Imagine that you are facing a tough decision.
Thankfully, you are a fan of personal development. Heck, you journal and even update your vision board. But despite all that, here you are struggling to achieve your goal.
Everything you read said that if you set SMART targets then it was easier to achieve your goals. None of that seems to help now, and the decision you have to make is troubling.
Do you abandon your goal or continue with it?
Let’s give the dilemma more of a real feel. You want a pay raise. You need it. And you deserve it.
You need it
Your other half has done the math and you are not making ends meet. There is more month than money. You need that pay raise.
Hold on, if you don’t ask then you don’t get.
And in each of your last two six-monthly reviews, you have been told, “No!” Even though you outrightly asked your line manager for a pay increase.
Having invested twelve months of work do you persevere or abandon the goal? Do you keep up the output to win that raise or give up hope of that extra money?
If you abandon this goal, it might mean you are less engaged in your current job, or you will need to look for a new job.
A difficult decision and most of us would be confused. And it would be difficult to choose a course of action. And until the disappointment of not getting that raise wears off, we might not be able to clearly decide what to do.
The majority would see this as a terrible tragedy. Confronting our failure is hard, and it can wield tremendous power over us.
They would determine that they didn’t deserve to achieve their goal, that maybe they are not worthy of that raise. The very small minority would seize this as an opportunity.
They would view this as a chance to grow. But how?
So what’s the difference between these two groups? Obviously, they have different reactions to the same situation but there are other differences.
The significant difference is that one group is problem-oriented and the second group, the minority, is solution-oriented. The first group see the obstacle but fail to move towards the solutions to their problems.
If you think that you are in this group, don’t worry. There is hope.
Is virtual mentoring for you?
We live in a digital age. Bonds and relationships are formed without ever seeing each other face to face. And these virtual relationships have spread into the business world.
In traditional mentoring relationships, the mentor and mentee, interact on a face-to-face basis.
Modern methods of communicating via the Web, e-mail and other new technologies today make long-distance mentoring more feasible and more common.
Distance learning via virtual mentoring is an excellent way to facilitate knowledge transfer.
Face-to-face communication offers more information than can be gathered with virtual communication.
Things such as facial expressions, gestures and body language. So communicating virtually presents some challenges in communication.
Time zones are a possible challenge. For example, if the mentor is based as far away as China while the mentee is in the UK, then their meeting time is precarious, at best.
Without the nuances of communication when face to face you can’t tell the level of engagement, your mentor or mentee feels in the relationship. In other words
Any technology problems will be a source of frustration since you are depending on technology systems to provide the channel of communication.
A principal benefit of a virtual mentor is that it expands the field of mentors available to any one person massively. There may be a mentor based in the UK that may suit the needs of a mentee in Canada.
As in any mentoring relationship, there is the knowledge exchange from both parties. So any mentor should be regarded as an expert in that field.
But it goes further than this, it’s one thing to know what you’re doing. And entirely another to be able to explain what you know and do it clearly.
Good virtual mentors clearly communicate the lessons they have learned and the strategies they are offering.
They also have a desire to communicate the intricate details in a way that makes the mentee understand and learn.
Virtual mentoring is not just for problems
Mentoring helps you avoid problems by allowing you space to think and be more intentional about your goals and actions.
And virtual mentoring is especially helpful for getting clarity on where you want to go.
Working with a mentor gives you:
• Fresh perspectives
• Challenges where your thinking is stuck
• Space for self-reflection
• Support for difficulties and new ideas
• Accountability for your plans
Mentors don’t just provide answers, they ask great questions. The best mentoring questions help you find your own answers.
In this Ted Talk, Bill Gates says, “everyone needs a coach.”
Let’s face it, if you think that a potential mentor will come looking for you and simply knock on your door, you may be waiting a long time.
Research suggests that extroverted people are more likely to initiate mentoring relationships.
This may be because they have higher levels of self-esteem and are achievement-oriented. So, if you are shy and reserved what are you to do?
Enter the world of virtual mentoring…
Email, Skype and Google Hangouts have become second nature in business communication, diminishing the need to hold so many meetings.
