How To Mentor During A Crisis
The last couple of years have been quite a test for everyone. Business professionals have had their own special challenges on top of the regular problems we’ve all been experiencing. It’s stressful enough navigating “the new normal”—which seems to take one step forward and two back at times.
One of the many trials we’ve had to face as employees is a general lack of engagement. Many people find at least some sort of camaraderie in the workplace. We miss the team efforts, the celebrations on a job well done and the commiserating over a contract that fell through.
One of the work relationships that has been taking quite a beating these last two years is mentor/mentee interactions. Some of us didn’t even realize (let alone acknowledge) how much of a boost we experienced—no matter which side of the equation we were on.
For mentees, it can be frustrating to not have handy access to their mentor for advice and guidance. During these disrupted times, we miss the stability of that relationship. For mentors, it’s vexing to not be able to help your mentee along through the sometimes confusing maze of corporate leadership.
Becoming A Mentor
Although mentoring may not come naturally to you, and although it may seem to be yet another heavy burden to shoulder during the uncertainty of the pandemic, the benefits you could reap will make the effort more than worthwhile. For some managers, being a mentor comes easily. Those are the lucky ones.
As John C. Maxwell tells us in his book Mentoring 101: What Every Leader Needs to Know, “The more you understand people, the greater your chance of success in mentoring. And if you have highly developed people skills and genuinely care about others, the process will probably come to you naturally.”
For others, taking the plunge into the mentoring world is more difficult. If you tend to be the shy, quiet, technical type, seeking out a mentee could prove very perplexing. If you fall into that category, it might help to discuss the prospect with someone who initially had problems finding a mentee, but then got into the flow of it and now enjoys the process very much.
Mentoring Through Crisis
Combatting the mentor/mentee separation that has strained many of us during this crisis requires creativity and perseverance. A technique that has worked out well with one of my newer mentees (one I took on just before the Covid-19 shutdown) is that each Monday, rain or shine, we email a random quote to each other. It may be a quote that is inspirational or one that highlights the struggle either one of us is going through at that time. It’s just a small gesture, but it begins the week with the sentiment that we’ve been thinking of each other and appreciate the effort we both put into the success of the relationship.
If your company is looking for low-cost ways to foster morale, setting up a mentoring program is a strong option. There is so much to gain and almost nothing to lose. Now more than ever, most employees are craving personal interaction. A conference call, a video call, an email or a text may not fill the void. People need to relate with other people to feel confident that their careers are on track.
In my experience, mentorship can dispel loneliness, depression, stalled personal growth, identity crises and feelings of low self-worth. Here are a few tips for being a better mentor during this, or any, crisis:
• Practice active listening and restate what the other person is saying to you so they understand they are being heard.
• Show empathy. Their concerns may not be even close to your concerns during this confusing time, and they deserve to be heard and understood. Let the other person know that they are in your thoughts.
• Praise them often when they show initiative, resourcefulness and passion regarding the project at hand. Everyone deserves an encouraging word.
In their book Bridging Differences for Better Mentoring: Lean Forward, Learn, Leverage, authors Lisa Z. Fain and Lois J. Zachary explain, “One of the most beneficial aspects of mentoring is its inherent reciprocity. When reciprocity is present, both mentor and mentee fully engage in the relationship. If the relationship is truly working, there is a big payoff for both parties. Perspectives expand, and each person gains new insight into where their mentoring partner is coming from.”
Being a mentor may give you more satisfaction than you ever thought possible. Sharing the journey from new and unsure employee to confident, stable and successful contributor is a genuine gratification that will likely leave you wanting to repeat the process with yet another employee wanting to excel.
This article has previously been featured on Forbes