Why Mentors Are Crucial For Entrepreneurs

As Suzzanne Uhland has previously asserted: it takes a lot to thrive and succeed as an entrepreneur. Startups, and by extension entrepreneurs, are constantly looking for new ways to achieve their goals, thusly breaking all the rules and making a myriad of mistakes in an effort to drive their businesses forward. Thus, and as previously mentioned in this blog, seizing the help of a mentor stands out as something invaluable.

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Launching a startup and becoming a great, inspiring and successful entrepreneur is a journey full of advantages and disadvantages: as aspiring business and company-developers, entrepreneurs always happen to find themselves in situations where the most common feeling is highly related to disorientation and not knowing what to do; however they do understand the importance of always staying in motion pushing towards their goals making decisions irrespective of the possible outcome.

Without someone pointing them in the right direction—or a mentor, so to speak—, entrepreneurs often end up making terrible mistakes, especially during the early stages after launching their businesses. These circumstances suggest that the smaller the business, the faster they need to keep moving regardless of the challenges that lie ahead.

Talking about challenges, it is undeniable that the journey of becoming an entrepreneur is full of them, and that should be taken for granted. Thus, having good mentors and someone to reach out to for advice becomes no less than essential. A good mentor’s words and advice will help entrepreneurs and startup enthusiasts to take action within imperfect circumstances—if there is such a thing as perfect circumstances, though—, because they not only provide a different point of view but also can give extra confidence to keep moving forward without doubts and hesitation. In short: they help entrepreneurs execute rapidly on time delicate and sensitive decisions in an attempt to keep moving towards the main goal.

The journey of succeeding as an entrepreneur is also a journey of gathering a myriad of information—thinking pragmatically of the long-term—. Getting all the data needed to keep moving forward in order to make the best decisions is something that, although can be done without reaching out for help, is something best done by seeking a mentor for help and advice before recklessly making those decisions. Bear in mind that mentors are individuals who have likely already been through the exact same, or similar, situation, therefore, their help is invaluable.

As formerly mentioned by LinkedIn founder, Reid Hoffman, the essence of today’s entrepreneurial journey and the challenges often under its scope can perfectly be described by a simple metaphor: startups, and the decision to become an entrepreneur is like jumping off a cliff and assembling an aircraft on the way down. Thus, entrepreneurs cannot simply assume they have all the tools to assemble the aircraft alone, all by themselves, which is why mentors embody a great source of information and advice.

What makes a good mentor stand out? Well, there are certainly different aspects and characteristics. Here are two of them:

A good mentor possesses high-level expertise

A good mentor is someone who possesses a valuable set of skills and expertise, often in the same skills entrepreneurs lack. This demands a lot of self-awareness from the side of startup enthusiasts, for big names and titles do not always mean an individual will serve a good purpose as a mentor. Industry veterans are not systematically the perfect match, rather, entrepreneurs should set out identify those individuals who underwent really tough situations that demanded actual work and tons of hustle. Do not just pay attention to fancy names, look for the skills that are needed to pursue the dream.

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Mentors often highlight the importance of making a long-term oriented partnership in order to maintain momentum throughout the stages of the process, especially the early stages. There is an undeniable difference in pace between already well-established businesses and smaller companies. This means that smaller businesses need to move faster to ensure they reach a conclusion.

A good mentor is someone who succeeded as an entrepreneur

This is quite obvious, yet often disregarded by today’s entrepreneurs. And although it may sound a bit biased, it is undeniable that there are mentors who have been—or still are—entrepreneurs. Success is something that can be measured in a plethora of different ways, but real mentors have likely walked in the exact same shoes and taken the same steps than today’s entrepreneurs. In order to determine whether a mentor is a good fit, it is quite good to assess whether entrepreneurs see themselves succeeding just like their mentor has. It is much easier just to follow an advice that comes from someone who has made a name for himself by doing something similar—they kind of stand out as the living proof that legitimizes all the efforts that are needed to achieve whatever entrepreneurs want to achieve.

* Featured Image courtesy of Startup Stock Photos at Pexels.com

Some Of The Things That Set A Good And A Great Mentor Apart.