And when it comes to relationships such as that between mentor and mentee, virtual communication eliminates the need to meet in person.
A strong arguement for virtual mentoring is on the basis that electronic communication can be disinhibiting. Electronic communication enables people to talk freely and openly, particularly for introverts.
You can think of virtual communication as “electronic courage” enabling frank and open communication.
A recent report from Harvard Business Review made a case for having multiple virtual mentors.
The authors, from Babson College in the US, wrote: “In today’s complex workplace, one mentor alone often won’t do. To spark innovation and ideation, employees often require information from some areas in real time. That’s why there is a need for us to have multiple mentors with expertise in various domains.”
What you want in a mentor is someone who truly cares for you and who will look after your interests and not just their own.
I like to think of this as the buffet appraoch to selecting virtual mentors.
You survey the buffet to see what is on offer and then choose the most appealing items. Then if you like them you can go back for more whilst avoiding the items that you didn’t like.
Is mentoring yourself possible
Some people’s circumstances don’t allow them to hire a mentor. I get that. And that is the primary reason the majority of the material on this website is available for FREE.
And yes, it is possible to benefit from good mentoring questions if you choose to go it alone. Later I will introduce five mentoring questions that I always tend to ask.
If you want to start mentoring yourself, I say, “Good for you.”To be successful, you need to start off by setting aside dedicated time for reflection. Ideally the same time each week.
And you will need a journal. Writing your stuff down is crucial because it forces you to slow down and get clarity. And it provides a vehicle for accountability.
Rather than go it alone, you could team up with a friend and mentor each other.
You can start by working your way through a list of mentoring questions or selecting a few questions that best apply to your situation. It is quite amazing how one or two questions pop out as particularly appropriate.
Don’t just choose the easy questions. Eveyone one of us has fallen into the trap of not wanting to confront the ugliness of the truth.
Choose questions that challenge you or that make you uncomfortable. And don’t race to answer them. Take your time to digest the question and consider your answers fully.
Five mentoring questions
These five questions, can serve as a self-diagnosis of one’s own opportunities and capabilities. They also form an effective diagnostic tool to provide guidance to mentee.
What does success look like for you?
Asking this refers to long-term planning and goals. And if applied to a specific situation, can help determine what the immediate priorities are.
What outcome do you want?
This question is effective for situations where there is more than one equally viable solution or course of action. Starting from the desired outcome, the best action to undertake becomes clear.
If the mentee is facing a really complicated decision this is often the best question to help them look at the situation from an entirely new angle,.
What would you like to be different in five years?
This question focuses the mentee on a longer-term outcome. The time frame allows enough time for aspirational, creative thinking.
The answers may reveal how the mentee wants to grow, or fundamental changes they need to make in order to achieve their goals.
What obstacles are you facing?
Mentees may not have thought through the challenges they are facing or may be reluctant to share the challenges. Asking about them allows an exploration of the challenges the mentee is struggling with.
What is under your control?
This question shifts the focus from ruminating about factors that are beyond the mentee’s control and onto what they can actually do.
These five critical questions help you assess where you can really help. Try these the next time you are mentoring or answer them yourself as a self-diagnostic.
The answers can help put together a sensible game plan for forward progress.
Following the herd
When most of the world is problem oriented it is easy to simply follow the herd. But we want to break from the herd and be solution oriented.
The key is awareness and discipline. You need the awareness to realise when you are ruminating on the problem. And the awareness to realise that you can do something else.
Then the discipline to apply the 2 to 8 rule. For every 2 minutes that you devote to thinking about the problem then you have to apply 8 minutes thinking about the solution.
The 2 minutes will pass quickly and the 8 minutes will be an ordeal. We are designed and conditioned to focus more on problems than solutions.
When you apply the 2 to 8 rule consistently you will quickly shift from problem to solution based thinking. The ordeal of the impending time spent on solutions stops your thinking about problems pretty quickly.
Try it and let me know how it works for you.
By taking advantage of virtual mentoring, you can tap into a developmental process that extends far beyond traditional networks to enhance personal enrichment and career success.
For the savvy, the virtual world of mentoring is yours to explore.