form
design manuals, FAQ's etc.
maximize the knowledge of the
'veterans', and to manage
documentation process, the team
a 'peer to peer mentoring'
with the three veterans
the other team members
not really surprising to discover that peer to peer
is usually coaching in disguise...after all,
(in its truest sense) is all about the person's
development - with skills and knowledge as a
hard to expect people to act as 'peer' mentors (and
harder to ask people to be 'mentored' by peers) - it
a sense of respect and confidence that's hard to find
as you can see, peer to peer 'mentoring' is really
peer to peer coaching, and as such is a close
to two other processes -
A buddy program is really a low-level
peer coaching program.
differences between a buddy program and peer coaching is
just a matter of content - the processes are very
Peer coaching is often similar to team leadership
when it is sudden and unexpected!), with the
difference being the issue of responsibility.
leadership brings with it clear responsibility and
considerations (or it should do...). Peer coaching
usually viewed as NOT having responsibility or control
- although the coach may be accountable for the
progress, the coach is not the boss of the
organizations introduce 'peer coaching'
programs as a
to 'fudge' the appointment of clear team leaders (either
the jury is still out on the management skills of
individuals, or because there are internal politics at
is what it seems - a fudge - and as such, tends not to
'coaches' aren't being given the right tools (authority
accountability) to prove themselves as team leaders, and
any case, the skills required to be a good coach aren't
the same as those required to be a good team
last thing before we leave the issue of what peer to
mentoring really is:
are circumstances where 'peer to peer mentoring' is
mentoring (i.e. concerned with the development
the individual, not just her skills or knowledge), and
circumstances tend to be in areas where there is rapid personal
development over a relatively short period of time.
examples are the military, and university, where
can often undergo major personal changes in a
short period, thereby becoming competent to act
mentor to those not far behind them.
the environment into which you intend introducing your
program one of intense personal development?
so, you may genuinely be looking for a peer to peer
program. Otherwise you probably should use the
'peer coaching' to accurately describe your program,
to avoid misperceptions on the part of your coaches and
the remainder of this article, we'll use 'peer to peer
to mean both 'peer to peer mentoring' and 'peer
peer coaching' - you should 'hear' whichever phrase
to your circumstances.)
Common Peer to Peer Mentoring
four common peer to peer mentoring models:
- A mentor/coach is appointed
to one or more protégés.
- Individuals in a group act as mentors / coaches to each
depending on the topic.
George and Sam work on the
of their respective
and experience, Jane
George and Sam on health
safety issues, while Sam coaches
on production-related issues.
- A mentor/coach is
appointed to one or more protégés, with a
matter expert (SME) available for assistance.
- Individuals in a group act as
mentors / coaches to each
depending on the topic, with subject matter experts
SME 'seeding' is necessary when the
topic is technical AND the
are inexperienced or
also important to recognize the
skills differences between SME's and
- SME's however brilliant,
necessarily make great coaches.
peer to peer mentoring model will you implement?
(there's just one role for each person - coach or
or two-way (each person can be both a coach and
at the same time)?
you make SME's available to help the coaches with
content, or are they on their own?
Peer to Peer Mentoring Works Best
are the circumstances in which you are likely to get
best results from introducing a peer to peer mentoring
Critical but Incremental Process Change
you have a change in a well-accepted existing process,
coaching is a great way to implement it.
the basic process is known, just one or two people
be taught the incremental change. They in turn can 'peer
Supervisor Delegation/Reduction of Manager Span of Control
Where supervisors make a
decision to (permanently) delegate
to operatives, or there is a one-off re-alignment of
responsibilities, then again, peer coaching is a
way to implement this.
As we've already seen, peer
coaching is a near relative of
programs - often used in employee orientation.
two go hand in hand very well, with the buddy program
on integration and mechanical issues, and the
coaching focused on operational skills.
you're having difficulty scheduling orientation regularly
good buddy and peer coaching program combined can 'plug
gap' very well for a few weeks.
Esoteric Skills Got
a need for occasional left-handed widget manufacture? Or
declining knowledge base in wicker-work handbag design?
coaching is a great way to transfer narrow skills.
Where Peer to Peer Mentoring
Doesn't Work So Well
the risk of some abuse :-( here are the areas where we've
it more difficult to introduce successful peer to peer
Highly Structured Environments
established organizations find it hard to
peer mentoring programs.
they're coaching or truly mentoring, structured
tend to react constitutionally against peer
most larger, structured organizations are used
vertical, top-down communication, the lateral nature of
to peer mentoring shakes the system too much.
Tip: If you're in a
peer to peer mentoring
in a responsive division
department, before contemplating
it out company-wide.
24/7 Remote Environments
If your employees
never meet face to face, it will be
for peer to peer mentoring to 'take'.
for the most straightforward,
factual coaching, there
to be *some* personal input, however small,
at the start of a peer mentoring relationship,
it to gain traction.
Fight hard for the resources to
your coaches / mentors and
together at the start of
program - even if only for
greatly increase the
of your program's
Poor Supervision/Time Management
Environments where there
is poor time management overall
always in a rush, nothing ever gets completed on
coupled with poor supervision, often fall on peer to
mentoring as something of a magic bullet.
is sometimes a perception that if the managers and
cannot exercise the right skills to adequately
the employee teams, then maybe they (the employees)
be able to do it for themselves.
Peer to peer mentoring isn't a
for poor management.
your supervisors aren't doing
good job, peer to peer mentoring
best peer to peer mentoring
work in strong management
Here's where I really get
While there are obvious
exceptions, in my experience getting
to coach (let alone mentor) is tough. They're
to want to tell others what to do, rather than show
and that difference is important.
the worst cases, engineers will sometimes do neither,
the "Give it here, I'll do it myself" attitude.)
In an engineering environment:
your starting point
(find a group that
wants to work with you);
personal buy-in from all
participants before you start;
the process in writing;
outputs in measurable
J. Leslie McKeown is the
President & CEO of Yellowbrick, a training company specializing in
employee orientation, retention and mentoring programs. He is the
creator of "The Complete Guide to Mentoring and Coaching" for
designing and implementing effective mentoring and coaching programs, and
the popular "How to be a Great Mentor...in under 30 minutes"
online mentoring training program. www.deliverthepromise.com
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