10 Activities to Ignite Your Mentoring Experience!
You and your mentoring partner are off to a great start! You’ve talked about your careers, your expectations as a mentor or mentee, and have even set important development goals. So, what’s next?
Successful mentoring relationships gain momentum by embracing focus. I’m a huge focus fan. Focus around scheduled times to meet; agreed-upon ways of giving feedback; and focused development for mentee’ growth. Mentoring is socially-based learning, so it’s smart to also focus on experiences that build bonds. I’ve found this social focus sparks more fun and learning “stickiness” along the mentoring journey! Here are 10 activities that infuse social learning with exponential professional growth:
1. Be Escape Artists. Get out of your comfort zone in an Escape Room. This is especially fun to do with other mentoring pairs. What makes escape rooms a perfect activity is that (most likely) your skill levels are similar. You are both starting from scratch. You have the chance to learn together, grow together, and even make mistakes together while enjoying a new experience. A bonus to this activity is that it clearly demonstrates there is more than one way to accomplish any goal.
2. Bucket List. Each of you creates your unique list of 25, 50 or 100 things you want to do or accomplish during your lifetime. Sharing your lists with each other shows the courage to be vulnerable. Challenge each other to choose one or two items you’ll take action on during your mentoring partnership. Who knows, you may find the two of you share a bucket list item. That’s exactly what happened to one mentoring pair. They decided to skydive for the first time together! It was a great photo opp!
3. Volunteer Together. Working at charity events, food pantries, or teaching something as mentor/mentee is a great way to build social bonds. Helping others together fosters a rich layer of good-will to your mentoring relationship. Plus, you’ll gain perspective on real-life community issues.
4. Walk and Talk. I worked with a mentoring pair who scheduled “walking meetings” every-other time they met. These mentoring sessions were about catching up and getting out of the office together. They enjoyed this time so much they kept the routine even when the weather didn’t cooperate. Do you have an on-site fitness center, walking path, or even several flights of steps? If so, incorporating a fitness element will bring a fresh spin to your mentoring partnership.
5. Read Together. A great way to grow together is to explore a leadership/business book or article(s). Agree to read a mutually interesting book (or listening on Audible) between meetings. Then carve time to deep-dive your thoughts and business applications of the content. Not sure where to start? Take a look at the Best Leadership Books of the Last Decade. A variation of this activity is to view and discuss a Ted Talk. Ted’s Playlist of How to be a Great Leader is the perfect place to begin.
6. Got Personality? Select an assessment (MBTI, True Colors, Strengths Finder, etc.) to complete together. In my experience, Strengths Finder has been a powerful tool for mentoring partners! Use the code found in the back of Strengths Finder 2.0 or purchase Clifton Strengths access online. Once completed, unpack the rich reports during your mentoring conversations. I encourage pairs to also discuss how self-awareness impacts personal and professional effectiveness.
7. Day Trip. Plan a few hours or a day to travel together and visit places one or both of you have never been. Explore other company locations or departments, tour vendor sites, or pay a visit to an exceptional customer. Day trips are among mentoring participant’s all-time favorite social learning opportunities. Plus, you’ll find your mentoring conversation becomes more relaxed during the windshield time. If schedules permit, invite other mentoring partners to join your trip!
8. Be Seen. Mentors, consider providing visibility for your mentee by inviting them to attend one (or several) of your key meetings. These might include staff meetings, important customer interactions, or nonconfidential senior management/board meetings. Prepare the mentee (and other attendees) beforehand. Introduce your mentee to at least two people who could be helpful to them. Debrief the meetings together afterward, sharing observations and take-aways.
9. Laugh Together. Often. Exchange jokes and relate funny stories about yourselves. Encourage each other not to take yourselves too seriously. Demonstrate this occasionally with self-deprecating humor. Research shows that people who can admit to their shortcomings with a smile are more approachable. Being so comfortable and confident that you can laugh at yourself builds trust within a mentoring relationship.
10. Find Your Tribe. Help your mentoring partner develop a small team to which they’ll hold themselves accountable for accomplishing big goals and continually developing. This “personal board of directors” may be a group of peers you assemble to meet regularly. Or it may be an external Peer Advisory Board you become a member of. Either way, having a trusted peer group will propel you and your mentoring partner to greater levels of success well beyond your mentoring cycle!
These ideas are only the beginning. You’re probably undertaking many social learning activities not listed here. We’d love to hear what’s working.