Mentoring Circles and Developing Culturally Diverse Leadership

Jan 23, 2019

By Edie Stringfellow, Director of D&I, MassBio

A great way to start the New Year with a focus on D&I is to become an active mentor in honor of National Mentoring Month.

As the workplace and the workforce become more complex, how can we have the greatest impact on empowering the next generation of leaders? With ever-evolving technology, work and learning, we must look beyond the traditional one-on-one mentoring model. Here are some examples.

  • Distance Mentoring: The American Association for Physician Leadership Discussion on Mentoring Millennials for Future Leadership acknowledges that the best matched mentor can be anywhere around the globe. With this type of relationship, you maximize communication opportunities with a/v conferencing, messaging and mentoring apps for tracking.
  • Personal Board of Directors: An informal group who can provide different perspectives on different aspects of career and life as you professionally and personally evolve.
  • Reverse Mentoring: the mentor is now the mentee. Young professionals mentor senior leaders on technology, social media use, etc. improving skills up the ladder while demonstrating all generations are valued

One other model that does not get as much attention but should is mentoring circles. As the life sciences workplace become more complex and cooperation is essential, mentoring circles can have an outsized benefit for mentees and mentors. According to the Association for Women in Science (AWIS), a mentoring circle is “a group of individuals that meet together on a regular basis to help mentees set goals and create a plan to accomplish these goals”.

Mentoring circles can produce many benefits aside from the direct mentorship mentees receive. Those benefits can include creating an atmosphere of inclusivity, and a healthy, respectful working environment. Many cultural issues come into play when people from different backgrounds work together in a mentoring circle environment. Therefore, when establishing mentoring circles, a culture of mutual learning should be strongly encouraged.

Of course, mentoring circles, like any other mentorship model, should have guidelines, boundaries and set goals to manage the expectations of both the mentor and mentee. I like mentoring circles because it fosters learning from both sides. In a mentoring circle, not only are you sharing the knowledge and expertise of the mentor, they should also be learning from the mentees as they share their backgrounds and experiences. This way, mentors develop the understanding of different perspectives.

By no stretch of the imagination is it easy to strike a balance between the cultural goal of an organization with all the cultural backgrounds of those on a team. Nevertheless, it is worth the effort. Everyone changes and grows when they are introduced to worlds unknown. This experience will help all involved overcome any misconceptions and biases that hinders career development, team rapport, brainstorming activities, interferes with the growth progress of any organization. In turn, this process will create culturally diverse leadership for an organization’s pipeline.

In mentoring circles, mentors and mentees benefit because:

  • It provides for a safe, learning environment for different cultures and backgrounds
  • You support each other’s goals while achieving your own
  • It encourages interactions which leads to engagement and accountability for each other
  • It instills trust needed for open discussion regarding conflict, challenges, etc.

Organizations benefit from accommodating mentoring circles because:

  • It creates a sense of connectivity; increasing retention rates; productivity; innovation; patient outcomes and company growth
  • It generates a succession pipeline that prepares lower level employees for senior executive roles

Email me to share information about your mentoring programs or best practices that are part of your organization’s DNA. I want to hear from you!

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