Mentoring relationships come in all shapes in sizes, like we have discussed before here at Suzzanne Uhland’s Blog, and that means that while no two mentorships are alike there are some common factors they share in order to be successful. With that being said, it is important to also understand that not all mentoring relationships are as successful as others and that there are mentors who truly make a difference when compared to their peers.

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It is an honor to be chosen to be someone’s mentor. There is a lot that goes into that responsibility and those who truly care never take it lightly. A mentor is a highly influential figure in someone else’s life and the support they give is extremely valuable and important in helping their protégées get ahead and reach their full potential.

Understanding the full potential of a mentor and the immense responsibility it carries with to fill those shoes in someone’s life can be daunting and overwhelming, and accepting that fact is the first step that proves that you will make a difference as a mentor; the trepidation for fear of getting it wrong.

Mentoring isn’t easy and being great at it is even more difficult. A great part of it has to do with a correct match between mentor and mentee and the idea that each one of the parties involved in able and willing to give the partnership their best and contribute with everything they can. However, even a great match up is only part of the issue, there are many things that mentees just like mentors must bring to the table and contribute to the partnership in order to not just to succeed but also to stand apart from the rest. Helping others may be easier than you think, but creating a truly lasting difference takes a lot of hard work.

One of the first things to consider is the fact that great mentors are involved and take real actions towards the evolution of their mentees. Mentors who care about the people under their wing and about doing a great job at mentoring are known for taking risks and getting their hands dirty when it’s time to get the job done. Anyone can talk about great mentoring, but only a few can back those words with real meaningful actions and that is one of the most important things that make a great mentor.

A great mentor doesn’t just solve situations for their mentees; they actually find ways to challenge them and help them believe in their own abilities and their capacity to get ahead and figure things out on their own. A person who pushes you is a person who is in a way forcing you into a situation that will help you find the better side of you and polish your skills to be better or even find skills you didn’t even know you had.

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A great mentor is real. Mentors do not pretend to know everything as they are well aware of their own shortcomings and will help their mentees utilize the experience they have accrued over the years. It is a reality that you may not be able to learn from other people’s mistake, but it is worth a try and going against that approach pretty much negates the entire point of having a mentor. Experience has its good and its bad sides and you must embrace both of them in order to truly learn. A great mentor will not simply sit there and tell you stories about their glory or show you how successful they are. A mentor who cares is someone who sees the value in defeats just as they see it in victories, especially when it comes to their own experiences.

A great mentor knows how to communicate. Body language and nonverbal queues are ways great leaders and especially mentors must dominate in order to communicate efficiently. Your job as a mentor is that of guiding, advising and inspiring and that is why you must learn to be an effective communicator and someone with high emotional intelligence. These skills are not just great for mentoring, but also for any type of leader and for someone who is trying to advance their career like is the case with mentees who seek a mentor’s help. Being a great example of an emotionally intelligent individual is a great way to pass down those skills.

To sum up, a great mentor is a person who understands the importance of teamwork and communication in a relationship as important and influential as mentorships are. They are dedicated, patient, firm and inquisitive about their mentees and their journey and understand overall the importance of allowing people to grow by giving them a chance to shine and not withholding the experiences that have made them who they are today, even if those experiences aren’t always pleasant.

How to make the transition from being a mentee to becoming a mentor?

It is well-known that mentors are important characters that help with the professional development of individuals. This is not an exception for law students who plan to one day become successful attorneys or start their own law firms. Mentors help to break that gap between experienced attorneys and the ones who just graduated from law school.

Mentorship needs to be a both-sided relationship between two individuals: the mentor and the mentee. Mentorship should be enriching and mutually beneficial. However, it is important to consider that all mentors needed to be mentees and that is why it is so important to find the right mentor. Depending on the type of mentor you have will be the type of mentor you will become.

In order for mentees to become great mentors, they need to receive great knowledge from their mentorship experience. Wisdom and useful advice are also important to set some standards and references for the future law mentor.

In this article, Suzzanne Uhland will review what is to be a law mentor and how do mentees take that step to become successful law mentors.

Related: How Mentors Inspire Their People Everyday

Being a mentee

As a mentee, your responsibility is to choose a mentor that can actually suit your needs. This is very important in law since you are only allowed to specialize in certain fields under that approval of a mentor. A mentor is not necessarily someone who sings in for the role. It can be anyone you are close to during the last years of law school or right after graduating from it.

