At the start of October, Routes’ Autumn Cohort of mentors met for the first time, ready to embark on their ten-week mentoring journeys together. Our mentors come to us from a huge cross section of organisations; from public sector to private sector, large corporates to small start-ups. Despite their different backgrounds, this 15-strong group of women all share the compassion, commitment and dedication that characterise Routes mentors.
Session One: An Introduction
Our first session was all about introductions, both to our mentors and to the programme itself. We explored the foundations underpinning Routes mentoring and the expectations of our mentors and mentees.
Undoubtedly, the highlight of this session was hearing from Olivia Head (Regional Coordinator at Breaking Barriers and Co-Founder of Bread & Roses) who walked us through the intricacies and complexities of the asylum process in the UK, covering the different legal statuses and the rights attached to each one. Our mentors had the chance to ask questions and understand the context of their mentees experiences.
Session Two: Communication
Session two took place at the magical Ministry of Stories, a home for mentoring and storytelling in Hoxton: the perfect fit for this session. We began with a check-in, asking everyone to tell us about their first mentoring meetings… We heard stories of pairs who clicked immediately, their mentees greeting them with huge hugs; stories of mentees teaching mentors phrases in their mother tongue; stories of mentors who’s nerves were immediately appeased by mentees who were chatty and warm. And we also heard stories of mentors who felt nervous about the language barriers, as well as others who were at times unsure of how much to fill the inevitable silences that arise when meeting a new person for the first time.
So it was fitting that this session was all about exploring communication tools and techniques. We looked at how drawing can help someone to articulate their goals; using Dixit cards as conversation starters; getting to grips with the concept of scaling as a mentoring tool, and much more. We unpicked coaching models, including TGROW, OSCAR and CLEAR, analysing how useful each one may (or may not) be in their individual mentoring relationships.
By the time we came to our second check-in of the evening, it was already 8pm, yet our mentors were feeling 'grateful, open, engaged, inspired, excited, positive, motivated, determined, curious and contemplative, which provided the perfect ground on which to move on to some more communication training, this time with social entrepreneur, Laura Macartney. Laura has a background in forum theatre, conflict resolution and inter-generational facilitation. She drilled us in how to be effective, compassionate and non-directive communicators, sending our mentors off, heads buzzing with tools, techniques and activities, ready to meet their mentees for a second time.
Session Three: Leadership
Our third and final training session focussed on leadership, and we were lucky enough to hear from three brilliant leaders, who shared with us their own distinct definitions of leadership.
We heard from Amy Cooper about how mentoring can be used as a space for digestion and how growth comes in moments of collaboration and sharing; she talked about how mentoring can illuminate possibilities, identify drains, remove blocks and build bridges.
Accenture’s Roshni Patel then walked us through her own experiences and definitions of leadership, centred around five pillars: be yourself; be curious and learn; build strong teams; have fun; strive to make a positive impact.
Finally, we heard from Cat Totty, whose experiences as a West End theatre director informed the way that she understands and practises leadership today. She talked about her work as a brand development consultant and the ways in which she has learnt to managed teams and individuals to get the most out of everyone she works with.
In the discussion that followed, we touched upon using reflection as a learning tool, building non-hierarchical relationships, communicating across language and cultural barriers and more...
With these three training sessions behind them, our mentors will continue to meet up over the next seven weeks. They will share advice and resources, draw on one another for support and guidance, and come together to reflect on their mentoring experiences, all with support from the Routes team.
We can’t wait to see their mentoring relationships develop and grow between now and Christmas!