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Does Mentorship Still Have Value in a Remote World?
Mentorship is an essential component of human interaction that carries many advantages for all parties involved. In the context of remote work, mentorship does not lose any utility. On the contrary, it retains all its benefits, though its technical delivery may change.
“A mentor is someone who allows you to see the hope inside yourself.” – Oprah Winfrey.
Mentorships are beneficial for mentors and mentees alike. In addition to the two parties directly involved in the mentorship, their organization stands to benefit from the relationship as well.
Water cooler talk carries far-reaching benefits for all parties involved.
Back in the pre-pandemic days of at-office work, people socialized naturally, and mentoring relationships could spring up spontaneously around the water cooler. We have always known the value of mentorships. We have only become keenly aware of the necessity of mentorships, however, once we have found ourselves robbed of the opportunity to socialize naturally.
The Value of Mentorship
Leadership coaching experts have always placed great value on meaningful relationships. Mentorship, as a form of one-on-one leadership, is a next-level relationship, the benefits of which are difficult to quantify.
To a new employee, mentorship provides:
- A straightforward way to learn the best practices necessary for professional success, empowerment, and engagement
- A valuable glimpse into the organizational culture
- Lessons on company values and ways to align one’s professional attitude with them
- Confidence in newly-acquired skills
To a mentor, such a professional relationship offers:
- A way to pass on essential knowledge and skills
- An opportunity to make a lasting difference that transcends human limitations
- A chance to actively build and influence company culture
- Leadership experience
- The appreciation of higher-ups
What does the organization gain from mentorships?
- A valuable transfer of skills, knowledge, and company culture
- Better employee retention and lower employee turnover due to empowerment and increased engagement
- The significant acceleration of employee training and onboarding
- A more efficient and capable workforce
- An early chance to shape leadership succession
The Challenges of Remote Mentorship
Without the chance to mingle with co-workers around the water cooler, the new employees of the post-pandemic age find themselves robbed of opportunities their predecessors took for granted.
Although the principles of mentorship remain unchanged in a remote working environment, organizations and individuals have to make a conscious effort to make mentorships happen. Given their benefits, no one can afford to let mentorships wither and fall by the wayside as part of the new reality of professional relationships.
How can companies and individuals promote long-distance mentorship?
Building Trust and Rapport
Trust and rapport are two of the cornerstones of every successful mentor-mentee relationship. In the context of leadership coaching, trust is an essential ingredient of every human relationship and positive interaction.
Although relatively easy to establish in a face-to-face setting, trust and rapport are particularly challenging to build through a remote communication channel.
To facilitate remote rapport and trust, the parties involved in the mentorship should set clear expectations availability- and goals-wise. Keeping the interaction casual despite the setting is also a step in the right direction.
Keeping the video on during the mentoring interaction adds a new dimension to communication. Accepting possible intrusions from children and pets as part of the new normal is also a way to ease the tension that may exist around the remote interaction.
Keeping Channels Open
Mentors and mentees should connect through a range of channels, outside strictly scheduled mentorship hours if needed.
Mentor/mentee pairs can communicate better in an environment where they are comfortable and can use tools, such as assessments, annotations, games, and various reactions.
Exploiting the Advantages of Remote Connections
For many, remote work has been a boon and not an uncomfortable new reality. Remote communication can free us from some of the biases face-to-face interaction entails. For example, taller mentors will not intimidate their shorter mentees in a remote setting.
Remote mentorship eliminates the constraints of physical proximity. It allows mentorship sessions to take place at more convenient times and quickly blossom into productive friendships.
Providing Clarity of Purpose
This final element lends practical utility to the mentor/mentee relationship. By setting clear goals and infusing their conversation with a sense of purpose, mentor/mentee pairs can propel their relationship beyond a mere friendship, helping employees achieve well-defined goals.
Purpose makes things happen.
Although the way we work may change, the basic human interactions that make cooperation possible remain the same. In the context of executive coaching, a mentor sees and activates abilities in a mentee that the latter may not realize are there.
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