26 March 2020 By Victoria Tomlinson
Anyone in a leadership or ownership position – entrepreneur, business leader or leading a public sector or voluntary organisation – has a vast amount to cope with in this pandemic.
And we have a pool of senior people who have recently retired or have time to spare for you – to offer you support as a mentor. We are suggesting this is by a 45-minute Zoom call each week but you can flex this between you and your mentor.
We have written this blog to outline how we think a mentor could help you. Once you have gone, “I need a mentor” then click on this link and you will get a popup box ’500 mentors’. Or you can sign up here. Create a quick profile – it’s very quick and easy and instructions are here. And say what help you would like (see suggestions below). Then look at the mentors and reach out to someone who you think could empathise with and help you. It’s that easy.
Why do we think mentors are important in the current times?
If you are an entrepreneur or leader, you will have a long list of people you are looking after. First, of course, are your family, then employees or freelance teams, then your customers. And nearly everyone is having to rethink how and where they work and adapting to massive changes in their organisation.
It is great to see increased team spirit and collegiate support happening in these times. But few leaders can easily share what you are going through – you are there to be positive and supportive, not worrying everyone that you are having a tough time (I hope you know what I mean here, I have seen some leaders being brilliant at sharing how difficult it is – and that is good leadership. But it’s the real honesty and depth of what you are feeling that can’t generally be shared).
So who is there for you?
Our mentors. That is what we hope.
How might you use a mentor? Here are some suggestions
You might need to rant, to talk about how you are feeling, download your worries. One entrepreneur said to me, “I live on my own and now I can’t meet anyone – in my co-working space or developer meetings or anything. I would love to check in with someone independent once a week and just talk things through. Almost a sanity check.”
A lot of people (definitely that is me!) make decisions by talking things through. I am hopeless without my team. Often I say I want them to help me decide, but weirdly by the time I have explained the issue I know what to do! The process of articulating the problem helps to clarify thinking – and the mentor provides the sounding board to do this.
Most leaders tend to know what they should do. You can sense check with your team but often there is a worry that you are all in ‘group think’. Having someone to talk through your plans, who is outside your organisation – or even your sector – can provide both reassurance and challenge. It will give you confidence and also new perspectives that might help to refine your thinking.
I remember the days, weeks, years after 9/11 and the financial crash. At the time, they both felt like versions of Armageddon. You had moments of despair – I saw 90% of my business wiped out overnight with the recession and even then reckoned it was going to be five to seven years more pain, if I was lucky. But we got through it. You look for opportunities, cut costs back to the minimum, rethink everything you are doing.
I think we would all agree that the pandemic is worse than anything we have seen. But there are lessons we have all learnt. Talking through what someone did in previous crises can help when looking at options. And planning ahead. The world is resilient and we still have to plan for a future.
The thing about an experienced mentor is that by the time you reach your 50s and 60s (or even 70s an 80s!) you know a lot of people. From school and university friends to work colleagues, suppliers, networks and wider family – there are a lot of people to tap into. Even if the mentor can’t help with a particular problem, almost certainly they will know someone who can. And be able to get them to help, often for free. Zandra Moore, ceo of Panintelligence, came to our first intergenerational mentoring event – see here what she got from her mentors, who she said had networks she had never come across
We are so grateful to Leeds City Council and my2be for helping us create this campaign to find mentors to help you (we flipped and extended our tech mentoring event).
Please, please, you now have a fantastic resource – do sign up and use it. There are a lot of people wanting to help you.
I was just speaking to Diane Cheesebrough, a good friend to our business, and asked her why she thought people need mentors at the moment. She said, “I have always had mentors – and more than one. You get access to skills and capabilities you don’t have the time to find; you can rant without having an impact on your business and most of all you get connected to amazing networks. No matter what problem, you can always find someone to help.”
That pretty much sums it up!
As I write, we’ve just hit 50 mentors signing up, less than a day since we launched. And more signing by the hour. Let us help you through these particularly challenging times – but also there for the longer term with all these new contacts.
Victoria Tomlinson is chief executive and founder of Next-Up. Next-Up supports employers with a range of services for directors, partners and employees to help them understand the impact of retirement on mental health and create a plan to use their skills and experience in new ways to ensure wellbeing. A key part of our role is to inspire people with ideas and contacts, beyond traditional expectations. A former director of EY, she is an international speaker on unretirement, personal branding and using LinkedIn strategically as well as on leadership and women on boards. She mentors chief executives and directors, start-up businesses and ex-offenders. Victoria is Honorary Teaching Fellow at Lancaster University and chaired an advisory board for University of Leeds.