Mentoring/coaching doesn’t just happen when you pay someone who’s more experienced than you. It can also happen among your very peers — and such a partnership can have bond and strength that few other relationships can. Let me tell you about my peer-mentoring partner, and invite you to join me in forming a new peer-mentoring group for bloggers.
One of my close friends is my friend Lorie Marsh, who is an independent film producer.
She and I met in Austin, Texas, in 2000, when I was getting into making music for indie films. She was shooting her first short, and we hit it off really well.
A while after the film was finished, I proposed to her that we start a peer-mentoring partnership, by getting together on a regular basis and taking turns mentoring each other. I remember hesitating before making such an initiative, but in the end, I’m really glad I took the risk — it started one of the most enduring and productive friendships in my life. I have many fond memories of talking to Lorie, and our sessions produced many a-ha moments, inspirations and motivations.
She and I have been together in our many ups and downs of our artistic careers. I remember one time where we role-played a therapy session in which a teenage version of me came out and talked about why I thought I was no good as a guitar player. It was a revelatory session that eventually led to my raising that inner child and gaining a more solid confidence in myself as a musician.
To this day, this practice continues, and she and I are entering new phases in our careers in the adapted hometown of St. Paul, MN, where both of us with our respective families moved together, semi-intentionally.
Unique Power of Peer-Mentoring
There are many reasons why peer-mentoring relationships can be very powerful. Unlike more hierarchical relationship of traditional teacher-student or mentor-mentee, peer-mentoring is truly about partnership, bonded by a sense that “we are in it together.” Though Lorie and I were pursuing different industries, there were many similarities to our challenges and how we felt about them. When we relate to each other, we know that such a connection is based on our shared first-hand experience. The other person has really recently gone through the same thing. Also, peer-mentoring is about reciprocating — helping and being helped. It charges us in a very powerful way, because both helping and being helped are energizing experience. You don’t feel like you’re taking advantage of someone or you’re at the other person’s mercy. You feel that you really made a difference in someone’s life, while your own itches were also scratched.
How to Make Peer-Mentoring Work
Even though you form this relationship with your peers, it’s in your best interest to give it a little structure to maximize its impact. Here are some guidelines we follow, though some more loosely than others:
- Meet on a regular basis. Are you sporadic about your pursuits? If so, then I’m sure that’ll show in your results, or lack thereof. If you want it to work, you gotta make it a habit.
- Take turns focusing on one party. Lorie and I always take turns being the mentor and mentee. Otherwise, a loose conversation has too great a chance for going adrift. When it’s our time to mentor, we just set aside our own issues and listen and respond.
- Keep each other accountable. Need I say more?
- Be honest. If your personal security and friendship aren’t secure enough for honesty, then you can’t really give useful feedback. When the situation calls for it, be honest and say “I’ll support you with whatever decisions you make, but if I were in your shoes, I wouldn’t do what you’re doing.”
- Be always supportive. As I said above, this is about helping each other gain clarity and be productive. Sometimes your partner will choose to do something you wouldn’t, and that shouldn’t affect your support for each other. After all, being a mentor doens’t mean you make your mentee what you think is right.
I truly believe that we are the ones who do the teaching, not the teachers/mentors/coaches/doctors that we pay money to provide us information. I am definitely not advocating that teachers, consultants and coaches are useless. But Lorie and I solved a lot of problems on our own, simply by thinking out loud and bouncing ideas off of each other. Don’t underestimate the power of a friendship. Go bring in the experts where you need such knowledge, but if you want more long-term, mutually beneficial, go-get-em-tiger productive partnership, find yourself a trusted friend or two and form a peer-mentoring group. Teachers can teach you what to do — and peers can help you do them.
Do You Want to Join a Peer-Mentoring Group?
I am forming Blog Entrepreneur Mentoring Club, a peer-mentoring community of aspiring bloggers. You can read more about what I’m proposing — or simply enter your e-mail below to be notified when I’m ready to open the doors.