I have had numerous discussions with people around this very topic. What does mentoring look like in the “digital age” and what are the skill sets that we would need to be effective.
Let’s first take a look at mentoring as most of us know it. Typically we see mentoring as the wise old sage passing on wisdom and knowledge through a process of suggesting or telling a seemingly younger person on how they should address a particular situation or problem. Most of this interaction would come in the form of a face to face meeting. It would definitely be a one way sharing of knowledge.
In today’s digital age so much has changed. Mentoring has experienced a paradigm shift from the wise old sage to a process that is more in line with where organizations are going – a “learning and development” environment. The digital age has just opened some additional doors for this paradigm shift to take hold. So what does this mean? Mentoring is evolving to become more and more about a two way trusted relationship where both parties will learn and grown personally and professionally. The mentor guides the person they are spending time while experiencing growth on a personal and professional basis.
More and more we now see distance mentoring taking place where the needs of the mentee are being met despite the geographical separation. What this does mean for the mentor and in part for the mentee is a deeper appreciation for effective communication. I have been involved in a number of mentor relationships where method of communication was either via telephone, text messages, Skype, Google Hangout, Zoom to mention but a few. We typically see this taking place in a face to face environment but that has evolved. The digital age has created a fast paced environment where the need for knowledge, the need for guidance has become something that cannot wait. Waiting for the opportunity to align two busy schedules for a face to face meeting is become more and more challenging as time moves forward.
What I have found is that the digital age has actually been a blessing for my mentoring career. It has taken my mentoring skills to yet another level. I mentor a large number of people using various mediums to communicate and I have had to sharpen my skill sets when it comes to effective communication. Being able to hear the nuances in a voice, or see some different signs via body language has become all that more important. Listening for trigger words in a conversation or for deflections has helped me in how I communicate. Listening and hearing when someone is experiencing a time of doubt or a lack of self-esteem is all that more important when you are not face to face.
The digital age has helped change the face of mentoring. The reach that we as mentors can have when we leverage technology has been increased and helps us share “the gift of mentoring”. Mentoring does make a difference. Embrace the “gift of mentoring” – can you afford not to??”
Doug Lawrence is the founder of TalentC®, a Human Resources solution provider focused on effective mentoring. Doug is an International Certified Mentor Practitioner (ICMP) and an International Certified Mentor Facilitator (ICMF). He has over 30 years of mentoring and leadership experience.
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