Coaching Mentoring

Mentoring in a time of “Social Distancing”

So, when asked, why do we mentor folks in times of crisis? the response is simple. It’s not when everything is fine that you need support, its when times are difficult, and others are looking for you to rise to the occasion. On those occasions mentoring works, since it demonstrates that a support system is beneficial, and guidance can be useful. So, listen up, mentoring is designed to help you focus on the important things, that are within your control to change. When everyone around you is panicking, those who are mentored, tend to draw upon the advice others have given them, to exhibit the necessary leadership traits to keep others calm. In a time when social distancing calls upon us to be serious and understand the importance of safety, how do you get those among us to understand the critical urgency of now?

Social distancing – a request or a mandate?

Staying at least six feet away from other people reduces and lessens your chances of catching COVID-19 or coronavirus disease, which is an outbreak of respiratory disease caused by a novel (new) coronavirus that was first detected in China and which has now been detected in more than 150 locations internationally, including in the United States. However, for those of us that are used to close contact, much needed hugging, and close interaction, the concept of social distancing, is a foreign concept. The act of Social distancing is very specific in this time of crisis, as shared by John Hopkins Medical Hospital, the following are examples of social distancing that are designed to allow you to avoid larger crowds, and crowded:

  • Working from home instead of at the office
  • Closing schools or switching to online classes
  • Visiting loved ones by electronic devices instead of in person
  • Cancelling or postponing conferences and large meetings

So, if you’re wondering about social distancing, and why the concept is so important, I urge us to remember that right now, it’s not just about you. The choices you make now and for the next few months, have the potential to help others. Which is why the concept of virtual mentoring, is so useful right now, just because you cannot be near someone, it doesn’t mean you can’t impact them with your words, kindness, and most importantly your guidance. Mentoring really works during difficult times.

Can we agree that this is an opportunity to Teach not Preach?

I have often shared with others the importance to teach and not preach, as a mechanism to have others change behaviors. There are those who preach as a profession and I respect the role they play in society, but in cases of mentoring, the concept of teaching and leading is proven to be most effective. We find ourselves in unusual circumstances, while taking care of the elderly, along with high school, and college students, whose lives have been disrupted as a result of this pandemic. So, a house full of mentees, is where my recent challenge came to fruition. Working remotely, has always been my haven, a quiet zone where productivity can flourish, but for now, this shared space, is full of concerns, fears, and anxiety, which require a mentoring hand. My advice to others in this unique situation, is to take the time to listen, be calm and understand the fears of others. Perhaps in other elements of our lives we have been moving so fast, that we have forgotten to focus on messaging, and sharing the importance of respecting others personal space. Now is the time to be thankful for this self-imposed opportunity to do better, while we keep our most sensitive populations healthy. So, when asked by a 20-year-old young college student, “Can Myles come over for a bit”, the response is a calm, “not this time we are taking social distancing very serious, thank you for understanding.”

Understanding the “critical urgency of now”?

I recently spoke to a group of mentees in the Veterans Administration, specifically the Veterans Health division, who shared with me the importance of being able to ask for help in this difficult time. They were highly qualified leaders but were very honest and vulnerable about their most recent charge of leadership. This is not business as usual; others depend on them to deliver their job responsibilities with the highest level of proficiency. So, in cases when they need assistance, now is not the time to be defensive and resistant to ask for help. This caused me to think about how individuals in the most critical roles can be vulnerable and brave in these difficult times. Why can’t each of us, take a lesson from their example. The way you help others during mentoring opportunities is to seek to not only support mentees, but also to lift them up, thank them for their commitment to their personal growth, and celebrate the achievements they are making to become the best version of themselves.

A Final Thought

Mentoring has no age, gender or race, with the impact of social distancing, this is an opportunity to reach out to others in some non-traditional ways, and let them know how proud you are of them, continuing to learn, keeping their minds and intentions positive, and most importantly doing their part to help during this crisis. So fully accept social distancing constraints, remember to avoid public transportation whenever possible, limit nonessential travel, work from home and skip social gatherings — and definitely do not go to crowded bars and sporting arenas. We are mentoring you because we care. So, in a final thought, indirect mentoring is just as important as intentional mentoring, both have great intentions to reach, teach and not to unnecessarily preach during these difficult times. It’s all done at the end of the day because we care about you.

If you or your organization would like to find out more about executive leadership coaching and mentoring, and how a mentoring program can help bridge the gaps experienced from missing employee engagement please reach out and connect with us at Coley & Associates, we are here to help move your organization forward, and we are passionate about what we do and committed to making a positive difference in our customers’ businesses and the world around us. 

By Janet Williams

As Director of Human Capital and Performance Consulting for Coley & Associates, Dr. Janet E. Williams provides Government clients and commercial companies insight on how to leverage resources and maximize services for improvements to company operations. She specializes in mentoring, progressive management process improvements, accountability and control, revenue enhancements, and other organizational change methods. For almost 20 years, Dr. Williams worked in government and head an Emerging Leaders Program for mentoring youth. Janet holds a bachelor’s degree in Accounting from Hampton University a MBA from Troy State University, and her doctorate in Public Policy and Leadership from Walden University.

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