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The UPS Store Small Business Blog
  • 16 November 2020
  • Leo Covey

How to Be a Mentor in a Remote World

Dr. John C. Crosby, co-founder of the mentorship organization Uncommon Individual Foundation, once said, “Mentorship is a brain to pick, an ear to listen and a push in the right direction.” For small business owners who lead with both their hearts and minds, those are some powerful ingredients to tap into. At its core, mentorship is a rich relationship of trust, care, mutual respect and a myriad of other qualities that we should all strive to bring into the workplace every day.

Now more than ever, as we continue to explore new ways of working in the world of small business, strong mentor-mentee relationships can be a lifeline. For remote workers and leaders who feel isolated from traditional sources of inspiration and leadership, here are some tips for finding and creating what can potentially be a positive, and maybe even life-changing, mentor-mentee relationship.

“A brain to pick”
Remote mentoring is offered through SCORE, MicroMentor and other organizations that pair small business

person writing in journal

owners with experienced entrepreneurs. You can also use the power of social media to find and create your own personalized mentor program without going through a third party.

For mentees
Find someone in your field with valuable experience and perspective — someone who can help you navigate your profession and work through the issues that matter most to you and your small business. While geography plays less and less of a role in our remote work situation, you should consider someone who can help you expand your professional network nationally or globally.

For mentors
Commit to finding a mentee who needs real help and is facing actual adversity in their career. The journey will be that much more rewarding if you can overcome these obstacles together and earn a shared sense of success. Find someone who responds to your guidance but also challenges your intellect at the same time.

“An ear to listen”
Core to any meaningful relationship, especially in the world of mentors and mentees, is a solid foundation of trust and truth telling. There can be no genuine exchange of dialogue without a level of emotional vulnerability that is free of posturing.

For mentees
Be yourself, flaws and all. This is not a job interview. Though you may want to, you do not have to impress your mentor. A winning dynamic with your mentor is an arrangement that is full of promise and short on pretense. Come to the table with the challenges you face as a small business owner and entrepreneur. You will soon realize that your deepest fears and steepest challenges were probably shared by your mentor at one point.

For mentors
Ask the right questions to get to the heart of your mentee’s professional journey. As a mentor, your job is to listen first and uncover teachable moments. Offer up your expertise and insights, but also understand that everyone’s problems are personal. Don’t look to solve problems quickly, but rather help your mentee find the right tools to solve things themselves.

“A push in the right direction”
The beauty of the mentor-mentee relationship is that it is mutually beneficial, and the exchange of knowledge is anything but one-way. Both mentors and mentees will learn from each other if the chemistry and framework within their relationship are right.

For mentees
Mentors can and should be the catalyst for change. But mentees also have the power to inform, educate and “mentor up” about up-and-coming innovations that a more experienced leader may not see from their vantage point. Consider setting up some time in each meeting to brief your mentor about emerging trends in your industry.

For mentors
Think about all the great leaders, teachers and mentors in your own life. What lessons did they teach you? What are the characteristics of those great leaders? Learn to embrace your past life lessons, and pass along that level of inspiration and aspiration. As you progress in your relationship with your mentee, challenge them to visualize what it takes to be a better leader, and then hold them accountable to that vision.

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