Mentoring entrepreneurs in times of uncertainty

How can you continue to support your mentee during these uncertain times We have had a number of similar questions from our mentors and would like to share five tips, together with our recommendations to support you as you carry on mentoring.

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1. Should we continue with the mentoring relationship during these uncertain times?

While many of us are taking time to come to terms with our new realities, and mentoring conversations may center on this, when it comes to your mentee’s business, there will probably be some difficult decisions they need to make. This is where you can play an important role. Their personal and professional plans may have been put on hold and or/completely changed.

Asking them questions such as: how they really are? How have they been affected and what can they purposefully do now? What’s the next step they can take? What are the opportunities and priorities? How can things be done differently? What are the best personal and business-related decisions you’ve taken to date since the uncertainty began? What have you achieved? When you’ve had a crisis before, what happened and what lessons did you learn from the experience regarding how to pull through and what not to do that you can draw upon now?

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 role as a mentor is critical in supporting them to keep a positive mindset, explore the options, identify their fears, gain clarity and build their resilience. Give to others during this time

2. How can I continue to effectively support my mentee when there is such a lack of clarity?

If the current situation has had an immediate effect on your mentee’s business, you are likely going to have to help them to reframe everything, see it from a different perspective and explore options as to how they can move forward, help them to determine the type of leader they wish to be during this time and find the opportunities which lie within.

There are the immediate questions which they may already be thinking through: what are the key risks to my focus/business today? What should my priorities be? What actions should I be taking today? How should I manage my cash? How should I engage with and manage my relationships with my team? Do I need to lay any of them off and if so, how do I manage that process in a way which is in alignment with my values? If I feel that closing my business is the only option, what other options are there open to me? How do I get the energy and mindset to fight another day?

These may be opportunities and questions for you to explore together. What blind spots are you seeing that they simply cannot during this time? How can you help them to adapt and adjust? How could they realign their business to stay afloat or take this time to pivot and emerge stronger on the other side? Are there any other things that they haven’t thought of yet? Is it time to change things up?

These times are also an opportunity for everyone to work in solidarity and support others who may be in a less fortunate position. Are there any partnerships which they can form which would help them to achieve their goals? How can they gain meaning by serving others? How can they personally support the emergency need?

They will undoubtedly be experiencing a mix of confusion, fear, insecurity, stress and/or loneliness. Take the time to further develop the safe space with your mentee to offload and share these with you, and help them to think through the questions and challenges they have at a deeper level, so that they can uncover the answers within. We are all resourceful, we only need the right space, curious questions and a willing listening ear to realise it.

3. As a mentor I don’t feel I have much to give at the moment… what should I do?

As a mentor you may be going through much of this yourself, and do not feel able to effectively support your mentee. We are always able to give much more when we are in a growth mindset and a stable emotional state ourselves — and in fact these are key criteria we look for when recruiting mentors. Our external environment may be outside of our control, however, our mindset is very much within it… remember that by being there for someone else, you can still be of service.

By supporting your mentee, you may draw strength from the conversation yourself, jointly find solutions to their and your challenges and see their and your options in a new light. Be open and share some of your own challenges with your mentee, you may have some realisations of your own in the process. This is one of the beauties of mentoring, mutual learning and growth.

4. I don’t feel equipped and/or able to give my mentee psychological help at the moment…what should I do?

Anxiety about our business, family and personal lives and health, is affecting all of us to a certain degree at the moment and creating our own path to deal with this is a challenge, let alone being fully present to support someone else.

As a mentor, your role is not to give psychological help to fix anyone or anything, as no one is broken. Through your trust based and non-judgmental relationships, it is an opportunity for you to be your mentee’s confidante, guide, cheerleader and sounding board to help them think through their challenges and options so that they gain clarity, offer feedback and share your experience and wisdom with them to empower them to find their own solutions. Your care will mean more to them than you know.

These times are giving us an opportunity to adapt our ways of working and this could be a great time for you to revisit and make any amendments to your mentoring agreement and objectives as well as to clarify and/or reset boundaries around what you are and are not able to support your mentee with.

Although Mowgli supports a 360 degree mentoring approach, which focuses on the personal and professional aspects together, if your mentee is asking you for more business support at the moment, that is fine. Mentoring relationships ebb and flow with your mentee letting you know the support they need. Share your experience with them, explore and support them in this manner, remembering to actively listen, be compassionately curious with your questions, reflect back to them what you are hearing and empower them to step into this moment.

5. As a mentor, what can I do now to make sure no one feels alone?

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 mentees today to ask them how they are doing, to let them know they are not alone and that you are there for them
  • Reach out to your mentor peer group to ask for support and share your experiences with each other. It’s an opportunity for you to realise the power of your mentor network and learn 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

Like others, the Mowgli Mentoring team is learning to navigate and adapt to these unfamiliar times.

How are we coping with working from home and supporting our programme participants during this period? We share some of our experiences here.

Written by

A not-for-profit driving inclusive economic & social change in Africa and Middle East by empowering entrepreneurs, employees, women and youth through mentoring

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