Distance mentoring, or mentoring without consistent face-to-face meetings, is becoming more than just a necessary evil. Companies are now seeing the benefits of this paradigm and are crafting strategies to make the most of the advantages. They are finding it to be a potentially powerful strategy for helping people develop. The best person to be your mentor may not be in close proximity. With the advantages of today’s electronic media, we can access relationships and learning that was not possible years ago. Distance mentoring can be an effective strategy particularly for global companies.
Distance mentoring has a number of benefits. Consider the following:
- 1. It opens up new pairing opportunities: If proximity isn’t necessary, then you are not limited to who you can have for a mentoring partner.
- 2. Lessons restrictions of location, time: Being able to use electronic media for your interactions opens up locations and times that you would not have if the interaction was always face to face. If you travel, or work odd hours, you can still reach out and communicate with your mentoring partner.
- 3. Allows for more thought on interactions: Since communication does not have to be real time, there are opportunities to be thoughtful about your
reactions and input. You can say things the way you want, with thought and consideration.
Understanding and addressing the challenges of distance mentoring will add to its success. Address these early:
- 1. Building trust: Without all the non-verbal cues that can be informational in face-to-face meetings, it is more challenging to establish trust. To cover this, be extra conscious of communication, be authentic and honest, and avoid any trust busters.
- 2. Keeping up momentum: Make sure that you have scheduled your interactions and electronic meetings for the time commitment. Remember to celebrate successes along the way. Address frustrations and challenges quickly so they do not slow down progress. Try to vary your meeting agenda so meetings don’t become too predictable. Remember to share personal stories to continue to build your relationship.•
- 3. Communication challenges: Be careful with making assumptions on written communication.
Assume the best and if something does not seem right address it quickly. Verify your communication and make sure that what you meant to say is what your partner understood (and that you understand the meaning behind what your partner communicates to you).
Yes, there are challenges to developing a mentoring relationship through the span of distance. However, these are greatly overshadowed by the benefits that can be realized through distance mentoring.