6 Best Practices for Mentoring Across Distance

Amanda Dreher - Sunday, November 27, 2016

Before you attempt distance mentoring, check your beliefs and feelings about this strategy. If you’re stalling, you may need to make a paradigm shift in your thoughts and emotions. Choose to recognize distance mentoring as a viable strategy, build enthusiasm for it, and find ways to maximize its benefits and reduce its disadvantages.

  • 1. Set expectations: Agree on a regular meeting time, put it on your calendar and keep your commitment to it. Discuss what ways and how often you will communicate, expectations for confidentiality, how you will give encouragement and feedback, and what the objectives for the relationship are.
  • 2. Communicate, communicate, communicate: Communication is critical and yet may be a stumbling block for those who enter this new challenge without intentionality. Floating along will not be an effective strategy. Taking charge will. Black and white words carry the color of your perceptions and therefore may not complete the communication with its full intended meaning when communicating only through email, text, and LMS systems. We have to err on the side of “over communication.” When possible use real time communication.
  • 3. Cultivate trust early: Be intentional about doing things to build trust. It is difficult for learning to occur if the mentee does not feel the mentoring relationship is safe. To build trust, meet more often at the beginning, use visual interaction whenever possible (e.g. facetime, video conference, SKYPE). Take time to get to know each other on a personal level by sending pictures, telling stories and being authentic and vulnerable. Listen without agenda. Encourage whenever you can.
  • 4. Take on a learning stance: Instead of assuming things about your mentee/mentor, show genuine curiosity about your partner. Ask open ended questions and really listen to the response.
  • 5. Discuss cultural differences: If there are cultural differences, discuss them up front. Talk about what the best ways are to build trust, how you feel best giving/receiving feedback and the best ways to encourage and hold accountable, etc.
  • 6. Create structure that works: Discuss early what structure your interactions should take. Adjust as necessary. Consider making this simple processes a consistent part of your mentoring meetings.
    • a. Send an agenda and progress on goals in advance. Mentees take the lead in preparing and sending these prior to the meeting.
    • b. Turn off computers and cell phones that are not in use for the meeting; remove other distractions.
    • c. Call/login (or be ready to receive the call/login) exactly on time.
    • d. Review progress from last session, discuss successes and challenges. Plan for new sets of activities to work on for the next mentoring period.
    • e. Take notes and date them. File them so they stay together and where both the mentee and mentor have access.
    • f. Send a summary of agreements and next steps.

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