Many mentors come in the shape of superiors who happen to work at the same place that you do. This is why it is very important for you to be surrounded by professionals that can give some key information and advice to your formation. This means that as a mentee you probably won’t have a boss who is constantly lecturing. But, a figure who is always willing to answer questions and help you grow professionally.

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Sometimes, those who once were mentees and now are mentors look back at the history and realize that some of their best mentors were not formally described as such. They were individuals with whom they could hold an enriching professional relationship with.

Those who are about to become mentors after being mentees should always keep in mind the important pieces of advice they once received from their mentors. Being a law mentee is about having the opportunity to observe, meet, and building long-lasting relationships. This happens because in the future you will want to share your skills, knowledge, and connections with those you are mentoring.

Becoming a mentor

Having said that, how do you make the transition from being a mentee to becoming a mentor? There are different answers to this question.

First, as a law mentee, you will have many mentors along your career. This will mean that you will know many attorneys and they will know you back. Having a nice background is highly important to become a successful attorney.

In many cases, a former mentee who is now a successful attorney will become a mentor by simply helping those individuals who just got out of law school. This way, the person who used to be a mentee will start to give hints, advice and pass knowledge to a new generation of attorneys who are eager to learn. This mentor – mentee relationship won’t be formally established but will help the mentee take the right path.

Another way for a former mentee to become a mentor is thanks to the law-student decision. It has been said that mentorship is a both-sided relationship. This is how many law-students or recently graduated lawyers look out for the type of mentor they want to have. After this research takes places, they will approach to their potential mentor to start a mentorship relationship.

When both the mentor and the mentee feel comfortable and find common ground to grow a mutually beneficial relationship, the mentoring process starts. However, this is not yet a formal mentoring relationship. It is an agreement between two people on the sharing of knowledge and experiences.

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The last way in which a former mentee can become a law mentor is by actually growing as an attorney. This will mean that the attorney will have a determinant background in the law practice. Also, it will mean that it is a successful and knowledgeable figure. When this happens, usually a law association spots the former mentee and offers it to become a mentor.

There are some associations in the United States who are dedicated to helping law-students become experienced and well-rounded professionals. These associations look for mentor candidates based on the student’s needs and want.

Bottom line, there is not only one way in which a law mentee could become a mentor. It is a process in which knowledge is gradually gained. It is also a new step that needs to be taken in order to help the new generations of attorneys to come be successful.

5 Basic mentoring principles you should assimilate

If you are reading this blog, it is possible that mentoring is already your endeavor, or maybe you are considering working as a mentor. In the latter case (but not less important regarding the first one,) it is essential that you know the basis of an appropriate mentoring; what are the guidelines that will help and guide you through the fascinating and sometimes complex world of helping others find ways. So, in this post, you will find four basic principles that you should evaluate and remember during your study, research, and, above all, on the battlefield. I hope that this information is of your total pleasure and usefulness, and, in that case, do not forget to share it with whom you consider that may appreciate it.

Recommended: 7 Reasons Why You Should Become a Mentor

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  1. Trust

The relationship between a mentor and mentee is, above all, a relationship of trust. Do not think that a title will automatically open the door to someone’s mind and heart. Remember that someone who sits in the mentee chair often feels that someone will tell him what to do with his or her life, and this is something that most people do not enjoy.

No one enjoys feeling like a child again, at least in this sense. So, remember it well: Trust is something you must earn. The key question here is how you break that wall of institutionality between you and the mentee, how you show that you are also a human being who, like him or her, also needs help from time to time. Be casual, joke a little, and establish a bond. That is not less professional at all.

  1. Voluntariness

This principle is intrinsically linked to the former one. Remember that the mentee is there because he needs help, not because someone is forcing him or her to do so, and this element is perhaps one of the most valuable factors of mentoring: The will to learn, to be guided. For this reason, you should always ensure that this relationship is voluntary.

Never allow anyone to force your mentee to initiate a mentoring process with you, and, above all, be careful to condition or manipulate the will of your mentee in case he or she decides to end the process. The only link that reinforces the relationship between a mentor and a mentee is the trust and willingness of both.

