Peer Mentoring and Communities of Practice
I have added this article as a supplement to the CoP article above, as I have found that mentors and mentees who engage in CoPs really benefit from continuing those support relationships between CoP meetings, by establishing peer mentoring partnerships.
What is peer mentoring?
Traditionally, mentoring has been defined as a hierarchical relationship between an experienced person helping (mentoring) a less experienced person. I talk about peer mentoring as a reciprocal relationship, the mentoring partners assuming dual roles of mentor and mentee and where one person is not necessarily more or less experienced. Peer mentoring aims to enhance supportive relationships between two people through sharing knowledge and experience, and providing an opportunity to learn from different perspectives. This is a great model to have in place in conjunction with your CoPs.
Given the busy lives we lead and some job roles being extremely time-demanding, getting to regular CoP meetings can be a challenge. And once you have attended a meeting, how easy it is to have all good intentions to follow through with an idea you gleaned from the meeting, but then shelve it until you have more time?
Establishing peer mentoring partnerships helps bridge the time gap – and motivation – between CoP meetings.
I suggest peer partners meet at least 1-2 times between the CoP meetings. This is really important if you have only two or three CoP meetings a year. Here are some suggestions for how to set up and sustain a peer mentoring partnership. They are pretty reflective of actions and strategies I recommend any mentoring partnership take:
- Establish clear expectations of the mentoring partnership. This may involve a contract of agreement, deciding guidelines for the meetings
- Clearly decide the roles taken by each partner – what does it mean to be the mentee? The mentor?
- Evaluate your individual needs as a mentee and a mentor and discuss these at the commencement of the partnership
- Commit to the times you agree to meet, each person taking responsibility for re-scheduling if necessary
- Discuss the value and mutual benefits of being in a peer mentoring relationship – you both have goals you want to achieve and would like support with; you both want to guide and assist in each other’s development; you are interested in sharing experience, knowledge and practice.