Laddership - a group mentoring model

[caption id="attachment_1290" align="aligncenter" width="700" caption="Laddership"][/caption] 8 years ago, I started a mentoring group for 5 Seattle-area architectural interns.  It was based on a model of facilitated peer mentoring and professional development – and thusly named by one participant as “Laddership” – in hindsight, a hybrid name from laddered mentoring and leadership.  The group was intentionally comprised of interns at various experience levels – from straight out of school to ready to take their registration exams.  I solicited candidates for the mentor group from the local Young Architects Forum list serve and had an informal application process.  We met monthly rotating responsibilities for selecting location and topics.

Fast forward to present day.  The group has gone through various iterations of participants (with interns rotating off as they moved away, got licensed, or had increased responsibilities at work/home) – the current makeup has been fairly consistent for the past 2-3 years, with one intern having been with me the whole time.  We are less formal now, we don’t worry about selecting a topic – years of familiarity have allowed us to meet and simply check in with everyone on current status, and seeing where the conversation takes us.  We also have stopped rotating around and have been meeting at the same pizza place on the same day/time each month – we’re “regulars”.

My group is very diverse…not only in their experience level, but also in their personalities (introverts and extroverts), professionally savvy (with those very well networked and those who are not as much), and values (strong beliefs about sustainability, bottom line, ethics, contribution to society).  Having been with these individuals for so long, I know that despite differences, there is a general respect and collegiality that the participants have for one another.  While I don’t think anyone in this group would be likely to have met each other professionally if not for this group, I do think that they would consider each other friends and value our monthly interactions.

I have seen their perspectives open up, their lives shared (many babies and marriages have occurred over the course of years), and professional advancements made.  I have great pride for each one of them – and appreciate all that they’ve taught me.  While I would like to believe that I’m still a “young” architect, I realize that it’s been a long time since I’ve been in their shoes - listening to their daily struggles informs me of the same challenges that my employees are likely to experience…and provides me with the wisdom and insight to best mentor my own.  While I’ve mentored one-on-one in the past, the Laddership model has brought me significantly more satisfaction and reward – so much so that I continue to prioritize and look forward to the monthly meetings.

During the first 5 years, I had enough interest that I recruited mentors and initiated four additional groups.  A few years ago, AIA Seattle took over the administration of the “Laddership” program as a chapter wide event, expanding the program to over a dozen groups.  Over the past 5 years, I have presented this mentorship model several times at the national AIA conference as well as at regional and state conferences across the country. 

This week I fly to San Francisco to kick off the AIA SF Mentorship Program.  It is based on my Laddership model and I’m excited to learn more about how they have adapted the concept to suit the needs of the chapter.  If you know any architects (young or old) in San Francisco, please encourage them to attend.  The model works best when participants represent a continuum of experience levels – it can’t be a bunch of old timers with the newbies straight of school. 

Details and RSVP info about the event can be found at