  1. The mentee directs each session

Remember it well: Mentoring is not coaching. Unlike the latter, it is the mentee who defines the issues to be addressed in each mentoring session. Although the mentor has a more general perspective of the knowledge the mentee is acquiring, the relationship between the two is not exactly a lecture. The mentee has a need about a specific topic and will approach the mentor to help him/her, above all, to ask the right questions that will help him/her to find satisfactory answers. This is vital: Learn to recognize the differences between mentoring and coaching. Coaching is not a bad thing, of course not. Simply, each process (mentoring and coaching) has different goals, methods, and standards.

Read also: Is there a difference between a mentor and a coach? by Suzzanne Uhland

  1. Patience

Really, there is no need to run in a hurry. Each person assimilates knowledge at a different rate and relates to it in a way that other people may not. So, be patient and take the time to complete each step of the mentoring process. No matter how much you know about a topic, you will realize that being on the side of the mentor will force you to learn much more, and what you already know will become a challenge somewhere along the way. Mentoring is a bilateral relationship in several senses. You, as a mentor, will also be mentee sometimes. So, go slow if necessary.

  1. It is all about goals and the way to achieve them

Every mentoring relationship is circumscribed around the achievement of objectives for which the relationship is to begin. In this sense, mentor and mentee must define their objectives before starting the whole planning process, and, above all, to make the goals tangible for the subsequent measurement of their accomplishment. It is important to keep in mind that a mentoring process is a learning process, and, therefore, it is useful to differentiate performance goals from learning goals. The latter contribute to the former, even so, in a mentoring process, it is important to work on both axes, since they re-feed each other. Likewise, it is interesting to define and differentiate the target goals from the intermediate objectives that will allow you to divide the mentoring process into small steps.

The more defined the objectives, the measurement process will be simpler, and there will be less ambiguity.

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It is very important that you – as a mentor – dialogue with your mentee about these principles before beginning the process. These (and not just these) principles will be the limits that will help you both to know what mentoring is, what it is not, and where you should direct this feedback relationship.

 

Reasons why having a female mentor is important for women

No matter in which industry you are planning to work in, finding yourself a mentor is always a good idea. This is particularly true if you are a woman trying to work for the first time in an industry that is mainly dominated by men and in which gender diversity is not a defined priority.

Suzzanne Uhland knows female mentors are very important for women who are planning to boost their working experience and enter into the business world. They are highly helpful when it comes to teaching their mentees about the way certain types of businesses work. Plus, they are key in the introduction of gender diversity in the labor market.

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When it comes to female mentors the traditional relationship between mentor and mentee has a different dynamic. Female mentors had to deal with adversity when trying to reach the point where they currently are at. They had to be tough and prove that they were capable of doing a “man’s job”. For this reason, they not only are in charge of guiding their mentees, they are also examples of endurance and success.

Keeping all this in mind, here are some reasons why it is important for women in the business world to find a female mentor:

Can help you boosting confidence

Female mentors are important for women because they help them boost their confidence in a market that is often populated mainly by men. This happens because female mentors are the living proof of limitless capabilities and possibilities. Also, they help women start creating their own network or link them to an existing one that can help them achieve their goals.

Another important fact that may help female mentees boost their confidence is that they will have someone looking out for them. This usually gives people the sense of support and allows them to feel more secure when learning about a process or making an important decision on their own.

Different type of working relationship

When it comes to finding a female mentor, the traditional scheme of mentor and mentee changes in a positive way. The hierarchical perspective of the relationship shifts and it becomes about two individuals trying to give their best at what they do. It is not like the mentor is going to lose its senior position or that the mentee is going to stop being a junior right away. But, it is about adding the human component and empathy to the relationship.

This shift in paradigms allows mentees to find their mentors in less formal contexts, such as networking events or simply by LinkedIn messages. This is especially significant in industries where not many women work and gender diversity should be encouraged.

Dealing with discrimination

It is very important for a woman to find a female mentor that can help her deal with problems and issues such as discrimination. It is very likely for the female mentor to have encountered discrimination during her career, especially in industries where women are a rare thing to see.

