Mid-term Training of Fifth Generation of “Creative Mentorship” Program: Changes as Inspiration for Growth
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The mid-term training for participants of the 5th generation of the “Creative Mentorship” program took place on Saturday 20th June. This is one of the key events within the program that serves to gather mentors and mentees of the current generation to offer inspiration, motivation, additional focus, and the possibility of connecting. The 25 mentoring pairs gathered to look back on the previous work and plan out the next steps. Participants of the current generation had a chance to meet the alumni members of the “Creative Mentorship” network, partners, and sponsors to exchange experience and knowledge.
Since “new normal” is a great challenge for all the participants, midterm training this year was a great moment to review the work done until now, to rethink and redefine priorities and projects as well as to confirm the goals and to set the new ones. One of the main topics was setting the mentorship work in the new context.
The training consisted of different workshops offering participants an opportunity to exchange experience, rethink their paths and their development within the program, but also learn how to continue with their projects in this new situation.
Relja Dereta, alumni mentee, alumni mentor, educational partner, and a member of the advisory board of “Creative Mentorship” conducted the first part of the training. Relja guided mentors and mentees through the throwback of the period behind us. The goal was to help participants review the previous period and become aware of their needs to plan the next phases in the best way possible. He asked them 3 questions:
- What do I do?
We should respond to this question by avoiding using default definitions of a workplace or a title. We should form our answers focusing on the process; for example: “I help ideas grow”; “Throughout a community Kataliza, I help girls and women feel good about their body and to respect themselves regardless of their appearance”; “I try to make a really broad project as understandable and as visible as possible”.
One thing all these examples have in common is putting process and the duration in the focal point, and not the title, or a position as it would be the case with: “I am a creative director/manager/teacher”. When we move the focal point, we set what we do in our unique context and a new perspective. Introducing ourselves in this manner can be especially interesting when we meet somebody for the first time – it is more likely to spark the interest of the people we are talking to, and they would like to know more.
- What is the main impression the previous period left on me?
This question is much more direct than the first one and while thinking of the answer to it, we should look back on all the events, changes, and new things that drew our attention or affected our lives the most. For example: “I can be more productive, creative and help a larger number of people to learn something new, even though when I’m isolated in my house”; “This was the longest and the prettiest spring in my life. There is so much life and magic all around us, but we do not notice it because we are always in a hurry”, or “The main impression I have is the opening. People were closed physically, and yet they’ve opened up to each other”.
Just like the previous question, this one helps us concentrate on the present moment, starting from the period behind us. Analyzing how it affected us, our lives, and habits, we can comprehend what we’ve learned or noticed and by sharing it with others we are giving and gaining a new view on things.
- What do I need?
The goal of this, last, question in this exercise is to help us understand what we would like to do, what we can improve even more, or what we should achieve. For example: “The only need I have right now is to keep the balance I achieved in the previous period”, “I need to approach work differently, by observing things in a wider context and the social one as well”, “Traveling. That’s the only thing I need”.
Once we define our needs through answers like this, we can use them as a starting point in defining future steps in our work, individual and personal as well as in our work with mentor or mentee.
Having answered these 3 questions, we should have a clear image of changes that the past period brought to us, and we should use our conclusion as a motivation to rethink present ones and to set up new goals.
After this introduction part, Dasha Spasojević, alumni mentee of the “Creative Mentorship” program and now in charge of the development of the network of mentors and mentoring tools, shared with participants one of the methods that they can use to do a quick reflection about their mentorship process and relationship and their communication and work with mentor/mentee until now.
The objective of this exercise was to ensure a safe space for both mentees and mentors so that they can share their experiences and feelings about their relationship, to realize which things require more work and what they can improve to set up the good ground for further, fruitful work.
As the first task, mentors and mentees had a short timeframe to draw their relationship. The mentorship relationship was divided into 7 segments, where each segment was represented as a circle. The center of every circle symbolized the mentee or mentor who drew it while the circle itself was the pair of the drawer; the mentee if the mentor was drawing and vice versa.
Participants then filled in each of these circles, illustrating the relationship they have with mentor/mentee, as they see. They had all the freedom of expression and space to improvise.
