Triad mentoring is mentoring involving three people, with one person acting as the primary mentor. It can be structured with the most senior person mentoring two mentees who are at about the same level, or with one senior, one mid-level, and one junior person. Which structure you choose will depend on various factors, such as your organizational goals, the demographics of your workforce, the number of program participants, and so on.
Benefits of triads
If you have a limited number of mentors, triad mentoring can be a way to allow more mentees to participate in the program. Triad members who are from different levels can bring different perspectives. This can benefit all members and reinforce the fact that persons of all levels in the organization have something to learn and offer. It is also an effective way of having senior staff share insights with different generations of employees.
Potential risks to keep in mind
There are some potential downsides to guard against with triad mentoring, for exampe:
• Mentees may compete for the mentor’s attention – when two mentees are working with one mentor, there is the chance that one mentee may dominate meetings or try to monopolize the mentor’s time.
• With a triad it may be harder to develop close personal relationships – the bond between the mentor and the mentees may not be as close as the bond developed in a traditional mentoring dyad. Mentees may be less comfortable opening up about certain things in front of peers.
• Potential for jealousy/rivalry – just as there is sibling rivalry and jealousy, mentees can become jealous and rivalries can develop.
• Increased burden on mentors – because mentors are mentoring two people, mentors may find the activity more burdensome and possibly more time consuming (for example, meetings may be longer than traditional dyad mentoring).
• Scheduling meetings can be difficult – with three different people's schedules in play, scheduling meetings can be difficult.
Given the potential complications unique to triads, when implementing a triad mentoring program you should pay particular attention to:
• Matching mentors and mentees to increase the chances the three will be able to work well together.
• Outlining ground rules for coordinating schedules and for ensuring equal time during meetings.
• Training mentors to be attuned to possible jealousies and competition and in ways of dealing with such problems.
• Providing mentors with incentives (for example, relief from other obligations or fiscal incentives) in recognition of the time and energy needed to mentor two people.
A WORD ABOUT TERMINOLOGY: TRIAD MENTORING
If you do research on triad mentoring you may find some sources that define triad mentoring very differently from how we are using it here. Some define it as involving a mentor, a mentee, and the organization that is sponsoring the mentoring program. We don’t find that definition too helpful, as it basically describes any in-house program.