Workforces composed by men in the vast majority tend to underestimate the capacities of women. Sometimes, it is even possible to see how these workforces discriminate women because of their physical appearance.

Since this is old news for female mentors, they are probably the best individuals to guide women along the path of entering a new industry and face potential traces of gender discrimination. Female mentors can actually share some of their stories and give some hints and advice on how to deal with it and crack any industry that is dominated by men.

Sometimes, men don’t understand that this is a major issue for women because they have never had to deal with it during their careers. This is why women need to be guided by women because to win the game you need to understand how it works.

How can you find a female mentor?

After pointing out some of the reasons why it is important for business women to find themselves a female mentor, it is also important to give some hints on how to find one.

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There are many networks and organizations of women trying to help other women enter into the business world. Some of these organizations have already created professional mentor programs that aim to guide women through the process of entering the business world. Some other programs are more casual but are also useful to give the first approach to women who are still not sure about wanting or not to start working for an industry mainly controlled by men.

However, trying to find a female mentor can sometimes be hard, since there are not many of them and the mentor labor can be rather time-consuming. Despite this, it is always recommendable for women to take their chances and ask the person they want to be mentored by if they are available. In this case, both the mentor and the mentee need to make some arrangements and get their hands to it.

How Mentors Inspire Their People Everyday

I think we can all agree on the fact that our own career success can seldom be attributed to ourselves alone. There are many people who throughout our process has inspired, guided and taken us under their wing and aided our own personal and professional growth.

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Being a mentor is a rewarding opportunity in which you are able to make a visible change in the life of many and pride yourself in knowing that your knowledge remains as a legacy that you bestow upon those who choose to follow you and allow themselves to be inspired by your work. Likewise, having a mentor is a great opportunity to learn from the experience of others and diminish the steep learning curve that some professions require. As a mentee you can live experiences without having to go through them yourself, saving a lot of time and resources to better focus your efforts on making your experience unique and maximizing the use of all the information you are gaining by having mentoring sessions with a seasoned professional.

The thing about mentoring is that its value goes beyond the knowledge and skill mentees can gain from the relationship; it is also about acquiring valuable social skills that prepare pupils to thrive in a fast-paced world in which knowing things or having the ability to accomplish tasks is no longer enough to be successful.

A mentor is also a great mirror in which mentees can see themselves reflected and receive valuable feedback about aspects they may not be able to personally recognize, but when brought forth by an objective observer, can provide great insight over how to proceed and where to focus efforts. Perhaps one of the greatest things mentors do is inspire their mentees into reaching their full potential by giving them a great example to follow and a north by which they can guide their own compass.

Today in Suzzanne Uhland’s blog, we want to talk about the ways mentors inspire us and how their example and habits can be so influential in the way followers learn and even act themselves.

Work as a bridge

One of the most inspiring characteristics a mentor has to offer their mentees is their ability to work as a bridge between the interested party and their own network. Mentors are people who are well-connected due to their extensive experience, and that is something that makes them quite valuable and also highly admired because it shows that other people in the business respect them and can vouch for their abilities. A mentor who is well connected is a great example to emulate and follow, and thus an immense source of inspiration.

Accessibility

Mentors who are easy to reach and easy to talk to are very inspirational because that down-to-earth attitude shows that they are in touch with reality and understand the importance of their own role as leaders. Mentors should answer emails and other inquiries and make themselves accessible in order to properly perform their duties and also gain the confidence of those who follow them by making them feel like they matter and their time is also important to them.

They are mentees as well

It goes along with that humility to be able to see yourself as someone who is constantly learning. No matter who you are, there is always something new you can learn from others. An inspiring mentor is someone who sees their mentees as sources of knowledge and understands that there is much that can be learned from them as well. This type of attitude is intelligent, admirable and considered highly inspirational.

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Inspiration through feedback

Honest and thorough feedback is something that every mentor should be able to provide to his or her mentees; however, this isn’t always the case. A mentor who takes their time and truly analyzes the situation and provides their pupils with advice that is applicable and relevant is a great source of inspiration and a driving force towards personal and professional growth. Do not simply go through the numbers, make an effort to give valuable feedback to your people.

