If COVID-19 has taught us anything, it’s that the world around us can change so quickly and it’s up to us to adapt. The sudden shift in the way the world had to operate highlighted the need for us to be flexible and have good support systems in place for when changes happen, or when the situation around us is uncertain.
It won’t always be a pandemic that we need to adapt to – it could be a sudden change in personal circumstances, or at work, it could be a change in leadership, a merger, a buy-out, or any number of things that can cause upheaval and uncertainty.
If you’re a mentor, these situations are the time to take a slightly more considered approach to how you support your mentee. If you are a team leader, this also applies to supporting your team.
Here are five ways you can support mentees during uncertain times:
5 ways to support your mentees
1. Encourage Reflection
Firstly, recognise together that the situation is difficult. Share your experiences, as we all have been through periods of uncertainty and change.
Maybe your mentee wasn’t clear on what path they wanted their career to take, or if their current role was fulfilling them. Now is the perfect time to practice introspection and reflect on where we are, where we were going, if that’s what we really want—and if not—how we can change our path to get to where we truly desire to be. If we need to put in a little more effort to get there, now’s the time to do it! Encourage your mentees to take that online class or finish that certification in order to get themselves ahead when the storm dies down.
Encourage your mentoring partner to think about what “coming out the other end” might look like. When things finally settle down again, what would they have hoped to achieve? Could this be an opportunity to work on something they have been putting off that they now may have time to focus on? Or is this a time to pause and take care of other issues so they can come back to working on their goals with better focus and drive?
2. Focus on what they can control or influence
A lack of control can contribute to fear and anxiety. And in times of change, especially if it’s sudden, uncertainty can really take its toll. This is why you should work with your mentee to list all of the things they can and do control. Whether it be their environment, their relationships, or their career. This exercise is one of confidence. Once they’ve thought good and hard about a path they want to take, it’s time that your mentee brings that confidence in and does all they can in their power to achieve that!
Taking the initiative means controlling their path—but also their day-to-day. Once a goal is established, try breaking it down to actionable items month by month, week by week, and even day by day so that mentees have something concrete to work towards and accomplish on a daily basis, something they can control. Be sure to add these to your ‘Goals’ on Mentorloop.
3. Narrow in on what they have, not what they don’t
What is your mentee already doing that allows them to manage as well as they are? What steps have they taken to look after their health and well-being so far through this difficult time? What has helped them cope with uncertainty and difficult times in the past that might help them now? Similar to control, by helping your mentee focus on what they have—not what they don’t—you’ll be able to shine a light on all the tools they have in their toolbox.
4. Recognise and value hard work and resilience
Using positive reinforcement can empower mentees to feel resourceful in times that are tough. Encourage your mentee to keep a list of all the things they’re accomplishing each week. The size of these achievements is not the focus here, in fact, the ‘smaller’ the better. By taking a look at this list come week’s end, they’ll feel they’re indeed getting through or putting this social-distancing time to good use!
If you want to up the ante, ask your mentee to create a list of things they’d like to reward themselves with when they reach a certain milestone or complete a certain number of tasks. Once their goal has been met, they’re allowed to have that item.
5. Identify next steps
By highlighting all the positive actions they have taken so far, mentees will be able to identify coping mechanisms and small steps they can take immediately to make further progress. The hardest part of any journey is the first few steps, so once your mentee realizes the most difficult part is behind them and now they only have to keep going in the direction they’ve already set out on, they’ll be more motivated to keep it up! Furthermore, sharing, highlighting, and/or reflecting on all the resources they have available to them will help mentees know that they’re not alone on this journey.
Mentoring during tough times like these provides mentors with a unique opportunity to really make a difference in the lives of their mentees. By being a guiding light and a source of encouragement and reinforcement, you can truly help your mentee come out of this uncertainty stronger than ever.