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Hybrid Work Can Enhance Mentorship and Coaching, Says BCG Senior Partner

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Hybrid Work Can Enhance Mentorship And Coaching, Says Bcg Senior Partner

One of the most common arguments against hybrid work is that you can’t mentor and coach people when you’re not working in close proximity to each other, impeding their growth and development.

While it’s true that there’s no substitute for face-to-face, one-on-one personal interactions and collaboration—getting to know a colleague over drinks, dinner, or a long plane ride together, for example—when it comes to mentorship and coaching there are many ways to make it work in hybrid and, perhaps, even make it work better!

Here are several suggestions to make it work for you:

1. Make sure you meet initially in person. Hybrid doesn’t mean 100% remote. A lot of people get that wrong. The reason hybrid is the predominant work model coming out of the global pandemic is because we found out during those dark days, as COVID-19 forced us to work virtually, that some things are done better together, in the office, and some things are done just as well or better apart, away from office distractions. Building a relationship, whether for mentorship purposes or any other, requires real face time. It doesn’t have to be often. But it has to be where you begin.

I’ve mentored people I see only occasionally—maybe once a year at most—but it requires a strong foundation. You build that foundation by finding time to go out to dinner or drinks and getting to know the person you plan to mentor on a personal level. After the initial relationship has been built, quarterly or even twice-a-year meetings may do.

2. Keep a log. After you get to know the person you’re taking under your wing, write down what you learned so you don’t forget: their spouse or partner’s name, their children’s names and ages, where they’re originally from, where they went to school, what they do for fun, what their career aspirations are, what they’re working on, what they’re particularly good at.

When you have remote mentoring interactions, don’t hesitate to refer to your notes so you can ask about the family, or how a particular project is coming along. Trust me: It’ll make them happy that you remembered. Be sure to keep the log current. Update it every time you have an interaction. As I get older, written notes become so much more important!

3. See something; say something. If the individual you’re mentoring does something that impresses you, or you hear a colleague, client or customer say something positive about his or her work, send a personal note congratulating them. The medium—a text, Slack message, e-mail or phone call—doesn’t matter nearly as much as the message: “I heard you did an amazing job on (fill in the blank). Well done!” The same applies to a hybrid meeting that you’re attending remotely: If the person you’re mentoring says something particularly useful or insightful, send them a private message saying “well done.”

On the other hand, if they’re sitting quietly and not speaking up—easy to do in most meetings, which are typically boring, a waste of time, and involve far too many participants, one or two of whom dominate the conversation—consider sending them a low-key private message encouraging them to jump in if you know they have something to contribute. “You should speak up. I know you have a lot of expertise in this area.” Follow up with a “well done” note immediately afterwards.

4. Be there. Coaching and mentoring activities can’t always be scheduled in advance. Some of it, by necessity, will always be spontaneous: when a problem arises, when the person you’re mentoring can’t decide between two equally appealing, or equally unappealing, courses of action, or when he or she just needs to vent about something. Helping people work though such matters is also part of the job. Forget the Slack; pick up the phone. Be the steady, senior colleague all of us have needed from time to time.

With all of this in mind, you can see that coaching and mentoring is not only doable in a hybrid work environment, but that hybrid work makes the job easier and more effective in some respects. Moreover, the bonds you create through multi-channel touch points will likely last a lifetime—regardless of where your career paths take you.

The relaxed rhythms of hybrid mentoring also might give you space and time to take on additional mentees. So, take some time to build your hybrid mentoring and coaching muscle. Both the people you help and your organization will be grateful.

Rachel Adams

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