We recognise that this is a very hard time for everyone and that COVID-19 stands to have a significant impact on the global economy and on individual businesses. For many of us running businesses, the reality of the current situation is just hitting us now and will have created a lot of uncertainty. There are inevitably winners and losers in the mix: some may be in the fortunate position of trying to meet increased demand, while many will be struggling with paying bills and laying staff off as they are told to close their business.
What we all have in common is that we need to adapt our ways of being and working, while contending with the restrictions of not being able to move freely. Supporting each other to get through this is key, we can’t do it on our own. But how do you continue with mentoring when you have fears around your business and it’s survival? We have received this and many similar questions from Mowgli mentees, and would like to share some of tips with you, as well as our recommendations to support you as you proceed.
Question 1. Should I continue with the mentoring relationship?
While many of us are taking time to come to terms with our new realities, and conversations may center on this, when it comes to your business, there will probably be some difficult decisions you need to make. This is where your mentor can play an important role. If you are just starting up the business, things may have been put on hold. What can you purposefully do now? If the business is ongoing, how has it been affected by the current situation? What are the opportunities and priorities? How can costs be reduced, staff kept on? It is in times like this that supporting each other, and mentoring is even more critical than ever.
We believe that Albert Einstein was right when he said “In the middle of every difficulty lies opportunity.”
It may be very hard for some of us to see this right now, but every change opens up new doors of opportunity. If we can see these, we will emerge more resilient: your mentor is critical in keeping this positive mindset and building this resilience. Draw on this precious resource as support and give to others during this time. Remember that it is up to you to drive this relationship, so reach out to your mentor today and let them know that you would like to talk.
Question 2. How can my mentor support me?
If the current situation has had an immediate effect on your business, you are likely going to have to reframe everything, see it from a different perspective and explore options as to how to survive and find the opportunities which lie within. There are the immediate business questions: what are the key risks to my business today? What should my priorities be? What actions should I be taking today? How should I manage my cash? Do I need to lay any of my team off and if so, how do I manage that fairly and respectfully?
There may be opportunities for you to explore with your mentor how they can adapt and adjust that which you may not have seen yet? How might you be able to realign your business to stay afloat or take this time to pivot and emerge stronger on the other side? Are there any other things that you haven’t thought of yet? If the business has not been affected, or if it is in the fortunate position where it is experiencing significantly increased demand, it is also an opportunity to work in solidarity and support other organisations who may be in a less fortunate position.
Are they any partnerships which can be made, work which can be outsourced remotely to help fellow business owners less fortunate, etc.? You will undoubtedly be experiencing a mix of confusion, fear, insecurity, stress and/or loneliness. Take the time to be a safe space with your mentor and reach out to them to help you to think questions through at a deeper level, and uncover the answers within. We are all resourceful, we only need the right space and questions to realise it.
Question 3. What about my mentor?
This new situation is uncharted territory for everyone so don’t put your mentor under pressure by asking them for solution or answers. Remember that they are there to listen and help you think through solutions, not to give them to you.
Your mentor may be going through many of the same challenges that you yourself are. So make sure you are understanding and ask them what they are going through, and how things are affecting their business. What is their way forward? And what decisions are they needing to make?
Remember! In these difficult times, we shouldn’t let each other be nor feel alone, therefore we ask you for the following:
● Reach out to your mentor today to let them know how you are doing and ask them how they are. Ask them if you can have a mentoring session.
● Reach out to your mentee peer group to ask for support and share your experiences with them. It’s an opportunity for you to realise the power of your mentee network andlearn and collaborate with each other.
● Reach out to us at Mowgli to let us know how you are getting on and how we can best support you
● Give the gift of mentoring to others in your family, businesses and/or communities, it’s these gifts of kindness that we will remember when all the dust settles
Over the coming weeks we will be sharing our thoughts in answer to your queries (so please keep them coming!) stories of how the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting our mentors and mentees, and how people are innovating, adapting and overcoming the challenges. Feel free to share your stories and/or questions through firstname.lastname@example.org