“Though this be madness, yet there is method in it”
Perhaps, William Shakespeare was referring to speed mentoring when he said, “Though this be madness, yet there is method in it”.
This seemed to be the feeling, that surrounded a recent panel I had the pleasure of being part of in Bahrain.
The world around us is changing rapidly, as organisations refocus on flatter internal management structures, and remote working; whilst trying to promote a highly collaborative working cultures, maintaining employee engagement and reducing staff turnover. The new post pandemic world has seen a widening of the available talent pool which perhaps requires a fresh approach to address these challenges.
Mentoring has been growing as part of the business leaders tool kit, with more and more technology solutions being developed to support the wider organisational mentoring programs.
Speed mentoring which has its route in the concept of speed dating seems by many to be dismissed as merely a fad, a flash in the pan. Hence the alternative title of flash mentoring, the focus seems to be on the “speed” of the interaction between the mentees and the mentors rather than the specific outcomes that can be achieved.
As I have said before “Mentoring has many contexts, whether these be at a social, organisational, or at personal level; Whether these are formal or informal, quick over a short duration, or over a long career. I question whether our development and learning ever comes from one source? If the purpose of mentoring is to enhance performance across these larger contexts, perhaps speed mentoring should be seen as a tool within a sub set, or category within this mentoring leadership tool kit.”
My own personal experience of Speed mentoring is both internal, within an organisation, as well as being an external resource. My recent speed mentoring experience was to support university graduates looking to find a role or role transition, specifically within financial services.
The actual framework perhaps causes some confusion, this isn’t speed dating, mentors and mentees should not approach this as 20 minutes chat. The common ground is set in advance, in my personal experience I believe a narrow focus on a specific sector, a niche, is best for speed mentoring. In my recent speed-mentoring sessions have always been related to people looking to join financial services. These are either from college or in a role transition into the sector, and specifically females looking to enter as part of the wider diversity and inclusion strategy, which itself is a requirement for TARA, whom I am an adviser for. Therefore the mentors and mentees are hand chosen, who either have the experience or are wanting specific information about the specific sector.
Speed mentoring requires you to develop a “guided framework” that delivers both mentors and mentees outcomes. Mentees should be encouraged to develop a series of questions in advance for each mentor, that will ensure the mentor can help with their specific outcomes. The framework requires significant organisation at the front end, which often means creating a matching process, perhaps a psychometric tool that aligns the values of both mentors and mentees; this is perhaps easier to achieve when you are working in a defined sector. As with mentoring, speed mentoring framework requires mentor and mentee feedback on the session and mentees should be encouraged to see this as building out, of their own business networks and deepening organisational or industry relationships. It shouldn’t be a one-off event and given modern day social media platforms, it is easy to maintain and power these connections.
Perhaps the following contexts are where I believe Speed mentoring helps :
Job and Role transition
Finding a new job or role often requires you to be able to network. A recent survey found that 85% of all job roles are found from within an individuals personal network. In fact 70% of roles are never advertised and are specifically created with a candidate in mind. Since the pandemic a recent LinkedIn survey said that of 42% of their members (150 Million members) have reached out to their networks for a new role. It is important to realise that speed mentoring can help to open a door into a specific sector or industry for which many have been previously excluded.
There are also statistics that suggest that up to 46% of people being promoted fail in their new role, not because of a lack of experience, or being qualified to do the role; but because they are unable to build networks across “informal organisational structures”. It seems simple to understand, yet often the importance of building collaborative relationships, actually dealing with the people who do the work, the people that actually execute the tasks irrespective of where they sit on the formal organisational chat, is paramount. Internal speed mentoring can be part of a strategy, that can achieve better collaboration and shifting perceptions about other teams and individuals. Sometimes this can be part of a larger organisational event or developed as a specific event to build better collaboration within business teams especially given the move towards remote working environments.
Greater diversity and Inclusion
This is why I believe speed mentoring is a great addition to organisational D&I strategies, because it should promote inclusion, accessible to everyone across all levels within a organisation, specific industry or sector. It offers short term access to leaders that, the under represented, under normal circumstances would never meet. This is perhaps especially true, given modern business constraints and remote working where would those meaningful opportunities exist.
Builds on skills or knowledge gaps
Speed mentoring also enhances the building blocks for a career path for individuals. I was recently mentoring someone who had a degree in finance from a good university yet was unaware that if they wanted to be part of the sales buy-side, they needed to obtain certain qualification as part of a regulated requirement; yet universities and career councillors cannot be expected to know each sectors intricacies and or nuances, and therefore good talent can go unrecognised.
Internally within organisations the saying goes “time is money” therefore often mentor relationships are ‘speed mentoring’ by default. Dependant on the actual outcome mentees often want specific execution answers for existing roles. Clearly this is not to suggest that speed mentoring should be used as a panacea for poor decision making or poor individual leadership. It is to recognise that mentees have short term tactical requirements that require multiple cross functional interventions. Speed mentoring is ideal for cross functional and cross jurisdictional mentoring.
With many people still remote working, organisations are trying to create much more collaborative work environments and speed mentoring is a great tool that allows individual strengths to be identified and allows for expectations and goals to be expressed within a safe environment. This hopefully helps build better organisational and individual performance through creating a sense of community and encourage open mindedness. This is particularly relevant when stereotypes can be broken down, and certainly the case if speed mentoring has a reverse mentoring element.
I do not believe that the decision to use speed mentoring is binary to other mentoring programs. It is just a tool to facilitate better outcomes for both mentors and mentees. It is however, a valuable learning resource, where mentors and mentees are able to enhance their personal perspectives and performance. It offers both parties exposure to new ideas, new thinking, whilst building on specific practical experience and deepens relationships. It should have the benefit to the mentee of shortening of their own learning cycle, mitigates trial and error, leading to more confidence and greater self esteem within a supportive environment. As part of a wider organisational initiative speed mentoring should lead to the development of a nurturing culture, talent retention and improved organisational performance”.
Perhaps the answer for speed-mentoring should come from Hamlet
“ There is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so”
Enjoy the speed mentoring !