Within a mentoring relationship, we turn dreams into reality together!
Kick-off training for participants of the VI cycle of the “Creative Mentoring” program was held
During the weekend of November 27 and 28, mentees and mentors of the current generation attended the first, joint training. During the two days of the program, the participants first met through an exchange and guidance by Pamela von Sabljar, a longtime partner of the program, followed by a short presentation by Dragana Jevtic, director of the “Creative Mentorship” who presented the program. Sunday was dedicated to the first questions related to the program, recognizing what a mentoring program is or is not, with the support of Daša Spasojević, manager of the Network of Mentors of “Creative Mentorship” and Pamela von Sabljar. Finally, participants had the opportunity to connect with program alumni and hear their experiences.
In this text, we will share with you the most important segments, tools, and recommendations that we talked about, which can help you in your mentoring work.
We grow through learning
The workshop of connecting mentors and mentees took place through a constant exchange of experiences, asking questions, and rethinking. In that way, we created a safe space for opening up, necessary for establishing trust in the mentoring relationship.
To understand what we expect from a mentoring relationship, Pamela asked three important questions:
What does the word mentoring mean to me? What is my experience with mentoring so far?
What does it mean to be a mentor, what does it mean to be a mentee, and what does that relationship mean to us? What emotions and associations do the word mentoring evoke for me? Very often, it is associated with learning, growth, exchange, and trust. It is also described as establishing a learning space where we can make mistakes without experiencing condemnation, and that it is important to recognize our failures and challenges as learning opportunities.
Pamela encouraged us to always listen to the body, re-examine the feelings that various situations provoke in us, and consider whether we present ourselves in a real light in a mentoring relationship.
Let’s challenge ourselves
In order to achieve growth and progress within the mentoring relationship, it is important to test getting out of the comfort zone. Although the comfort zone is not bad in itself, by getting familiar with the feeling that brings moving into the learning zone and accepting it, we expand the comfort zone. This process is very significant for both parties involved – by deepening the relationship through joint learning and expanding boundaries, a stronger bond is established between the mentor and the mentee, and the opportunities for solving complex challenges are greater.
Recognizing the models and levels of discussion
Depending on the topic and range of reactions during communication, we can distinguish four levels of conversation: drama, where the focus is on who made the mistake, the situation, which is focused on finding a quick and effective solution, choice, when choose who we want to be and how we want to connect with the situation or opportunity, where we view each situation as an opportunity for learning and transformation.
By applying this approach on a daily basis, in different relationships, we get used to selecting our reactions and developing empathy as well as the ability to recognize at which level our interlocutor is moving and how to bridge the difference, if any.
What is my attitude towards feedback? How do I feel when I think of feedback?
Although it may have a negative connotation and prove to be a bad experience, it is important to view feedback as an opportunity to learn rather than as a condemning critique. By thinking about our attitude towards feedback, we can change it and use it for personal progress: What if we experience feedback as a gift to which we assign a purpose? What if we choose to use it for our own growth? It is essential to know that the approach and reactions we select play a big role and that the feedback we receive does not diminish the meaning of what we do or say.
It is recommended that we communicate the recovered information using the sandwich method, in order to increase the possibility to convey our comments efficiently and that they are not perceived as criticism.
How does the mentoring ecosystem work?
Sunday morning was designed for mentors to first gain a general picture of what a mentoring relationship is, what it is not, and then to hear the experiences and advice of alumni mentors. Daša Spasojević assisted them in this process.
As the mentees and their needs are at the heart of the “Creative Mentorship” program, it is advised to them to lead the relationship, initiate mentoring meetings, and think of topics to discuss. The mentor’s role is to listen to the mentee, encourage them to think, and help them stay focused. A mentor is not a therapist. Their role is constructive and represents the guardian of the relationship built with the mentee. The mentor should not offer ready-made solutions or impose their opinion. They should think about the ultimate goal and, above all, well define the expectations at the very beginning of the joint work, together with the mentee.
The elements involved in the mentoring relationship can be represented symbolically, through the ecosystem that consists of the mentor, the mentee, the mentee’s goal and the environment. Their variability and intertwining make the relationship itself changeable. Changes in the environment can lead to a change in the goal, which can then be reflected in the relationship and communication between the mentee and the mentor.
If we are not sure how to direct ourselves within the mentoring relationship, and in what way the experience of mentoring permeates us, we can ask ourselves the following questions:
What do I bring to the mentoring relationship from my inner world?
The most common answer would be knowledge and support, but we should not forget that they appear in different forms. What informal or life knowledge do we bring? In what ways can I express support for the mentee, perhaps through feedback or something else?
Why am I coming into this relationship, and what will I take from that relationship?
All that you think can be useful to you, and that the mentee can give you, is what you take from the relationship. Different areas, professions, years and mentoring environments can contribute to your personal development and the adoption of new perspectives.
What do I bring to the mentee’s inner world?
These can be different values or positive changes such as encouragement, empowerment, support, or insights into processes.
What do I, as a mentor, bring to the communication models with the mentee?
What communication skills do I have that can be useful to the mentee? Ensuring a dialogue of trust, honesty and concreteness can help the mentee in their work and encourage them on the path of learning.
However, in order to avoid sharing things or touching on topics that we do not like, it is very important to define the rules of communication at the very beginning, to eliminate assumptions and possible misunderstandings.
What do I bring in relation to the mentee’s goal?
Thanks to the experience that the mentor has, he can share with the mentee their methods and different ways to reach the goal, operational things in achieving the goal, or how to bring the goal closer to reality, if it turns out to be too ambitious.
All these questions can be used later while working with the mentee. In addition to them, mentors also have mentoring tools at their disposal, which serve as support during mentoring meetings and provide effective communication through active listening, opening a discussion on the way to achieving the mentor’s goal.
Mentors of the 6th cycle had the opportunity to meet with mentors from previous cycles. Alumni shared their experiences in working with mentees, answers to challenges they encountered, such as changing the goals or interests of the mentee.
One of the most important tasks in mentoring work was pointed out by Nana Radenković, explaining that it is of great benefit for working together on mentee’s project, to recognize what is realistic when it comes to goals. In addition, the mentor needs to help the mentee separate the personal goals from the ones of their organization. However, it should be borne in mind that changing the structure of the initially defined idea does not mean failure, because progress through the program is an objective in itself. Also, the success of the project does not reflect the success of the mentoring relationship.
During the Sunday afternoon, the mentees talked with Pamela von Sabljar about the dilemmas and fears regarding the mentoring relationship. In order to have a clearer picture of what can help them in their work, as well as what hinders them, the participants took the time to think about what inspires them, and what triggers them and provokes violent reactions. This procedure was very important for them to recognize that the things they like, but also the ones that are less pleasant, are actually already in them. After that, they can dissect and analyze them, but also learn why they feel certain feelings and how to use them for their own progress.
There were a few major topics pointed out as the backbone of the Kick-off: the importance of presenting ourselves without exaggeration, leaving room for vulnerability, reflection and giving the mentor the opportunity to be there for us, to understand us and push us when needed, especially if we feel the resistance to it. It is essential to be present at the moment and to reconsider our impressions.
The slogan of the “Creative Mentorship” conveys the values of the program and also emphasizes the importance of communication between two individuals, which also exists in a mentoring relationship: We create a better society one conversation at a time. By exchanging energy and compassion through dialogue, we create an environment for learning, a space in which potential is realized.