OUTreach/ More Mentor Modes

Photo by Geralt on Pixabay

Photo by Geralt on Pixabay


Manila, 10 July 2019 — What are you looking for in a community of sustainability leaders? Sign up and let us know!

A Community of Leaders?

Collaboration is said to be one of the most important 21st-century skills, together with critical thinking and creativity.

If you want to develop solutions to the world’s most pressing problems, the need for collaboration comes to mind right away. There is no way that any of us is going to make a significant difference as long as we keep working individually, in our comfort zones, and our organizational silos. To create change, we need to collaborate.

When I asked Andrés Cabrera Flamini, a lecturer and researcher in water services management at IHE-Delft, what he would like to find in a community of leaders, his answer was “Hope!”

After a pause for reflection, he continued, “I want to learn from and with other leaders how to challenge the status quo so that we can help to transform society to deal with the momentous challenges we are facing. That’s why I said Hope.”

Leaders like Andrés, who nurture a collaborative approach to learning and productivity, are ready to listen, unlearn, and then learn anew.

What he discovered, after taking on the challenge of integrating leadership development into an IHE-Delft’s master of science program for the first time, was that active listening was a key for success in collaborative learning.

Active Listening

“Whenever I practiced active listening with a coaching style,” explained Andrés, “I saw how a transformative learning experience became possible, not just for my student, mentee, or colleague, but also for me. I felt transformed too. That’s why I am now motivated to join a community of leaders, to learn and make a contribution, and help others.”

Mentoring, as mentioned by Andrés, is a powerful way to build collaboration for change.

However, even mentoring needs a makeover if we want to use 21st-century skills and are ready to unlearn and learn anew, experimenting with new approaches. I call them mentor modes, and I see three modes we can experiment with, especially in building a community of peers who are leaders for sustainability.

Traditional Mentoring

The first mode is regular or traditional mentoring, where a person with less experience (the mentee) benefits from working with a person with more experience (the mentor).

Often, although not necessarily, this turns out to be an older person mentoring a younger person, across generations.

While there are many pitfalls to be avoided in traditional mentoring, there is no doubt about the benefits and results that such a mentoring relationship can deliver, and I therefore see this mentor mode continuing into the future, including as an integral part of many leadership development programs.

Peer Mentoring

The second mode I see is peer mentoring. Research shows that this has more recently become popular in universities, where students were observed to help fellow students navigate the demands of their demanding academic program and the associated life challenges and steps to start a career.

Sammi Caramela, a writer for the Business News Daily, makes a case for a broader interpretation of peer mentoring, with which I agree. After underlining that having and being a mentor are equally beneficial, she introduces a new perspective, that “playing both the mentor and mentee role in the same relationship” is a key to success.

“Peer mentoring,” she says, pointing to a necessary mindset, “is a form of mentoring that encourages a give-and-take dynamic, where both people offer advice and learn from each other.”

That sounds a lot like collaboration to me, and this give-and-take dynamic is, I believe, what we want to see more of in our 21st-century mentoring relationships, based on a collaborative approach.

Reverse Mentoring

The third mode is reverse mentoring. Clemson Turragano, a director for custom solutions at the Center for Creative Leadership, describes how reverse mentoring, which typically takes place between a Millennial staff (as the mentor) and an older professional or executive (as the mentee), is often a response to the twin corporate challenges of digital transformation and cross-generational collaboration.

“In the best mentoring relationships, both people learn,“ he observed, explaining how he himself not only learned about Millennials’ new way of thinking and fresh perspectives but also, “my favorite, the simple energy they often bring to working on something they are passionate about.”

With that, Turragano gives us another important pointer to the need for engaging a 21st-century mindset.

Still, I would like to see us go further, to explore new ways to create reverse mentoring relationships. When our aim is to develop collaborative learning relationships that are cross-generational, why not explore how Millennials can initiate reverse mentoring rather than wait to be invited?

These and other important topics will be explored in the community of leaders we are building, and for which we are starting the pre-launch discussions.

Is it a community for you?

Yes — if you are passionate about sustainability and you are an executive, an expert, or an emerging leader with at least two years of working experience after your college degree.

Yes — if you are an engineer, city planner, water manager, social entrepreneur, or other development professional and you want to become a change maker.

Yes — if you are ready to get out of your comfort zone to take on the challenge of growing leaders around you while you work on your own communication and leadership skills.

After reading that, are you interested to join? Membership will be free of charge—not free of commitment. Sign up now so you can let us know what are you looking for in a peer learning community of sustainability leaders.

Summing up, fresh insights into collaborative learning approaches and more mentor modes can help leaders find new ways to challenge the status quo and become change makers in their business, organization, and projects, to advance sustainability and find better solutions to the world’s most pressing problems.

Join the pre-launch discussion for a community of leaders who learn collaboratively.