Once circles were finished, mentees and mentors discussed them with their pairs. Now they could understand the other side better and get the bigger picture of the strengths and weaknesses of their relationship as well as the potential it has. With this exercise, both sides could understand things that they did not notice as much before and through the active exchange, we set up the good ground for further work.
Even though we can have a good relationship with a mentor/mentee, including active listening and assertive communication; explaining and expressing things that we do not like, or that we find unpleasant can be challenging. In that case, we should find a safe space to express all those things that we do not like. Sharing less pleasant emotions in a safe space can reinforce the connection between the participants.
This kind of analysis brings us to the conclusion that differences do exist but it is possible to overcome them through shared work, effort, and conversation. It’s exactly that kind of work that leads to changes and growth of participants and the relationship they share. The key is accepting the difference because, without it, we cannot go further and develop even more, individually, and through interpersonal impact with our mentees and mentors.
The final part of the training was led by Marina Delić, head of learning and development in GI Group, the main educational partner of the “Creative Mentorship”. Marina guided the participants through the process of rethinking the past period, already set goals and expectations, as well as through rethinking the period ahead of us on a personal and professional level. She also helped participants to understand how we can adjust to the “new normal” and get the most of our work with a mentor or mentee in this new context.
During the workshop, Marina introduced mentors and mentees to the term VUCA environment. VUCA stands for an environment that consists of volatility, uncertainty complexity, and ambiguity. At the same time, these keywords respond to the challenges we have to face and overcome now, when it’s impossible to make any plans, due to the factors that destabilize and deny them every day. The response to the VUCA environment lies in the VUCA 2.0 environment. The ladder consists of elements that neutralize all the factors from the initial VUCA environment: vision, understanding, courage, and adaptability. Altogether, they make the agility – a very important skill in times when the only certain thing is uncertainty. Agility represents the ability to work fast, efficiently, and easily, which is in itself very demanding, in circumstances where none of the elements of the VUCA environment exist. That is why the agile approach is taken as a complete opposite of traditional planning which includes: long-term goals, detailed planning, risk analysis, doing only well-proved things as well as making only well-planned changes – something doable in the VUCA environment and completely unsustainable in the present situation.
Besides the workshops, the participants had a chance to meet and connect with members of the alumni network of creative mentorship. Nela Tonković, Dragana Tomić Pilipović, and Borut Vild shared their experience as participants in the “Creative Mentorship” program and their stories served as an inspiration to the current participants for their future work within the program. All three of them pointed out the importance of the community created around the “Creative Mentorship” and all the support it assures at any given moment. When it comes to the process of mentoring what is the most important for mentees is that they can meet somebody who believes in them even when they do not believe in themselves, but also somebody who will ask them the right questions and who will listen to them carefully and encourage them to rethink things as well as to approach things from a different angle. On the other hand, due to the lack of hierarchy between mentors and mentees, both sides can offer and take the knowledge and grow which is especially important for mentors. In the end, a good mentorship relationship relies on trust, recognition, and acceptance of differences. Mentorship is a process that does not stop after the end of the program of “Creative Mentorship”. Mentorship is something that can turn into a life-learning process and all the alumni members are eager to be mentors and mentees again and to switch these positions with time.
Besides this intergenerational connection, the current participants of the program could connect between themselves as well. In short “speed dating” sessions, they talked about the most important things in their projects, they could inspire each other to think of new ideas about future work.
The “New Normal” we are facing now is a great challenge on all the levels; changes are constant and adaptability became a necessary skill. Anyhow, this state of affairs can serve as motivation, only if we accept it. Sometimes, certain tools can help us with it, and we can practice them alone or with somebody else. Gaining insight through a series of questions or graphic representation of a relationship or a particular situation can help us see the whole picture and accept the position we are in, as well as to act and motivate ourselves to continue. That is why we invite you to use some examples above in your work on yourself, in your team or maybe some other kind of relationship/mentorship that you have. We should anyway try to utilize even the unusual times and challenges they bring as a resource to gain stability and fuel to overcome the obstacles in our growth.