by McCarthy Mentoring. Published in Smart Company 2022
One of the challenges for business owners with employees working remotely is how they can enable and support them to learn and develop from more experienced leaders and, at the same time, ensure their wellbeing, connection and engagement.
Pre-pandemic that mentoring was often provided informally, even unconsciously, as people worked alongside one another, met over coffee or shared a quick insight with a colleague. For others, it was a formal program of face-to-face mentoring sessions with dedicated time and structures for key people to share knowledge, manage challenges, and learn from experienced leaders.
Effective mentoring helps people to reset, clarify goals, test decisions and develop strategies with a trusted, experienced sounding board.
Clearly, face-to-face support has been all but impossible during lockdowns and many will continue to work remotely into the future.
However that doesn’t mean business owners can no longer provide support for their people, and continue to develop them.
In a world of general uncertainty, many business owners have found that virtual mentoring can equally provide that support for employees – no matter where they are located or which days they are coming into the office.
And many have been surprised to realise that it can actually offer a number of advantages over face-to-face, including the wider pool of mentors – without the restrictions of geography – and easier scheduling of meetings, with less time out of the diary.
So, while virtual mentoring has long been a reality for businesses in regional areas, many business owners in our biggest cities are now relying on it.
The key to success comes down to a few essential ingredients, irrespective of the format:
- The right match. Arguably the most critical element for the strongest outcome. Virtual can broaden the pool of options without the restrictions of geography.
- Setting purpose, expectations and goals. Agreeing these with all parties from the start.
- Trust and confidentiality. Building trust and rapport to allow for open and meaningful discussions – in the questions asked, stories shared, support provided, feedback given. With deliberate focus and a new level of comfort online, remote is not a barrier.
- Investment and commitment. Leaning in and embracing the experience.
- Mentee responsibility. The mentee needs to drive the relationship and take ownership for their growth and development.
- Regular engagement. Virtual can create more time in the diary for discussion.
With these in place, many business owners are reporting that virtual mentoring is a valuable and strategic way to develop, support and connect their people.
Published January 2022.
McCarthy Mentoring has set up countless virtual mentoring relationships – regionally, in cities, across Australia and globally – and tracked outcomes, impact and engagement.
The results are the same. Participants report strengthened performance, improved decision making, clarified goals and built capacity to manage key career and leadership challenges.
From Surf Life Saving Australia women connected across every state and country, to executives of large corporates and recently appointed CEOs, both participants and mentors report no barriers to meeting online.
Prior to the pandemic in July 2019, we matched Joanne Smail, in Washington with Peter Loxton, in Sydney, as mentee and mentor.
Joanne was in a new role as Senior Trade & Investment Commissioner with Austrade and a new country. Peter had spent more than 25 years in executive roles within the New South Wales Government.
“Virtual mentoring was no barrier,” Peter says.
“If anything, it may have strengthened the outcomes as we were always conscious of making the most of the time and really listening to each other.”
Joanne agrees: “My work weeks are busy and it was nice to be able to just jump on at the required time, without having to travel to be somewhere.”