Mentoring in the hybrid world of workby
Last year was a time for fire fighting, for adapting to change and showing resilience. This year, we need to reflect, evaluate and strategise – and mentoring is key to this process.
What does 'work' mean to you now, after over 15 months of disruption? Is it what you do? Is it a place? Is it a pleasure? A chore? Is it income, security, a means to an end – that end being having the resources to support yourself, your family, your home and/or your lifestyle? Is it something you've been denied the opportunity to do recently due to furlough or redundancy?
Is it something you've re-imagined and rebuilt in a different way for yourself? Or have you had it imposed on you by your employer, sending you to 'work from home', with or without the necessary resources, technology, space, privacy to continue to be productive while managing your dependents, and your/their mental and physical health?
I'm sure that every one of us will have a different set of answers to those questions, and each of those answers will be unique to your personal and professional circumstances.
If ever there were a time for mentoring, this is it. The world of work has changed – and continues to evolve – at a rapid pace. It’s important that people in leadership roles have that opportunity to step back and reflect.
As we collectively recover from the strangest year in living and working memory, and begin to tentatively make plans for the future, building in time for active reflection is more important than ever. Those of us in leadership positions should also be using this time to support and develop others around us. Now is the time to nurture those personal and professional connections, and have those mentoring conversations.
Working in the people profession, it's important that we all model good practice, as we all re-evaluate what work is and how and where we want to – or are required – to do it.
I was fortunate enough to start working in a part-time consultant role with a leading professional body as we went into the first Covid lockdown last year. I had already been working from home as an independent consultant and in a mentor role with another organisation, so I was set up with the tools and infrastructure to take this on.
It's not been the easiest onboarding or socialisation experience I've had over the years, but I was supported throughout by a manager and colleagues who went out of their way to make me feel included, useful and valued, without overloading me with the obligatory compliance e-learning. The culture turned out to be what I'd been hoping for and it continues to be.
At the same time, I’ve maintained other professional connections and activities, including business training and mentoring, chairing sessions at virtual conferences and judging awards. All of these activities have been conducted online. I share this activities here not to self-aggrandise but to highlight the importance of building and maintaining our personal and professional connections and activities – especially remotely.
Whether you’re back in the office, continuing to work remotely or adopting a hybrid working model, it’s important that the L&D community – and especially those in leadership positions – continue to learn and develop our collective and personal professional practice.
It’s been 20 years since I had mentor training – back when I was at Sussex Police – but recently I’ve taken up the mantle as a mentor again. I’ve entered into a semi-formal mentoring arrangement with an ex-colleague. This came out of one of our infrequent catch-up Zoom calls, where we recognised that we would both benefit from more regular and more focused conversations.
This person is in a very similar learning leadership role to one I found myself in several years ago and, having worked with them in the past, I have a unique insight. We’ve established a regular pattern of discussion to allow them to share their challenges and perhaps arrive at some actions they can take to address them. We set up a mentoring agreement and timetable, agreed their big issues and challenges and established what successful outcomes would look like; that they would do the work and that I would be there to reflect back and offer encouragement and suggestions to help them identify next steps.
If ever there were a time for mentoring, this is it. The world of work has changed – and continues to evolve – at a rapid pace. It’s important that people in leadership roles have that opportunity to step back and reflect on their progress – and that they pay it forward by mentoring those around them too. As more of us work remotely, we have to be able to relate to and empathise with colleagues through lots of different technical gateways.
These informal, voluntary, collaborative activities are as much a part of 'work' as the other paid, revenue-earning stuff. These are the conversations that enrich and develop people. Of course, not everyone has the bandwidth to be able to do this – for various personal and professional reasons – but if you do, it’s worth the effort. If you don’t, you can still contribute by modeling the behaviour that you’d like to encourage in others.
I'm looking forward to continuing to support my mentee. It will be as much a learning exercise for me as it will for them and I hope we will both be the better for it.
Taking our next steps following this pandemic, we’ll all be faced with uncertainty and a certain degree of trepidation. It’s down to the L&D profession to ensure that people feel supported and equipped with the right skills to move forward.
Interested in this topic? Read Mentoring the C-suite: filling the gaps left by non-executive directors.
I am a qualified, experienced and sometime award-winning Learning & Development professional, with over 30 years experience in L&D, IT Training and Learning Technologies. An occasional conference speaker, chair, blogger and tweeter, I have built, led and managed IT Training and L&D teams in both the public and private sectors. As a...