Co-mentoring is an efficient, free way to get and give help

Posted Nov 01, 2014

It seems that people are meaner or at least colder than in times past. Perhaps it’s caused, at least in part, by the scarcity that’s creeping over America like Kilauea volcano lava. Maybe more people feel that, to survive, they must accomplish more in less time, and amid the pressure, have less time and energy for other-directedness.

In the face of that, it may be out-of-step to encourage generosity, friendship, and altruism. It may be more realistic to encourage people to enter into the sort of relationship that helps a person be more effective in dealing with life’s issues. One type of such a relationship is co-mentoring. 

A model of co-mentoring

Here’s how you might co-mentor:

1. Pick a person you respect, who is benevolent of spirit, a patient and perceptive listener who also is able to come up with smart solutions.

2. Agree to meet periodically—weekly, semi-weekly, or monthly for an agreed amount of time, perhaps 30 minutes or an hour.

3. In the first half of the session, you present a problem on which you’d like your “mentor’s”  input or reflective listening. If you’ve received enough input before half the session is over, you can move to another topic.Topics can be anything: career, money, relationships, health, even what car to buy.

The mentor typically starts out by listening carefully to the person’s stated problem, asking questions to clarify or help expand the protégé’s understanding of the problem and/or coming up with a solution. If the protégé is unable to come up with an approach s/he’s pleased with, the mentor can ask if s/he might offer a suggestion. Of course, that’s just a model, which should be adjusted to the protégé’s desires, the mentor’s strengths, and the particular problem being discussed.

4. In the second half of the session, reverse roles.

Benefits of co-mentoring

1. Unlike when hiring a consultant or counselor, it’s free. Not only does that save money but it avoids the possibility that the counselor, to make money, fosters inappropriate dependency which makes the client keep making appointments. A variation on that: The counselor unduly praises and agrees with the client in hopes that will make him or her want to keep paying for more sessions.

2. There’s no hierarchical imbalance—Each of you is the mentor for half the session.

3. Co-mentoring can lead into a friendship that goes beyond the co-mentoring relationship.

Limitations of co-mentoring

1. If one or both people aren’t professional counselors or coaches, they likely won’t have as sophisticated a set of listening skills, psychological insight, and questioning strategies.

2. Co-mentoring requires both parties to meet at the same frequency. There would be a problem if one wanted to meet weekly while the other preferred monthly.

A variation; The Board of Advisors

Co-mentoring needn’t be limited to pairs. You could invite four to eight people to comprise a Board of Advisors. The only difference from the co-mentoring model outlined above is that, in a single session, it’s unlikely that all participants will get to present a problem.

The takeaway

Co-mentoring, whether in pairs or a group, can’t take the place of a professional therapist or of a full-fledged friend but in our ever more pressured, expediency-centered lives, it’s worth considering. I’ve been in a co-mentoring relationship and on a Board of Advisors for years and continue to find both valuable and enjoyable.

Marty Nemko's bio is in Wikipedia