When it comes to mentorship, there's no shortage of research supporting its immense benefits for mentor and mentee alike. In fact, 71 percent of people with mentors say the experience resulted in great career advancements.
Some lesser-known research by The Art of Mentoring, however, reveals that only 1 in 3 programs actually work if mentors and mentees aren't given the necessary guidance to succeed.
This makes sense in practice — especially when you consider that just 10 percent of us are natural-born leaders, and we aren't all intuitive when it comes to mentoring another person.
In this article, our aim is to provide you with some reliable guidelines and ideas for activities you can employ in your next mentorship meeting. These examples are highly effective and bound to set your partnership up for success.
Let's dive right in.
What are mentoring activities?
When mentors and mentees are paired, it is often unclear as to what should happen next. Are you going to have regularly scheduled meetups? Will you talk mostly about work-related things, or is it okay to chat about personal issues too?
The answer is — it depends. And, more specifically, it depends on the goals you're hoping to achieve with your mentorship program.
Mentoring activities are simply any specific tasks or exercises that you and your mentee participate in together. They can be designed to help build relationships, impart knowledge, or solve problems.
Where casual or situational mentorships tend to take place in an informal fashion – offering advice and answering questions where needed, or providing support when a colleague is going through a tough time – more formal mentorship programs generally benefit from planned activities.
But don't be fooled; structured doesn't mean boring! In fact, well-planned activities can actually make the mentorship experience more enjoyable for both parties and help to establish goals and objectives early on.
Let's jump into some examples.
Mentoring activities to try
Studies show that the best mentorships are built on a foundation of trust, respect, flexibility, and open and honest communication. If you keep these values in mind, your mentoring activities will naturally reflect that.
Here are a few ideas to get you started:
Ice Breaker Activities
Let's face it – icebreakers have a reputation of being awkward, stilted, and downright cheesy. But when used correctly, they can actually be a great way to get to know someone better and help jumpstart the flow of communication.
There are plenty of different icebreaker activities to choose from, but here are a couple of our favourites:
Quick Questions: Before meeting up with your mentee, suggest that each of you write down a list of 10 quick questions. This can be anything from "What's your favourite TV show?" to "How do you like to relax?" Once you're together, take turns asking each other the questions.
Living or Dead: Ask your mentee who they would meet and why, if they could meet any person in the world – living or dead. You'll be surprised at how much this reveals about someone's interests and values.
1-On-1 Mentoring Activities
If you are in a traditional 1-on-1 mentorship program, it's important to direct your mentee's development by planning activities that will help them grow.
Some great 1-on-1 mentoring activities include:
Skills Development: Choose a skill that your mentee would like to develop and lead a mini-workshop on how to improve that skill. This could be anything from public speaking to time management. Draw upon your own personal experiences and expertise to help them grow.
Career Mapping: Does your mentee have a planned-out path for their career? If not, help them create one. Map out the steps they'll need to take to achieve their goals, and offer advice and support along the way.
Project-Based Learning: Give your mentee the opportunity to work on a project that interests them. This can be anything from starting a business to writing a book. Guide them through the process, offer feedback, and celebrate their successes along the way.
Peer Mentoring Activities
There won't always be enough senior mentors to go around between the employees in your organization, which is why some teams choose to pair employees of similar rank together to form peer mentorships.
Peer mentoring activities can be a great way for employees to learn from their colleagues and develop their skills. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
Book Club: Thousands of excellent professional development books exist, and there's no better way to absorb their lessons than by discussing them with your peer mentor. Choose a book each month and meet up to chat about it.
Problem-Solving Sessions: When faced with a difficult problem, most people tend to reach out to their mentors for help. Why not do the same with a group of peers? Meet up regularly to brainstorm solutions to workplace challenges.
Skill-Sharing: Are you an expert at public speaking? Excel macros? Share your skills and knowledge with your peer mentor and learn from them in return.
Elevator Pitch Sessions: In most cases, you only have a few seconds to make an impression on someone. Help one another perfect your elevator pitches by practicing with your mentor and offering feedback.
Group Mentoring Activities
Group mentorship offers many advantages for teams wanting to improve their relationship and cooperation. For example, when team members are brought together to mentor each other, it can help build team cohesion and communication.
Group mentoring also provides a greater source of feedback for individuals, as they can interact with their peers and learn from more than one person.
Here are a few group mentoring activities to get you started:
Bucket List Brainstorms: What are the things you've always wanted to do? Help your mentees brainstorm a list of life goals, and offer advice on how to achieve them.
Career Exploration: If you are mentoring a group of people all pursuing different career paths, help them explore the different options available to them. This could involve researching different jobs, attending job fairs, or networking with professionals in their desired field.
Team Building: Working together to achieve a common goal is a great way to build team morale and relationships. Choose an activity that your mentees are interested in and work together to complete it – like an escape room, for instance, or an actual challenge you are facing within your company.
Virtual Mentoring Activities
Remote communication is no passing craze – it's the future of the workplace. This is why virtual mentoring activities are so important.
If your team is spread out across different locations, or if you're working with a remote mentee, virtual activities can help bridge the gap. Here are a few ideas:
Highs and Lows: Every week, ask your mentee about the highest and lowest points of their week. This will help you understand them better and provide support where needed.
Career Updates: Keep your mentee up-to-date on your own career progress by sharing articles, blog posts, or even just pictures of your new office.
Mood Boards: Help your mentee visualize their goals by creating a mood board together. Collect images, quotes, and other pieces of inspiration that represent what they want their future to look like.
Discuss Books and Podcasts: As part of your regular meetups, discuss the books and podcasts you've been listening to lately. This is a great way to learn about your mentee's interests and discover new content.
Create SMART Goals: Help your mentee set goals that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. Make a record of these goals and check in on them regularly.
Ready To Kick-Start Your Mentoring Program?
Hopefully, these ideas have given you some food for thought when it comes to planning your next mentorship activity – but if the task feels overwhelming, there's no need to go it alone. We're here to help.
Our team of experienced professionals can work with you to develop a custom mentorship program that meets your specific needs. From curated mentorship plans to powerful analytics and progress tracking, our mentoring software has you covered.
Interested in building a best-in-class mentoring program? Book a 15-minute call with our team, and we'll walk you through the benefits of using our platform. We'd be thrilled to work with you.