How to Mentor When Times Are Really Tough

Where ever you live, the stresses on daily life can be relentless. It can be one crisis after another with no recovery time in between.

Whether you are coaching and mentoring people in your own work team, across your organisation, or outside of work, it requires a level of self-awareness to know when you are suffering too much from worry and fear yourself. The reptilian brain can hijack the executive brain without even realising it. You can’t be helpful to others when you are feeling this way and so it’s important to find strategies to calm yourself and return to a more resourceful, grounded state.

Tune back into what’s important to you and stay true to your values. Give yourself a break. No one is expected to be a superhero, especially not at the moment.

How do you mentor others when they are worried and anxious?
1. Ask your mentee how they are feeling and what would be most helpful to them in your conversation. They may just need you to do MORE LISTENING. When people are anxious, sometimes they just want to unload and process their feelings.

2. Recognise when you cannot help. You probably can’t fix the underlying problems for them, and they may need expert help. If you feel your mentee is suffering from extreme anxiety or depression, encourage them to seek professional help. They may need to suspend the mentoring for a while. Focusing on challenging goals may be inappropriate right now.

3. Be vulnerable and share your own imperfections, including your own struggles with what is happening in your environment. This may help them to realise that it’s quite normal to feel anxious at times like these.

4. Make it OK for them to show emotions and talk about them. The more you get comfortable with sitting quietly with someone who is suffering, the more useful you will be too them.

Great mentors don’t fill awkward silences, they don’t necessarily try get mentees to see the positives in a terrible situation. They just listen and validate. The Wellbeing Lab 2020 Workplace Report found that that workers experience greater wellbeing and better performance when they feel psychologically safe to bring up problems and talk honestly about mistakes with each other. This finding is widely supported in various studies. Don’t underestimate what a lifeline you can be to your mentees when times get tough.

You are needed!

© Melissa Richardson