February 8, 2024

Facing Setbacks With Your Mentee 

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With every goal and every action plan, there are almost inevitably some setbacks and unforeseen hurdles. Situations change. Attitudes change. Sometimes, these setbacks are severe and require a total recalculation of how to achieve a goal, but often there are creative solutions to work through these hardships. As a mentor, you can help your mentee by exploring new options as setbacks occur or suggesting corrections to the path they are currently on to get them on track. 

A Possible Setback

Let’s look at an example. Your mentee’s goal is to lose weight. Together, you create an action plan to go for a run three times a week. However, the setback comes in the form of an ankle injury when your mentee tried to push through a minor sprain, worsening the injury. Now, your mentee is unable to run for several weeks. 

So how can you and your mentee recalibrate? The goal remains, but the path to reach has to change. To begin with, you can look at alternative forms of exercise; ask a doctor if swimming, walking or upper body exercises are possible. The timeline to reach the goal may be extended, but your mentee may return to the original plan once the doctor gives the okay. 

Finding Another Way

If all forms of exercise are a no-go, you can focus on eating well, resting and maintaining a positive attitude. You could use this time to look into what might cause the weight gain; is overeating a symptom of boredom? Is depression preventing the energy needed to exercise? Is their work-life overtaking their home life and making it impossible to find the time to take care of themself? You can focus on the larger picture of health and try to find well-being in other areas of life. 

More extreme cases may require a drastic change in plan, but that doesn’t mean your mentee should give up. Another example might be your mentee is planning to enroll in a vigorous academic program but leading up to this, she takes on a new role at work with more responsibility, her mortgage goes up, a family member becomes ill and all of these factors are causing strain on her relationship with her husband. Knowing that it will only add to her stress with the holidays approaching, she wonders if she should put off enrolling. 

This is something you can discuss together. Ask her about the new year; what will change? Will enrolment be more possible in a month or two? Ask about her emotional health; does she need time to replenish? Ask about her relationships; could the current stress cause lasting damage to her marriage? The goal of going back to school right now, is likely not as important as her current job, her family or her marriage. As her mentor you can remind her there will be other opportunities, and after some rest and reflection, you can discuss the goal again, and come up with a new game plan. 

Goals Take Time to Achieve

Putting a goal on hold or changing the goal is not a failure. Life is full of surprises, disappointments and new opportunities. What is important is holding your mentee accountable for what is within their control while reminding them to be kind to themselves and take care of all areas of well-being. As a mentor, remind them of your progress together and reassure them that there will be more chances ahead. 

Reflection Questions for Facing Setbacks:

  • Who can help keep you on track in the face of setbacks? 
  • What is coming up next that could affect your goal? 
  • What conversations could you have with the people around you to achieve your goal? 
  • How are other areas of your life being affected by your goal? 
  • When is it time to make a change to your action plan?

 What’s Next? 

Do you want to grow your competencies and skills as a mentor or professional supervisor? Take a peek at Verve Lead’s tools to see what you can gain:

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