Humility and confidence

Being humble goes a long way and there are few things that can earn as much respect and instill so much confidence than a person who is able to admit when they do not know something or when they are mistaken. A great mentor doesn’t stop there because even though they may not have the answers right away, they will surely find a way to acquire them.

Charisma

Mentors are interesting and engaging individuals. Notice the way the carry themselves in all settings, and it will come as no surprise the reason why they are successful. This skill is particularly inspiring because it applies to all settings and not just business related situations. A mentor who know how to carry him or herself is a great source of inspiration to someone who is making a name for themselves in the world and getting to know how things really work.

Mentoring a teleworking team: A new and necessary challenge

The Internet is the cause of many of the social and cultural changes we face today. One of them is the way of working. This information technology has made many people prefer to work from their homes and other remote sites, rather than doing their labors from an office. In fact, several companies no longer have large headquarters, and most of their employees operate from home. In other words, the Internet has made companies more intangible (and perhaps more efficient because of this.) In consequence, the task of directing and mentoring the employees of a company must change. It is one thing to do mentoring in a traditional company (even if the mentor must travel from one city or another country to visit his or her mentees,) and another thing is to do it through Skype.

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So, in this post, I will analyze this situation and give some useful tips for a successful virtual mentoring.

Telework is an evidence that a company is primarily communications; a communications network, more than a group of people operating in a physical facility. This type of organization takes advantage of new technologies so that both parties, workers, and employees, can benefit from them. Telework offers a number of advantages, indeed.  It allows an employee, consultant, or contractor to work remotely from his or her home or another chosen place during a few days or the entire week. It is also an option for those days when an employee must attend to personal matters that will only require a reduced part of the day. However, teleworking may be quite challenging both for mentors and employees, since there is a lack of physical control over the mentoring processes, and some employees usually mix work and personal life, and it complicates their performance.

So, mentoring and managing teleworking employees requires a very concrete approach to what it means to ‘stay in touch.’ It requires a results-oriented management style with good planning performance of all employees.

Read also: What Can Mentoring Do For Me And My Career?, by Suzzanne Uhland

It is necessary to establish clear communication and to take additional steps to build proper trust and evaluation processes. Many corporations employ remote teams, and the manager communicates daily with his or her colleagues, as well as the employees in different parts of the world, not just by phone or email, but thanks to a set of new Internet-based tools, like WhatsApp. However, and mainly due to fears and lack of custom, many executives still find it very difficult to manage remote equipment.

In order to get the most out of your teleworkers team, you need to establish clear and regular communication to build trust and evaluating that the employees are working efficiently. It is important to keep in touch with them, and not only when it comes to business: Use webinars for training them, spend some moments of your day to ask them how it is going with them. Keep thing human.

Now, setting up tasks via email and providing an urgent contact channel is fine. But it may be much better if you use video conferencing software to which everyone has access, like Skype and Hangouts, because it allows you to see faces and to normalize relationships. It is important to keep in touch periodically. How much? Hold such meetings once a week, short and effective communications. Choose a day and an hour that suits most or, if necessary, divide your remote employees by time zones and create work groups. The ideal time may be early Monday to plan everything up from the beginning of the week, or maybe on Friday afternoon to check the evolution of goals and setting new targets for the next seven days of work. The important thing is ‘to bring them together,’ whatever day it may be. We are humans, social beings, we need this. In addition, this helps to impose schedules and thus contributing to the organization and overall responsibility.

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Technology is a great ally for business and opens many doors that would otherwise remain closed. It is basic to increase productivity and strengthen ties. But, again, you are working with people, and it is important to socialize in person. Just checking that everything is going well (or not) is never enough. They should feel an essential part of the company, and it is worth making an effort to meet them personally. It complements the daily emails and the weekly video conferences with face-to-face meetings between the local staff and the workers that operate from other parts of the world. Collect them in the same place. Buy the tickets and cover the expenses. Organize trips to the central office so people can meet in person and chat even once a year. It is their company, after all, so make them feel at home.

It is also important that you keep updated about the new technological developments for improving your communication. Telework mentoring is more than writing and checking emails. Be always curious about what can the new tools do for your business.

Recommended: Mentoring Virtually in a Teleworking Environment