Mentoring (like interviews and management) is not just a methodological process; it’s also an emotional one. To give the best assistance to your mentee, you need to be able to read between the lines and not just understand the technical, business or relationship challenges your mentee is bringing up, but also try to see how the things they bring up affect them emotionally.
The key to a breakthrough many times lies there.
I would recommend, if possible, to mentor face to face. Face to face mentoring is always better. It makes it easier to be there for your mentee when sitting in the same room in a relaxed (almost therapy like) environment.
It is harder to “crack it” when the mentor and mentee are not located in the same city and have a problem meeting face to face, especially for us Israelis who are very informal (talking with our hands) people.
The challenges in remote mentoring are similar to any mentoring, but the medium enhances them. While in face to face mentoring you may quickly get out of not preparing in advance by improvising on the go and reacting to body language and emotion, in a remote mentoring, the key for success is preparation on both sides. Otherwise, you get into awkward silences and meetings that end early and are not as effective as they could have been.
If remote mentoring is your only viable option, make sure to address the challenges adequately (some of the advice below are good also for face to face meetings):
- Keeping momentum is important. Make sure you have a meeting at least once a week or once a fortnight. Use video calls. If a video call is not an option, a phone call is also better than nothing.
- Schedule a week in advance, so the “I am busy” excuse is not an option.
- If for some reason the time becomes inconvenient, try to be flexible and find a new time in the same week.
- Find a time in which each of you can be in a convenient environment. Make sure it is an environment and time in which a video call can be used conveniently without interruption.
- Stay focused during the meeting. Keeping a focus on your mentee in a video call at all times is not easy. Sitting in front of a computer causes many of us to wander to other tasks in parallel. Treat it as if it is a customer call.
- It helps to agree on the topic over emails in advance. This allows both you and your mentee to prepare and read ahead.
- An email from the mentee covering his thoughts for the session beforehand can also help prepare both of you and allow you to go deeper.