Can you mentor more than one person at a time?

21 Nov

Can you mentor more than one person at a time?

Recently I was asked by a small business with two managing partners, if I could mount a mentoring programme for the two of them – not individually but concurrently. This gave me pause for thought. Normally my mentoring had been on a strictly one-to-one basis. A key part of the process is always analyzing and evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of the client. I always focus on the strengths as this is where real opportunities lie. However, this does require frank discussions about weaknesses and areas where attention may be required. Obviously this could present issues where you are working with more than one person.

In this case, I was fairly relaxed as the two participants had a very open and collaborative relationship.The nature of their business was such that there were advantages to working with the two of them. However, I could see that this would not always be the case and rather than handling a one-to-one mentoring role, it might be the case that a mentor might find themself managing complex group dynamics. This could be very different from the more intimate relationship normally enjoyed.

I then took the concept further in my mind – imagine if the group became of such a size that you were effectively mentoring a whole department or whole company? Clearly you would no longer be performing the role of mentor as currently understood. It may be business advice, even coaching – but not the personal developmental role of a mentor.

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  1. Hi Ian: It certainly is possible to mentor more than one person at the same time. Typically the two considerations are (1) the needs of each person you’re being asked to mentor; and (2) your resources (time, energy, stamina, and such).

    You could also consider acting as a mentor to both at the same time; that is, both managing partners meet with you at the same time. This often has not only time-saving advantages, but can sometimes add another element of peer mentoring where the partners co-mentor each other while you facilitate relationship building conversation.

    In either option, I always make sure I start by being clear about the needs of each mentoring partner. I typically ask them to detail what they hope to gain as a result of mentoring—the more specific they can be the more likely you can determine whether you have the resources (and whether mentoring is the best way to meet their needs.) This can be done together or separately.

    I’ve worked with several people I’ve mentored in a group setting, and as long as everyone is clear about and agrees to the structure of such meetings, they are highly successful and effective.

  2. Thanks for the viewpoint and useful insight. I guess I get fuzzy about where mentoring becomes group workshops – and vice versa. When the group gets to a certain size can you stil mentor the individuals successfully? But like you said – it’s important to be clear on the objectives.

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