Are you looking for a meaningful activity to build trust and connection at your next leadership retreat? Do you have high-potential employees who need greater exposure? This easy-to-facilitate exercise can go a long way in jump-starting connection and conversation.
An Easy Leadership Retreat Idea: Speed Mentoring
The larger and more spread out my team became in my executive roles at Verizon, the more I valued the time to get my managers off-site for a quick leadership retreat—even if it was just a day at the Holiday Inn down the street. A leadership retreat provides a great opportunity to align on your team vision, and to have the UGLY conversations that matter so much, but are hard to have in the midst of the day-to-day fray.
Although the exercises I linked to above were staples in my leadership retreat bag of tricks, the one I’m sharing with you today is arguably one of my favorites for deepening relationships.
This was a variation on my “bring-a-friend” staff meetings, where each of my direct reports would bring a “friend,” ( a high-potential employee) from their team to join our staff meeting, to give them exposure to the strategic thinking and decision making processes that happened at the executive level.
In this case, we brought our next tier of succession planning candidates in to join my executive team and me for the afternoon of our retreat to hold “speed mentoring sessions.”
We set up small tables around the room, and each of the leaders manned a station and the mentees flowed through spending 10 minutes at each station. The mentees controlled the conversations, and each took on a different flavor.
Although none of us had any experience with “speed dating” we were intrigued by the concept of short, focused interactions to look for areas of common interest.
Each participant was asked to come prepared with any ideas and questions they had for the leaders on the team. The “mentees-for-the-day” were in complete control of the conversations and could use the time however they wished.
I was intrigued at how deep the conversations went in just 10 minutes. Each mentee took a different approach. Nearly all conversations sparked a dialogue that continued way past the leadership retreat.
Here a few they came up with:
- “What’s my ‘brand’ with you?”
- Why wouldn’t you promote me?
- What’s the biggest mistake you ever made?
- What makes you fail?
- What are you working on developmentally?
- Did you ever take a job that was a bad fit? What did you do?
- What characteristics are you looking for in a leader?
- How do you think I am doing?
- Just what makes you so passionate about leadership development?
The feedback we received was amazing. I was worried that the time was too short, or that the feedback from so many people in a short time frame would be overwhelming. Participants agreed that it was “intense” but would do it again with exactly t same design.
- “It was helpful to see the patterns and consistency in the feedback.”
- “I could tell everyone was being really candid and had my best interest at heart.”
- “I liked that we could control the questions and decide where we wanted to take the conversation with each person.”
- “It was great to see so many different perspectives on the same question.”
The conversations continued later that day, on a break or walking to dinner. Can you mentor in 10 minutes? Of course not. Can you spark a connection worth exploring further? You sure can.
You can also check out our FREE book group facilitator’s guide to our book Winning Well: A Manager’s Guide to Getting Results– Without Losing Your Soul. (Lots of our clients use Winning Well as pre-reading for their leadership retreat.)