Mentoring has proven to be the best possible form of leadership development in times of change and crisis and we have found a surprising and impactful way to achieve results virtually. Now we wait for the ‘big reveal’, where we hope many will be able to meet their mentoring partner in person for the first time, but we are reassured to know that the ability to form strong connections doesn’t only occur when in the room together.
For 10 years at Serendis, we have had the enormous pleasure of formally welcoming an average of 200 pairs per year on to our mentoring programs, normally in a large, imposing city venue but this year it all changed and there have been some delightfully surprising results.
As facilitators of large scale mentoring programs, our key objective is to help participants accomplish meaningful objectives. To deliver on this, we traditionally bring groups of participants together for workshops on leadership development, mentoring skills and career enhancement toolkits.
On 12th March when all group events became prohibited, our programs were thrown into question, but one by one, our clients came through to express their commitment and desire to forge ahead. They recognised the need to create a sense of belonging and that the mentoring relationship was more important than ever as a way of supporting their existing and emerging leaders.
This was our opportunity to practice what we preach and quickly pivot to deliver everything virtually. Within the space of two weeks, we found ourselves at home, and like many others, staring at a screen all day. Before we knew it, we were joined by up to 60 participants at a time coming together to support one another through a period of unprecedented uncertainty.
Collectively we have navigated and experienced the challenges associated with unstable internet connections, pets and children on our knees, cleaners turning up unannounced not to mention the steep learning curve associated with virtual break out rooms, polls, google docs, editable workbooks and all other things zoom related. Overriding all of these challenges, we now have 212 additional mentoring pairs who are thriving through the connections they’ve formed with each other and their peers.
We all know theoretically that we are going to need to think and operate differently as a result of this pandemic. We also know that a crisis situation can lead people to feel threatened and wanting to play it safe and protect their security rather than push themselves out of their comfort zone when it comes to developing their career. These fears can hinder our ability to learn and grow.
As one mentor said, ‘I want to know why they don’t think they should be the next CEO. I encourage them to dream big and work out what is really getting in their way, if anything’. This type of thinking doesn’t come naturally to many when working alone, but when supported through the scaffolding that a mentor can provide, opportunities start to emerge.
This year, our mentoring pairs have unexpectedly developed rapport quickly. They are speaking more frequently and there is an increased level of openness and humility in their conversations. In many cases, this is being role modelled by the mentors and then mirrored by their mentees. Many are dealing with big challenges – closing businesses, dealing with unions, motivating their teams to name just a few. With the support of the program, they are lifting their focus up from the problem and towards creating a vision for the future. Taking time to reflect on their purpose, passion and mindset as well as their capabilities is enabling them to consider ways to take the silver linings from these challenges and have a positive impact on their teams, organisations and industries by creating a more connected and inspiring future.
Mentoring is a powerful force when fully supported. We are passionate about our role in enabling quality mentoring conversations that deliver results for all by leveraging the knowledge and experience that already exists. The addition of a peer learning network as well as ongoing access to our tools and frameworks through our online learning platform MentorKey is proven to enable sustainable change and positively create more engaging work cultures.
It’s now almost four months later and from New York to New Zealand, we are inspired to see so many participants reframing their challenges and feeling energised about the role they want to play in creating a positive future. We’d like to acknowledge everyone involved for their commitment and enthusiasm. We have been delighted to help facilitate these connections and we’ve loved the challenge that it’s presented us with to learn and grow as we transition to the ‘new normal’.