by David G. Smith and W. Brad Johnson. (Original Source: Harvard Business Review)
The current pandemic has many more people teleworking and adapting business to the virtual environment. While continuing to lead direct reports and collaborate with customers remain business imperatives in the new “workplace,” don’t forget your mentees. Great mentors show up and engage with mentees in crises and uncertain times, even when that requires creativity and adaptation. There are several reasons not to let your commitments slide.
Research shows that when mentors are actively engaged with mentees, those mentees form stronger emotional bonds to the organization, report higher job satisfaction, and perceive greater support from the organization broadly. To retain high-potential junior talent and ensure strong post-pandemic succession planning, consistent and committed mentoring relationships are vital.
Whether you typically meet in-person on a regular basis or haven’t spoken in a while, now is the time to reach out to your mentees. There is good evidence that mentoring via real-time videoconferencing yields equivalent outcomes to in-person mentoring. Alternatively, methods such as email, chats, and text messaging allow flexibility in keeping the lines of communication open but are more limited and are prone to misunderstandings.
Recommendations for continuing and deepening your mentorships in a time of social distancing:
- Communicate with your mentees, but don’t assume you understand their situations. Everyone is already experiencing plenty of uncertainty and new demands. Let your mentoring be something mentees can depend on without any pressure to reciprocate.
- Make adjustments to established norms.
If a mentee is eager to continue with tele-mentoring, figure out a new rhythm and the best medium for meeting in the online environment, which may require changes to previous routines.
- Show care and compassion.
Test your listening skills, and focus on your mentee’s concerns. Financial, health, job, and family matters are all likely to be pressing issues. Demonstrate that you hear and understand.
Although social distancing is necessary during the pandemic, it doesn’t mean you can’t maintain close emotional and relational proximity with your mentees. Use this moment in time to explore new ways of staying connected, show that you care, validate feelings of distress, develop talent, and challenge yourself to get out of your mentoring comfort zone.