With the majority of internal company schemes and professional business mentoring mainly taking place on a face to face basis within known, comfortable environments, the perception of virtual mentoring can seem odd, unknown and could sadly result in a postponement. However, it is exactly at these times when mentoring provides its full benefit to mentees, particularly as a support function and sounding board as they continue to strive to do their best in the workplace during this challenging time.
We are not in shut down, we are in lockdown and maintaining some form of normality with business as usual, is essential on so many levels, as is maximising fresh experiences. I believe there are three top tips to embracing virtual mentoring plus three questions to ask yourself as a mentor and a mentee (you could possibly be both) all of which encourage maintaining a happy productive workforce in this unique time.
Three top tips to mentor virtually:
1. Choose a user-friendly platform. There are quite a few. The favourites currently are Zoom, Skype, Facetime or just a telephone call. Check it to make sure that it works for both of you as well as little points such as comfort with camera/videos on.
2. Devise and stick to a new schedule to reflect the need for shorter more regular mentoring sessions. The reason for this being, long stints working in isolation either alone or in close proximity to family members brings with it uncommon conditions which lead to unfamiliar territory that mentoring can help with.
3. Ask each other bold questions on topics including:
– Coping mechanisms with new boundaries and frustrations
– How to use this time to sculpt more efficient and innovative ways of working
– Reactions to changing mannerisms from colleagues under pressure
On the mentoring schemes that we run at Sinclair Dorman, notes are imperative and mainly kept by mentees, however we also strongly recommend the healthy practice of a mentoring notebook/journal for reflective reasons as well as keeping track of effective progress stemmed from mentoring. After all, it’s not simply about coffee and a chit chat. This practice shouldn’t be ring fenced to coaching and mentoring practices.
Three questions to ask yourself on the reflective front, whether you are a mentee, mentor or just because you should!
1. Our favourite: Ask yourself ‘Am I truly aware of the effect of my manner on other people’?
Grab the opportunity to re-run conversations and meetings positioning yourself in the third person looking in on the meeting. Fly on the wall. What can you pick up from tone, content or body language? Be honest!
2. When I am operating at my best, what is the environment and factors at play and how can I recreate them more frequently? These could range from a decent night’s sleep to increase in preparation for meetings or surrounding yourself with a team who have a different set of skills. We all have formulas under which we feel most productive and produce great work.
3. Who inspires me and how can I emulate them? And vice versa! Highlight a couple of people for different reasons for example communication, manner, healthy work ethic. Why do they inspire you and what is it that colleagues respond favourably to?
There are going to be certain types of companies right now, who’s management will use authority to threaten on achieving remaining targets and others who will be highly supportive of our new parameters. Differing cultures are being unearthed and mentoring will play a key part for the supportive, encouraging kind. If there isn’t a company scheme at your workplace this shouldn’t prevent you from striking up a relationship during this time and to use it as a sounding board as well as for some mutual guidance. Remember that mentoring is a ‘learning alliance’ and this is the most apt circumstance, globally, for this description to ring true.
At Sinclair Dorman – Our role is to implement and run these schemes. Take the extra work away from HR. We train, match, monitor and keep mentoring relationships alive and motivating. AND accomplished virtually!
A case for virtual mentoring by Art of Mentoring, Australia.