“I’m so slammed. I just want to survive the day.” It’s a fact that most employees simply want to get through a day without facing a stressful crisis. The key to survival in the corporate world is to develop the skills to better manage stressful situations. Having a great mentor can help, especially if the mentor can offer advice and support in the moment it’s needed the most.
Unfortunately, few employees have the luxury of having a personal mentor at their side. But there’s no question that if HR departments had the ability to provide their personnel with high-impact, “instant mentoring” experiences at any time, it would be a game changer.
This is the thought process behind a new approach to employee development that “virtualizes” the mentoring process and puts an “instant mentor” in every employee’s pocket. This approach to mentoring can be developed in just a few hours, launched within a few days, and produces extraordinary results in just a few weeks.
The “Slammed” World
When daily pressures increase, employees often turn to survival mode rather than tackle the most important tasks at hand. When people are stressed, they are constantly awash in adrenalin (the neurochemical for hyperawareness) and cortisol (the fight-or-flight neurochemical), which has substantial, long-term negative effects on personal health and productivity.
Traditional training programs can reduce stress levels, decrease the fear of poor job performance, and improve how employees manage time pressures. However, traditional classroom-style training often takes too much time and rarely results in long-term changes.
What Is Instant Mentoring?
Instant mentoring is based on recent advances in neuroscience and cloud and mobile technologies. Employees can benefit from a mentoring experience that has all the development impact of having a great mentor at their side but can be developed and delivered quickly.
Here are two examples of how instant mentoring can be used to improve performance and reduce stress levels.
- A salesperson walked into an important meeting that would help convert a prospect into a strategically valuable client. As the salesperson walked down the hall, she opened her phone, launched an instant mentoring app, and got advice about focusing on her solution’s core value and actively listening to each participant. It took less than a minute to refresh her thinking, which led to securing the new client.
- An executive of a technology company, confronted with a new disruptive competitor, needed to settle his team down and guide them to quickly make necessary changes in order to succeed in a reconfigured market. He pulled out his phone and listened to his instant mentor talk about how to maintain calm amid chaos. Taking this brief action helped him regain his focus and provide confidence to the team.
The Structure and “Secret Sauce” of Instant Mentoring
Great mentors use a three-part process that stimulates specific neural responses, which greatly reduce the time it takes to learn new behaviors:
- Discovery: Great mentors have a wealth of highly organized expert knowledge they can easily share.
- Launch: Great mentors can stimulate mentees’ intense interest in growth.
- Instant Mentoring: Great mentors provide specific tips, recommended actions, and systematically follow up with check-ins on expected progress.
Here’s the process used by great mentors to capture information and turn it into a virtual instant mentoring program.
Using an online “interview” process, we’ve found you can create highly specific content on a particular topic in just two to three hours from just one to two experts. This is the “secret sauce” that separates experts and top performers from everyone else.
In our research, we’ve found that experts consistently distill their experience into four domains:
- Compelling Purpose: The deep reason they have worked so long and hard to become an expert.
- Path to Mastery: The steps they use to help others to achieve mastery.
- Tips for Mastery: The specific advice they have distilled about how to handle a wide variety of situations.
- Actions for Mastery: The actions they suggest to others to learn and apply the tips in the “messy real world.”
By answering a limited number of questions in these areas, experts easily share the experiences that had the greatest impact. These positive experiences often lead to a release of dopamine, endorphins, oxytocin, and serotonin, all of which vastly increases the speed of content development.
Launch with a Purpose
How do you grab the attention of employees who face stressful situations? Great mentors focus on one question: “Why is what you are doing important?”
Asking this question helps calm people down. Instant mentoring gives people a variation on this question, guiding them to interact with the expert’s compelling purpose, write their own purpose, and discuss the purpose with peers. This process produces neural changes that motivate change, promote openness to new ideas, and accelerate learning. Typically, this process takes about five minutes.
Stress tends to peak in the moments just before a significant event. Great mentors take a one- to two-minute “reflective pause” just before the event, which provides enough mental space for people to relax.
To drive the reflective pause, great mentors say things such as, “You may encounter this situation…and this is how you handle it” or “Now go try this…” When people do multiple reflective pauses over time, they rewire connections in their brains, which improves long-term capabilities. Typically, the long-term learning takes about eight to 20 hours to hardwire this type of process into a person.
Instant Mentoring at Scale
The significant advantage of leveraging a technology-based approach is that it enables larger organizations to provide a tailored, instant mentoring experiences to anyone, any time, any place, no matter how many people need mentoring. This gives organizations the ability to reduce everyone’s fear of failure and increase confidence, all in the context of the slammed world.
Dr. William Seidman is a recognized thought leader and expert on the application of neuroscience to transformational leadership and change throughout any organization. He is the CEO and president of Cerebyte.