The Beginning of the Creative Leaders Mentorship Programme: Successful Two-Day Exchange of Knowledge, Experience, and Encouragement
During the first weekend in December 2023, the Creative Leaders Mentorship Programme’s kick off workshop was held, in Belgrade. This mentoring cycle is supported by the British Council as a part of the project “Culture and Creativity for the Western Balkans” (CC4WBs). CC4WBs is a project funded by the European Union that aims to foster dialogue in the Western Balkans by enhancing the cultural and creative sectors for increased socio-economic impact.
This tailor-made programme’s concept is based on the methodology of the Creative Mentorship organisation and delivered by Creative Mentorship team, running from December 2023 to December 2024.
The mentorship pairs had their first opportunity to meet in person and together with other participants attend various sessions designed specially for them. The aim was to kickstart their joint mentorship journey for the next 12 months within the Creative Leaders Mentorship Programme. Over the two days, the long-term Creative Mentorship’s educational partner Pamela Von Sabljar – an educator with over 25+ years of experience in leadership, professional and personal development, and interpersonal relationships, facilitated interactive workshop’s sessions. Beside Pamela, the Founder and Directress of the Creative Mentorship – Dragana Jevtić, and Programme Manager – Adna Alihodžić, were also engaged in presentations and panel discussions with new mentees and mentors. Our team was more than pleased to welcome and host all participants, emphasizing that this is the first time that programmes’ mentees and mentors are coming from all countries across the Western Balkans region.
Next to new mentoring pairs, trainer Pamela Von Sabljar, volunteers and the Creative Mentorship team, representatives from the British Council were also present. -The British Council’s CC4WBs Project Director Bojana Čolović, shared greetings and excitement about the programme’s start. Bojana also emphasized that all participants will definitely gain valuable skills and experiences crucial for their further professional and personal development in the coming year.
During the first day, participants had the opportunity to learn more about the basics of a successful mentoring relationship through communication, creativity and empathy. Through interactive assessments facilitated by Pamela Von Sabljar, attendees acknowledge new communication approaches and useful tools, as well as the possibilities and ways to use them during the mentorship processes.
As Pamela highlighted, and all participants agreed, trust is a crucial factor in building a mentoring relationship. She also emphasized that a mentoring pair consists of two equal individuals who have entered into a mentoring relationship and together started their own mentorship journey. Pamela underlines: ‘You always give and receive in a mentoring relationship.’ Trust is built through action — openness and ability to show vulnerability and authenticity. Active listening and capacity to be present during mentoring conversations are important principles of a mentorship relationship. In order to build trust, advice for mentors is to share not only the successes but also the failures, as sharing both experiences can cherish a relationship based on trust and openness.
One of the prejudgments related to mentoring relationships is that a mentee should come to the mentoring meeting with prepared answers to mentor’s questions asked during the previous meeting. For the beginning, sometimes it is enough for a mentee to have an open conversation with a mentor, articulate the challenges and obstacles, and answers, as well as solutions, would arise during that conversation in a short time. An important piece of advice for mentoring pairs is to cling to a principle which involves three segments: preparation for the meeting, the meeting itself and reflection after the meeting. Allocating time for preparation, defining meeting topics and working areas will bring multiple benefits. Furthermore, sending 2-3 bullet points to the mentor as a preparation, can strengthen a focused conversation and improve mentoring meeting. After the mentoring meeting, it is crucial to allocate the time to write down notes and conclusions, as well as the additional tasks for research, reading or action points. With such a dedicated approach, the potential and effects of each mentoring meeting are being maximized.
Pamela’s advice to all participants was to allow themselves failures within the mentoring journey, as well as to not take them too seriously. This mindset Pamela terms as ‘Loving failures’ – understanding, accepting or even encouraging mistakes as part of the learning and growth process. She adds: ‘Do take yourself seriously and don’t take yourself too seriously.’, and interpret that while entering a one-year programme, mentees and mentors should take it seriously and bring in all their dreams, plans, and desires, while, on the other hand, she encourages participants to allow failures, be curious, try something new and believe in that process.
On Sunday, December 3rd, the first part of the day was intended only for mentees with the aim to get to know each other better and build a group spirit. This was also an opportunity to talk about the role of mentee and what is needed to create a safe space for mutual support and progress. As a successful long-term practice, Creative Mentorship’s alumni mentees also participated in the last session and openly shared their experiences and advice based on their previous participation in our programme. Once again, it is proved that this kind of experiences exchange between peers is more than significant and encouraging for mentees while taking the first steps in a mentorship relationship.
At the end of the mentoring session for mentees, attendees described in one word or feeling what are the key takeaways from the two-day Kick off workshop. Some of the words we single out are: empowerment, new relationships, different perspectives, motivation, power, inspiration, curiosity, self-reflection, joy, encouragement, nostalgia, feeling of a new beginning, connection, optimism, self-confidence… Additionally, we highlight few sentences spoken by the mentees during the workshop’s end:
- Believe in a matching process.
- Get to know all the other participants in this programme, they are like a treasure box. Don’t focus just on yourself.
- Show up as you are, right now, in this moment.
On the same day, the afternoon session with mentors aimed to remind mentors about the successful communication skills, as well as about how to build a trusting relationship in a mentoring pair. The topics that Pamela, Dragana and Adna discussed with mentors were: how to build a mentoring relationship, how to help the mentee gain their own insight, how to deal with current questions, doubts and challenges. Alumni mentors of the Creative Mentorship supported this session and through active participation shared their experiences, tips and practices which certainly contributed that current mentors wrap up the workshop inspired and empowered.
After the Kick Off workshop, mentees and mentors will start with their mentoring pairs meetings, which will be implemented during the next 12 months and continuously supported by the Creative Mentorship team. Throughout the next year, we are planning other joint gatherings and workshops, and more information about it will be announced in the upcoming months.