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Why mentoring is valuable at this time of crisis

The Coronavirus Pandemic changes on a daily basis.  At the time of writing (1 April 2020), COVID-19 cases have exceeded 860,000 and continue to increase around the world.

To reduce growth, governments have moved to stricter social distancing, with lockdown in many areas and countries.

I believe that, now, more than ever, employees need the support of mentors to deal with the unique features of the COVID challenge.

1.  Uncertainty and unpredictability. No one knows how many people will become infected, how long families and societies will remain locked down, and when the virus will subside.

2.  Fear and anxiety.  The COVID-19 virus threatens our personal health and safety and that of our loved ones. This creates a level of stress that interferes with our usual ability to perform.

3. Constant change. It is a rapidly evolving and changing situation with conflicting sources of information. This creates a situation where people find it hard to focus.

Mentoring is one of the top strategies within an organisation for helping people deal with challenges. It adds value to both the individuals and the organisation. That is true in times of growth and development.  It is equally true in times of crisis and concern.

My experience of mentoring

Looking back on my life and career, I can identify some key mentors who have helped me along the way.

I still have mentors today who help me think through the actions I need to take to address these current challenges and opportunities. And I value those mentoring relationships highly.

As well as receiving mentoring, I know I play that role for others. Sometimes those are people who have asked me to mentor them, like George, a man I very much admire in Canada.  He found me through my website and went out of his way to ask for my help.  I was happy to give it. And, for 12 months we met over Zoom on a monthly basis to help him progress his thinking and reflect on how to build on his achievements.

Often, the mentoring I perform is not labelled as such.  I am part of a couple of business networks where we all learn by sharing our experience with each other. I find the support invaluable.

What value can mentors bring?

As I have found from my own experience, there is great value that can be gained from a mentor. A mentor is someone impartial a person can talk to. A mentor acts as a sounding board and creates a safe space where people can share their fears and concerns.

Mentors don’t need to have the answers (no one has the answers in this Coronavirus situation). They just need to have empathy, good listening skills and questions that will help the other person think and reflect.

In my last blog post, I described mentoring as learning from sharing experience.  All mentors are going through this crisis too so they can share their experience as insights and ideas.

Let me share with you an example. I mentioned to my mentor that I struggle with sleeping well.  Through skilled questioning, she helped me explore the strategies I have used in the past that have been helpful. One of them is the Headspace App.  I usually travel a lot with my work. When I can’t sleep in a hotel room, I will play a guided meditation on the Headspace App. That helps stop the noisy chatter in my head that is keeping me awake.  But, of course, I’m not in hotel rooms at the moment and I can’t play the Headspace App when my husband is sleeping soundly next to me.  My mentor shared that she struggles with the same situation (although her choice of app is Calm rather than Headspace). She shared that she has a set of Bluetooth-enabled Headphones that allow her to listen to the app without disturbing her husband.  Needless to say, a set are now on order for me too!

Areas that mentoring can help with

As we experience this current crisis, areas that mentoring can help with might include:

  • Adapting to working remotely
  • Adapting to leading and managing remotely
  • Learning new collaboration processes
  • Supporting people with self-care and mental well-being
  • Developing routines for improving focus and productivity
  • Supporting people to adjust their mind-set

Mentoring won’t take away the negative impact created by the pandemic and the lockdown. But it will empower people and help them recognise the skills, qualities and resources that will help them cope.

What does the mentor gain?

Mentoring doesn’t just benefit the people being mentored. Mentors also gain from supporting others. Benefits include:

  • Personal recognition of their knowledge, skills and achievements. When sharing their experience, they realise how much they have learned and developed themselves
  • Personal and professional satisfaction from helping others and seeing them progress – a chance to give back
  • Deeper and broader knowledge of their own and other organisations or departments
  • Sharing their experience and identifying ideas helps increase their self-confidence
  • Higher visibility within their organisation or profession helps broaden their contacts
  • An opportunity to practice and develop management skills
  • The chance to build wider networks
  • Job enrichment

What are the key benefits of mentoring for an organisation?

The benefits from mentoring translate through to the organisation. In ‘normal’ times, mentoring has a significant impact on improving employee satisfaction, retaining and engaging talent, improving company culture and developing future leaders. In times of crisis like now, it can help build resilience, and move employees from fear to focus.

I always encourage people to think about the benefit they would gain from either being mentored or mentoring others. Both will play a big part in developing yourself and others.

No-one knows exactly how the virus will progress, how long social distancing will remain in effect, and when our lives will return to some level of normal.  In this environment, it’s critical that managers act as mentors to employees, supporting them as they navigate the crisis.

You may also be interested in some of our other resources available on the website. In particular, the report on Seven Reasons Mentoring Programmes Lose Momentum

We also have a regular roster of webinars and events.

In these strange and uncertain times if there is anything else we can help with please to get in touch.

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