If I asked you to think about mentorship, you would likely picture someone who invests their time and attention to guiding your career development. Someone who meets you for coffee on a regular basis to help you set goals and track your progress toward achieving them. Or maybe it’s someone who helps you prepare for important discussions around promotions and salary increases with your employer. In most cases, you can draw a straight line from where you are in your career to where they are in theirs, and count the ways they are helping you walk that path.

But what if mentorship looked more like a circle than a straight line?

That’s an idea we’ve been nurturing at my firm. We’ve implemented our Mentorship Circle program to encourage 360-degree sharing and learning among peers, while still in the company of a more seasoned colleague. The purpose of our Mentorship Circles is twofold:

  1. To create a network of women who can share their successes and challenges in a safe environment;
  2. To help women excel in their practices through idea sharing and accountability.

We run one Circle per year, with a group consisting of 8 to 12 female financial advisors who have between 3 and 8 years of experience in the business, and one senior female financial advisor or branch leader who serves as the Circle facilitator. We kick off the circle with an in-person meeting at our company’s annual women’s conference.

The Circle lasts for eight months, with a monthly call hosted by the facilitator. For about 10 to 15 minutes, she shares a personal story focused on a business or personal topic that is of interest to the group. She then opens up the call for the mentees to share their thoughts and feedback on the topic discussed, or to ask the rest of the group for mentorship on a specific issue they are facing.

Participants are empowered to talk about topics beyond practice management, like balancing work and family life or being a woman in the financial services industry.

We have run Mentorship Circles for the past several consecutive years, and last year, we had the Circle members meet with our CEO as a capstone to the experience. It was, of course, a meaningful and educational experience for them, but it was equally beneficial to him, as he gained new perspective on the professional and personal challenges facing our female employees.

The program is extremely popular in our organization, both among current and past participants and those who are eager to sign up. At the kick-off for this year’s Circle, one participant said, “I love surrounding myself with intelligent and driven women, and this group did not disappoint.” And while she meant “surrounding” in the figurative sense, what she said rings true in a more literal one, too. Mentorship Circles are about surrounding employees with supportive, mentor-like relationships – not just with those higher up in the corporate hierarchy, but also with those charting their career paths alongside them.

While every company has a unique structure – employee composition, geographic distribution, etc. – the concept of Mentorship Circles can be replicated across all kinds of organizations. It just takes one more seasoned employee to commit to running the monthly calls, and 8 to 12 colleagues in similar phases of their professional life to come together and support one another.

I hope other organizations try and find value in their own Mentorship Circle initiatives. While traditional mentoring is a great learning opportunity, mentoring in a circle changes the paradigm of what professional guidance can be.

As the complex director for Florida, Kirstin brings more than 18 years of industry experience as both a successful financial advisor and branch manager to her role. Florida is a growing market and Kirstin believes that RBC Wealth Management is a unique firm in the industry — a boutique firm feel with the products and services of a large investment firm and the financial strength of The Royal Bank of Canada, one of the world’s strongest banks. 

Originally published at Ellevatenetwork.com

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