Updated: Aug 10
In my 30-ish years in the business world, mentorship has been a privilege. It has been an honor to mentor many folks earlier in their career.
In the post-pandemic world, mentorship is changing dramatically. But I also believe the pandemic was an accelerator, not the originator, of a trend that was already in motion.
When I discuss the pandemic and leadership with my contemporaries, I sometimes hear:
"How do more junior people get mentorship? How do they learn if we can not be side-by-side in the office?"
This sort of question and thinking is very natural, but it also asks an incomplete question. Frankly, it is a question that suggests a less flexible "How we have always done it"-ism. I suggest a better question is:
"How do we get the best interactions in a way that best matches our mentees’ learning style, comfort with technology, and life situation?"
The answer to the better question requires the mentor and their supporting organization to rethink their interactions and collaboration methods. To this end, next are a few related resource articles. These articles focus on how people learn in an organizational context. The articles explore differing personality types and related learning styles. I note the extraordinary diversity of thinking styles and interaction needs. There truly is no "one size fits all." I role this up into the word "neurodiversity." Next are a few resources in case you would like to dig deeper into organizational interaction model-related definitions and solutions:
I appreciate the more progressive companies that provide individually tailored mobile work opportunities. Specific to the individual, mobile work opportunities are certainly earned. Meaning, that individual workers must demonstrate they are productive in a mobile work environment. But, the company needs to provide the infrastructure, policy, and culture to implement the mobile work environment. In particular, the company needs to optimize the individual interactions and collaboration model. Also, this does not mean that mobile workers never physically come together. Quite the opposite. For the appropriate opportunity, say a significant client pursuit or an intensive development sprint, it may make sense for a team to temporarily be physically together. But this is more the exception for the remote worker. The norm is that they are TRUSTED and SUPPORTED to be productive in a remote setting. Culturally, the company interactions are such that there is acceptance, encouragement, and infrastructure supporting the remote worker.
Finally, my mentoring style has changed as well. Resulting from the pandemic, I have adapted by:
Increasing the scope of mentees to be outside my current company. This may include the university, family friends, former co-workers, and the like.
I now write and publish regular mentoring related articles. This allows more mentees the opportunity to read (or sometimes watch) mentorship-related information. My website is called: The Curiosity Vine. There are several "journeys" with topical information.
I love meeting on a video conference or a voice call. Often, my mentees will want to discuss a topic and the mentoring articles provide a starting point. I do sometimes meet in person. It really depends on the practicality of the situation.
I have come to appreciate that mobile friendly environments do require some new routines. For example, mentorship interactions and collaborations must be an intentional priority for all those involved. This includes the mentor, the mentee, and their supporting organization. ALL have a role in holding each other accountable.
In many ways, the pandemic has a very exciting silver lining. It has served to help nudge our businesses to rethink and re-habitualize better ways of interacting. I truly hope the better ways stick. It is a journey - each company needs to deeply consider its interaction model.