Beyond Mentoring: The Next Level is Collaborative Relationships

By Annabelle Reitman and Sylvia Benatti

Traditionally, in a mentoring relationship, a senior-level person provides guidance, support, and information for a younger person just beginning in a career. However, with rapid changes in the workplace, people living and working longer, and several career/job movements and shifts being the norm, an up-dated perspective of mentoring and learning is needed.


Why Mentoring Partnerships?

With several generations in the workplace, being able to communicate without any misunderstandings is key to success. Each generation has different communication and work practices. These differences need to be understood and accepted. This led us to view mentoring as a series of intergenerational conversations. In the workshops we facilitated in 2009, we focused on these conversations as a means to build a collaborative relationship for talent retention, career development, and on-going engagement.


“Intergenerational conversations” and “collaborative relationships” naturally led to thinking of partnerships. Thus, a mentoring partnership is a two-way inclusive interaction, with an exchange of insights, knowledge, and expertise. This relationship provides learning benefits for both participants; generational status is not a factor.


Individual and Organization Benefits

  1. Individual Benefits:

    • Obtain customized desired learning in a one-on-one situation, convenient in time, place, and method

    • Create new and stronger bonding among colleagues

    • Expand knowledge, insights, and expertise in organizational, personal and professional arenas as a two-way learning exchange

    • Develop larger professional networks by having access to a new range of contacts made possible by a mentoring partner.

  2. Organization Benefits:

    • Quickly engage new talent in establishing trust and identifying with the organization and its culture by building stronger ties and working relationships

    • Retain the engagement of senior-level members with opportunities to learn while passing on their legacies

    • Sustain engagement and prevent loss of emerging talent

    • Enhance leadership and succession planning.


Launching the Program

With the development of a general overall mentoring partnership program and format, we approached the Metro DC American Society of Training and Development (DC ASTD) Chapter in summer 2010 with a proposal to launch a program as a service for members.


This group was chosen for the following reasons:

  • It is one of the larger ASTD chapters with a diverse training and development membership.

  • We are both past chapter presidents and our creditability and professionalism is well established.

  • The 2009 Board had some interest in initiating a mentoring service for the members. Therefore, the timing was right.

  • Michele Moore, now the 2011 President, thought our partnership approach to mentoring would be compatible with DC ASTD's members’ diverse backgrounds and experiences.

  • DC ASTD participants would be in a unique position to take this program into their own organizations. Thus more organizations would be exposed to this type of partnership and spread the ability of a new view of mentoring to be launched.


Highlights of Program Implementation

  • Orientation: An Orientation Session was held Saturday November 6, 2010. Presentation and discussion stressed that participants would agree to a 3 to 6- month commitment and complete a mentoring partnership agreement. The idea was introduced that communication and meetings could be held in a variety of ways including face-to-face, phone, Skype, texting, etc. A matching process was conducted whereby each attendee listed what they wanted to learn and what they could teach/share within three major categories: Professional, Chapter Involvement, and Personal. Preliminary matches were made and people had the opportunity to explore tentative pairings. Nine people attended and four matches were made including the 2011 President-Elect and three other 2011 Board members.


  • Introduction of Program: Participants met on Saturday January 15, 2011 and Mentoring Partnership Guidelines were distributed and reviewed. This document includes such topics as a) Staying on Track – Accomplishing Your Learning Outcomes, b) Mentoring Partnership Sessions, c) Communications, d) Feedback Tips (between partners), and e) Co-coordinator’s Commitment to Remain in Contact. A Mentor Partnership Accountability Checklist was included.


  • February thru June 2011: Individual e-mails were sent as a “checking in” communication, asking participants five rating questions about how the partnership and learning was progressing. April brings the initiation of the blog for Coordinators and Participants Only to share experiences, express concerns, and/or discuss the mentor partnership approach and philosophy. A mid-point check-in session, followed by a teleconference call between the coordinators and each partnership will be held. In June, to celebrate the completion of the mentoring partnership period and the learning that was achieved, a get-together will be held. Evaluation and feedback will also take place.


Participant’s Learning Objectives

The following are adapted from the mentor partnership agreements indicating what learning topics/skills participants would be teaching/sharing with each other:

  • Role of social media in the learning and development field

  • Creating, modifying, and implementing project management tools

  • Better use of technology to facilitate blended learning strategies

  • Understanding inter-workings and processes in Federal agencies

  • Getting feedback on consulting preparations.


Projected Outcomes

A participant is already interested in initiating this program in her organization. Given that people are working longer, and younger talent face career movement options, a mentoring partnership approach is a viable, tactic to take. For further information, please contact mentoringstrategies@gmail.com



Annabelle Reitman, Ed.D, a career management strategist and author, with over 30 years experience in career coaching/counseling. Email address: anreitman@verizon.net


Sylvia Benatti is the Executive Director, American Humanics Certificate in Nonprofit Leadership Program at the University of the District of Columbia. Email address: nonprofitmgt@yahoo.com

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