Next-Up has just launched their 500 mentors initiative with the support of Leeds City Council. I think it is a great idea - we’ll all need to help each other like never before both during and in the wake of COVID-19.
If you have the time and the desire to support and help somebody with their organisation – whether an entrepreneur or leader in public, private or voluntary sectors – then now is certainly a great time to start.
So what advice would I give to fellow mentors?
First and foremost I would say “do it”. In my experience mentoring is as rewarding and valuable to the mentor as it is for the mentee.
Offering guidance on mentoring is not straightforward. Mentoring is defined by the relationship more than a fixed list of behaviour and skills. Mentors draw on their individual experience, skills, wisdom and world-view, to support a mentee’s situations and objectives.
Without wanting to be too prescriptive, here’s my Top 10 tips for aspiring mentors who want to work with mentees in the midst or aftermath of the Coronavirus:
1. Your Mindset – The fact that you are considering mentoring suggests that despite recent events you are focussed on helping others and feeling reasonably good in your self. Double-check that this is the case though. Mentoring can be an outlet to take your mind off your situation and feel good about giving back, but you must ensure you are in a good place mentally before supporting others with their challenges.
2. Their Mindset – Before you start the relationship, make sure your mentee is in the right frame of mind to be mentored. Does your mentee need business mentoring (in the widest sense) support and an experienced person to talk to and help them reconstruct, reinvent or relaunch in their organisation? Or do they need more personal and – potentially – professional support to help them come to terms with recent events?
3. Define the boundaries – Regardless of the external environment, it is always advisable to set some boundaries for the relationship at the start. What can you support them with? How much time can you offer them? What do you expect from them and what do they expect from you? The Next-Up initiative is based on offering 45 minutes a week, free, for three months – but you can extend this if you want. The 45 minute slot is because that is what you can do with the free version of Zoom!
4. Reality – The first thing that you can do to support a mentee in the current climate is to help them make sense of where they are now with their business. How have recent events impacted them? What is the reality of their current situation and how do they feel about this? What are their major worries and concerns?
5. Clarity – Find out what they hope to achieve in the short, medium and long term. Are they able to focus and articulate these objectives? How can you help them define and achieve them?
6. Listen – Practice “active listening”. This one of the most important and valuable contributions a mentor can make. Active listening is intuitive and looks to explore the meaning behind the mentee’s words. Not just listen to the words and then dispense some off-the-cuff advice.
7. Be Open-Minded – You are there to support your mentee and help them explore all their options. We need to remain open-minded and not judge them. You should also be wary of being too directive and not telling your mentee what to do. Even in these extraordinary times, your role as a mentor is to be a guide, not a decision-maker.
8. Question Everything – One of your most effective tools as a mentor is questioning. It helps you to understand, it helps your mentee to explore and it is a vital way of guiding and supporting decision-making. The environment is tough, but you should try and make your questions equally as tough. Don’t allow the global problems to stop you from testing the rationale and resolve of your mentee.
9. Gain Commitment – It is very easy to allow mentoring sessions to lose focus. It is your job to gain commitment from your mentee. What actions are they going to take? Encourage them to set objectives. The Next-Up/my2be platform is great because you have to enter actions into your dashboard with a deadline
10. Accountability – You are uniquely placed to support your mentee and enable them to achieve rapid progress by holding them to account and ensuring they strive to meet their objectives and deadlines. Start every session with a review of progress against key objectives and deadlines.
I hope you find these tips useful in your mentoring journey. Whilst we live in challenging times, it truly is a great time to be supporting other people.
I’m sure you will find mentoring a rewarding experience, and your mentees are bound to benefit from the wisdom and experience you have amassed. Indeed, if you’re anything like me, mentoring will surprise you. It will reveal just how much knowledge you have and just how useful it can be to somebody starting or developing a business for the first time.
Gareth Healey is a business coach and mentor. He is the founder of specialist consultancy Beyond Noise, where he works exclusively with ambitious owner-directors of established independent marketing agencies. In 2019 Gareth was nominated for the prestigious Mentor of the Year Award at The National Mentoring Awards.